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NFL

New England Patriots

Division: AFC EastPres: Jonathan KraftHead Coach: Bill Belichick
2012: 12-4 (1st AFC East)vs. division 6-0
Points34.8 (1st)
Yards427.9 (1st)
Pass Yards291.4 (4th)
Rush Yards136.5 (7th)

Patriots return to action after difficult off-season

Key Additions

WR D.Amendola, S A.Wilson,
DL T.Kelly, RB L.Washington,
WR M.Jenkins, QB Tim Tebow

Key Subtractions

WR W.Welker, WR B.Lloyd,
S P.Chung, RB D.Woodhead
TE A.Hernandez, DT K.Love

The Patriots don't plan on spending much time discussing Aaron Hernandez and neither do we in this preview. If there is one club built to handle an off-field controversy, it's the Bill Belichick era Patriots.

Losing one of your main offensive weapons prior to the season is difficult, but it's an even bigger loss when you enter the season without five of your top seven pass catchers from the year before. Even one of the best quarterbacks in the game will have to step up his preparation in order to build chemistry with all of the new faces on the field.

Working in Tom Brady's favour is the presence of one of the best offensive lines in football. The Patriots built their team with an emphasis on their lines and it has shown. Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer are a superb unit and their continuity will help mask a minor hole at right guard that will be filled after a competition in camp.

Worries about the state of New England's offence have been overblown. Brady may not throw for 5,000 yards, but he has certainly made his offence function well with unproven receivers before.

Rob Gronkowski is still wearing a Patriots' uniform and he will return to his role of being one of the two best tight ends in the NFL, an ongoing battle with Jimmy Graham. Gronkowski is dealing with a back injury, but even if he misses a game or two to start the year, he will be an impact player once he's on the field.

Danny Amendola has been underrated his whole career and no team likes to capitalize on the value of the underrated player more than New England. Amendola is one healthy season away from being considered a top 20 receiver in the NFL.

Rookie Aaron Dobson was drafted in the second round and should beat out Michael Jenkins as the starting X receiver. First-year wideouts haven't faired well in the patriots' system, but Dodson may be pushed harder than most to succeed given the circumstances.

In the backfield, Stevan Ridley stepped into the starting role a year ago with a 1,263-yard season that included 12 touchdowns. Ridley will be counted on just as much this season, with the only difference being the man serving as his change of pace back.

Danny Woodhead is now a Charger, making Shane Vereen the new renaissance man in New England. Vereen is getting a lot of hype leading into the year, but it remains to be seen how Belichick plans to use his backfield behind Ridley, especially with players like Leon Washington, Brandon Bolden, and LeGarrette Blount. The only certainty is that not everyone is going to make the club come September. (-TSN.ca)

Analysis: The Patriots are in need of options in the passing game and that will give Dobson an opportunity early on. Dobson isn't a burner, but he is able to come down with the ball in traffic over the middle or by out-jumping defenders downfield... Collins gives the Patriots more depth in their linebacking corps and could contribute as a situational pass rusher in 2013... Ryan has the ability to make plays on the ball, but his man coverage will need to improve... Harmon will spend time learning behind Adrian Wilson and Devin McCourty... Another name to keep an eye on is undrafted free agent WR Kenbrell Thompkins. (-TSN.ca)

Round 2 52nd overall Jamie Collins OLB Southern Miss
Round 2 59th overall Aaron Dobson WR Marhsall
Round 3 83rd overall Logan Ryan CB Rutgers
Round 3 91st overall Duron Harmon S Rutgers
Round 4 102nd overall Josh Boyce WR TCU
Round 7 226th overall Michael Buchanan DE Illinois
Round 7 235th overall Steve Beauharnais ILB Rutgers

Youth Is Served

New England's defence was a top ten unit against the run in 2012, but were absolutely dreadful when opponent's put the ball in the air.

AFC EAST PROJECTIONS

Patriots (12-4)

Still on top of AFC East


Dolphins (9-7)

Lose tiebreaker, miss playoffs


Bills (4-12)

Playoff drought continues


Jets (3-13)

Disastrous season in NY

Acquiring Aqib Talib during the season was helpful and he should be more comfortable with the Pats this year. The same can't be said for fellow corner Alfonzo Dennard, who was arrested for DUI in the off-season, his second arrest in two years. If he avoids a suspension from the league, he is pencilled in as a starter.

Devin McCourty was on the field for 98 percent of New England's plays a year ago, first as a cornerback and later as a free safety. Once he made the transition, McCourty was stellar and will continue to play safety from here on out.

The Patriots front seven looks solid, with young stars like Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Brandon Spikes mixed with veterans Vince Wilfork, Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo.

This group, which finished first in turnovers with 41 and ninth in points allowed, could and should get better with another year under their belt.

Even if New England's offence stumbles a bit out of the gate, their defence can help them stay in games, especially in the AFC East with the Bills and Jets in the first two weeks. The club still still has one of the best coaches in the game and there is no reason to think they won't make the playoffs once again. (-TSN.ca)

OFFENCE

DEFENCE

LT

N. Solder
M. Cannon

LG

L. Mankins
K.Haslam
R. Mattes
C. McDonald

C

R. Wendell
J. Kline
M. Stankiewitch

RG

D. Connolly
R. Wendell
M. Zusevics
T. Green

RT

S. Vollmer
W. Svitek
B. Schwab

WR1

D. Amendola
J. Edelman
K. Aiken
M. Slater

TE

R. Gronkowski
D. Fells
M. Hoomanawanui
Z. Sudfeld

WR2

M. Jenkins
K. Allen
A. Dobson
K. Thompkins

QB

T. Brady
R. Mallett
T. Tebow

RB1

S. Ridley
B. Bolden
J. Develin

RB2

S. Vereen
L. Washington
L. Blount
B. Bartholomew


Special Teams: K S. Gostkowski, P Z. Mesko, KR L. Washington, PR J. Edelman

Fantasy - By The Numbers

New England's fantasy picture is going to be entirely different this season, with the only returnee from last season's top five receivers being TE Rob Gronkowski, who underwent five surgeries in the offseason.

Get ready for the fantasy season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF
Fantasy Schedules: AFC | NFC
2013 Auction Values: Cheat Sheet
Fantasy Depth Charts: AFC | NFC

Gronkowski is a game-changer when healthy and, for that reason, remains one of the best tight end options, but the rest of the receiving corps comes with question marks.

Danny Amendola is supposed to be the new Wes Welker, a shifty possession receiver, but he's never had 700 receiving yards or more than three touchdowns in a season. If he stays healthy (he's played 12 of 32 games over the last two seasons), he's likely going to go way beyond those numbers. It's not easy to get excited about the other receiving options -- Julian Edelman, Michael Jenkins, Aaron Dobson -- even if Tom Brady is the one throwing them the ball.

This is all a way to suggest that Brady's production may not be as exceptional as it has been in recent years, throwing for 10,062 yards and 73 touchdowns in the last two seasons, ranking second in yardage and third in touchdowns over that span.

If Brady's production dips, that could mean more of a focus on the ground game, where Stevan Ridley, for sure, and, possibly, Shane Vereen, could have value.

Defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are viable fantasy starters, as are LB Jerod Mayo and corner-turned-safety Devin McCourty. (-Scott Cullen)

WK AGAINST DATE WK AGAINST DATE
1 @ Sun, Sep. 8, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 10   BYE WEEK
2 vs Thu, Sep. 12, 8:25pm et/5:25pm pt 11 @ Mon, Nov 18, 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt
3 vs Sun, Sep. 22, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 12 vs Sun, Nov 24, 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt
4 @ Sun, Sep. 29, 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt 13 @ Sun, Dec 1, 4:25pm et/1:25pm pt
5 @ Sun, Oct. 6, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 14 vs Sun, Dec 8,1:00pm et/10:00am pt
6 vs Sun, Oct. 13, 4:25pm et/1:25pm pt 15 @ Sun, Dec 15, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
7 @ Sun, Oct. 20, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 16 @ Sun, Dec 22, 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt
8 vs Sun, Oct. 27, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt 17 vs Sun, Dec 29, 1:00pm et/10:00am pt
9 vs Sun, Nov. 3, 4:25pm et/1:25pm pt      



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