With the NFL season already heading towards a decisive end and the playoffs right around the corner, the New England Patriots, to no surprise, are on their way to winning their fourth consecutive Divisional Title.
After a dismal offseason of losing an array of key players that included wide receiver Wes Welker and running back Danny Woodhead, many weren’t entirely sure what to make of this revamped Patriots squad. Quarterback Tom Brady would be working with an entirely new receiving core, but has proven to be resilient as he has thrown for 3,267 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Though not the best of numbers, they have been good enough to help propel New England to a winning record.
One of the brighter sides of the Patriots offseason was the signing of Danny Amendola from the St. Louis Rams. Amendola, though not the first name that comes to mind when you think of solid receivers, had played exceptionally well throughout his time in St. Louis.
Over the course of four seasons with the Rams, Amendola saw his best season come in 2010 when he compiled three touchdowns and 689 yards. Though not jaw dropping numbers, Amendola showed the ability to be a no. 1 target if he could avoid injuries. Currently, Amendola has racked up 37 receptions for 412 yards and only one touchdown. He has only played in eight games for the Patriots this season due to multiple injuries and is slated to have his worst season yet.
The problem is, when you look up “injury-prone” in the dictionary, Amenolda is the definition that you’ll find. Historically, he has not been able to stay healthy for a full season, and that has kept him from tapping his true potential. Obviously, the Patriots felt differently when they signed him to a five-year, $28.5 million contract with $10 million of that money guaranteed.
When Amendola is on the field, he has proven to be one of Brady’s favorite weapons as he has been targeted 55 times. His continued health may just become a factor in New England’s postseason success.
Expectations were surprisingly high concerning undrafted rookie receiver, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and veteran wide receiver, Julian Edelman. Edelman has had a breakout out 2013 campaign with 70 receptions for 711 yards and four touchdowns. He has quickly become one of Brady’s most trusted and reliable targets throughout the season.
There was also high expectations for the Patriots’ defense led by star cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib currently has four interceptions along with one forced fumble and 21 total tackles.
Many speculated that the Pats’ D would carry this team throughout the season. The Patriots have given up a staggering 21.8 points in these first 12 games on average, compared to a total of 20.3 in ’12 and 21.4 in ’11. Will this be a factor in their quest for a Super Bowl appearance?
Though they have amassed a 9-3 record and are leading the AFC East, there is still plenty of football left to be played and a tough schedule heading New England’s way.
Running Back Steven Ridley is another X-factor, as he leads the division with four fumbles, yet he has also provided key rushing yards with 576 and seven touchdowns. Over the season, these mistakes average out, but in a win-or-go-home scenario like the playoffs, it could mean lights-out for the Pats.
With only four weeks remaining in the regular season, the Patriots have arguably two of the toughest games to date. The most notable of these matchups is against the division rivals Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. Division games are always crucial, especially considering that Miami is still in the playoff hunt as they could still win the division. Realistically though, with a 6-6 record, they will ultimately be looking for a Wild Card spot.
If the Patriots can finish strong in the latter stages of the season, they’ll be well on their way to solidifying themselves as legitimate contenders in the playoffs. Though it won’t be an easy task, the Patriots have already proven that they can hold their own with the NFL’s elite, as they have already knocked off the 9-2 Denver Broncos and the 9-3 New Orleans Saints.