Monday, January 22, 2007

Wait 'til next year!

I'm not used to two consecutive years without a Super Bowl appearance. It's odd. But before I start my adjustment period, I'd like to think about the prospects this team has come next fall of a return. I've got mixed feelings, so I figure I should lay it out there (plus I've got a few minutes to kill before I leave for work today):

Why the Pats have a great shot at returning to the Super Bowl next year:
- $30 million under the cap as of today (assuming no cap increase)
- 2 late-round picks in the first round
- Despite a huge injury problem, and no real dependable receiving corps, still finished 12-4 and made it to the AFC title game
- Any team coached by Bill Belichick and quarterbacked by Tom Brady has a chance
- Very solid defensive front 3, and a quality O-line
- The 2-RB approach can probably last another season

Why the run may be sputtering to an end:
- Asante Samuel is a upper-tier cornerback, but may not be worth to the Pats what he could get on the open market (look for him to be franchised for the 2007 season)
- Rapidly aging linebacker corps - Bruschi and Vrabel have been prototypical linebackers for this whole run, but both are now showing their age. Bruschi in particular seemed to be having trouble playing the run during the playoffs
- The Colts have won the last three meetings between the teams, including yesterday in the playoffs. That's meaningful.
- Not for nothing, but only Troy Brown's amazing play last week stopped the Pats from losing on a Brady pick. Tom Brady is still one of the best, smartest quarterbacks in football, but he may be getting to that point where a quarterback tries to force things to happen around him a little too much. It's happened to plenty of other ones (see Favre, Brett or Cunningham, Randall), but Brady is still young enough to stop it.

Other than that, spring training starts in just over a month, and I'm looking forward to it. Maybe the Sox will even have finished the JD Drew contract by then!

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