NFL Football 2013: New England Patriots Preview
The main concern in New England is obvious: Will Tom Brady have anyone to throw to? The Patriots and their architect, head coach Bill Belichick, are so good at assembling and re-assembling the puzzle that is a football roster each year. Belichick manages to find the parts his team – and especially his Hall of Fame quarterback – must have in order to succeed. Any attempt to bet sports online must account for Belichick’s resourcefulness, but even a coach as accomplished as the three-time Super Bowl champion must be worried that his team’s passing game – which has been so good in recent years – might not be up to par in 2013.
Sport betting is usually based on the quality of players – the teams with better players normally win. When this offseason began, New England did have better players than its foremost AFC contenders. However, the twists and turns of human events have put the Patriots in a tight spot. Tight end Rob Gronkowski underwent back surgery in the middle of June. When one realizes how many different injuries he has sustained over the past two years, one must wonder if his ability to stretch the field as a pass catcher will be diminished this season. If so, that’s a noticeable hit to the Patriots, a constraint that will take some of the potency out of their passing attack.
Another plot development in the Patriots’ offseason was the loss of slot receiver Wes Welker. The Patriots probably don’t mind that Welker is gone – he dropped a lot of passes this past season and was not received warmly by the team’s fan base, probably in response to his decisive dropped pass in Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants. The fact that Welker’s gone isn’t too unsettling, but the fact that he went to Denver to play for Peyton Manning is a bit unnerving. Welker will have every incentive to play well for New England’s foremost current rival and competitor. The other offshoot of the Welker saga is that the Patriots acquired St. Louis Ram receiver Danny Amendola as his replacement. The website Walter Football provides an instructive background report on New England’s newest receiver: “Amendola is younger and quicker, but he has major durability issues. Whereas Welker missed just three games in six New England seasons, Amendola has been held out of the lineup 22 times in four years as a pro. He has the skills to be a dynamic weapon for Brady, but can he stay on the field? He has yet to prove that he's able to do that. If Amendola can't suit up, Brady won't have much to work with.”
Why is New England’s receiving corps so thin? As you know, Aaron Hernandez – who was so valuable to this team in those third-down-and-medium situations (three to six yards to go for a first down) that make or break contenders – has been arrested on a murder charge in the death of Odin Lloyd. This is one of those situations in which a player’s encounter with legal troubles brings about an immediate roster loss. Hernandez is not a player the Patriots can trade or be compensated for; it’s a net deduction from their collection of resources. If neither Gronkowski nor Amendola can play injury-free ball this season, Brady could face problems.
The heart of a good sports bet is found in the ability to predict likely outcomes. New England should win the weak AFC East and will probably make the divisional round of the playoffs in a not-that-deep AFC. However, any prediction beyond those feels very premature – and uncertain – at this point.