The New England Patriots open their regular season on Sept. 7 at the Miami Dolphins, a game they are certainly expected to win. Of their 16 regular season games, there are few teams on the schedule that can actually compete with the Patriots. Among those teams are the Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and perhaps the Indianapolis Colts. Other teams like the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs could also be competitive in a head-to-head matchup, but the truth is the Patriots are better than all of these teams.
This begs the question: Could the Patriots, who will likely have a top 10 defense and maybe even offense, have a legitimate chance at going undefeated this season?
The Patriots will likely be better defensively than all of these teams, so the real difference maker lays in the offense. New England obviously has Tom Brady, who has looked outstanding in training camp but will likely not start tonight’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins. Wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman have also played strongly as of late, in particular Edelman, who has proved time-and-time again that he is a star target for Brady. Returning tight end Rob Gronkowski will also be a difference maker on the offense. The injured-riddled star is one of the most difficult to cover in the NFL, so if he can remain healthy he will be an important weapon for the offense.
The concerns on offense lay mostly in younger players like running back Stevan Ridley and wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. When these two players are on their game, they are outstanding assets to the team. However, when they are off, they become serious liabilities. Ridley has an incredible history of butterfingers, while last season Thompkins couldn’t catch a ball to save his life at times. Both will likely make the final roster, but consistency is the key if the Patriots hope to have a top-tier offense.
The Patriots’ first ten games of the season are against the Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Chiefs, Bengals, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Broncos and Colts. Realistically, they can beat all of these teams. They will certainly be tested by a few of them, but they can win; that’s the bottom line. The last six games will be against the Detroit Lions, Packers, San Diego Chargers, Dolphins, Jets and Bills, and it’s no secret that the Patriots historically fair pretty well in the second half of the season.
Completing a perfect regular season is obviously no easy task. That’s why it has only been done by four teams since 1932 — the 1972 Dolphins, 1934 and 1942 Bears, and of course, the 2007 Patriots. New England went on to lose the Super Bowl that season, but their names were already written in NFL history at that point. They have done it once, so who is to say they can’t do it again?
Truthfully, the Patriots probably won’t go undefeated this season, but it’s not because they are not capable of doing so. They have the talent, experience and competitive drive, and their schedule is about as easy as it gets compared to other schedules around the league. But completing the perfect season requires more than talent; you need a little bit of luck as well.