Let's take a look into BostonSportsJournal.com's crystal ball, shall we? Greg Bedard, Christopher Price and Mr. PatsCap himself, Miguel Benzan, pick the playoff participants, how the postseason shakes out, and give out some individual hardware. Tease: not one of us gave a Patriots player an award. Miguel might never be able to go back into the stands again.
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PATRIOTS SEASON PREDICTIONS
BEDARD: 12-4, fall to Saints in Super Bowl
Will have more on how I see the Patriots' season playing out this weekend — and I'm sure it's going to be 100 percent accurate — but as I've indicated this summer, I'm more anxious about this Patriots team than any in recent memory. Still, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have taken lesser arrays of talent to great heights (2011, '13 to name a few), so why should we think this season will be any different? Patriots have a very fortunate schedule — especially early with a new coach (Matt Patricia) and two QBs coming back from season-ending injuries (DeShaun Watson and Ryan Tannehill) — and could easily start 4-1 before facing the Chiefs, a Monday night game in front of #BillsMafia (hide the wives and children), Titans and Packers in four of the five games right before the bye. Two tough games vs. Vikings and Steelers to close, and you'll have the annual AFC East turdburger thrown in. I'd say 13-3 or 14-2 are possible, and the Patriots don't even have to be that good.
PRICE: 12-4, fall to Rams in Super Bowl
Home field is everything. So with the 2018 team in the regular season, it's not going to be the number of losses, it's where they'll come, particularly in the case of Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, two other teams that'll be in the mix. And this is true with every team, but they absolutely have to stay healthy. There's always the possibility of them dealing for an impact player between now and the trade deadline. (In fact, I'd count on them making at least one sizable deal between now and then.) But as presently constructed, there is very little margin for error on this roster, particularly when it comes to health. Ultimately, they're still on the short list when it comes to genuine Super Bowl contenders, but good health and home field are the two most important things to keep in mind when you're talking about the success or failure of the 2018 Patriots.
BENZAN: 12-4, fall to Rams in the Super Bowl
Early in the season, the Patriots will lean on the GOAT connection (Brady to Rob Gronkowski) while also placing James White and Rex Burkhead out in the space. The defensive tackle rotation will be a pleasant surprise. The increased pressure from players like Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn will lead to the Patriots first defensive touchdown in years. The Patriots will end the season on a winning streak spurring talk of a sixth Super Bowl victory, but will lose in the last game of the year to the Rams, the league's best team.
SUPER BOWL PREDICTIONS
BEDARD: Saints 30, Patriots 27
We're a long ways from Belichick and the Patriots stopping the Greatest Show on Turf in its tracks. The NFL's offensive schemes have changed a ton since then, and the Patriots' defense hasn't much at all. It's certainly good enough to win most games — regular-season and postseason — but the Patriots have increasingly had issues with offensive head coaches/coordinators who aren't afraid to be bold and aggressive in their gameplanning. New England has had its hands full with the likes of Doug Pederson, Andy Reid, Kyle Shanahan and Adam Gase. Sean Payton and Medway's Pete Carmichael Jr. are better than any of them. The Rams' Sean McVay isn't far off either.
PRICE: Rams 28, Patriots 24
This conversation might change between now and February if New England ends up working some magic in the trade market, but at this point, the Rams appear to have the matchup edge at a number of spots. Call it Marshall Faulk's Revenge.
BENZAN: Rams 31, Patriots 17
Football is a game of matchups. In Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald, the Rams have two players who will cause significant matchup problems for the Patriots. After beating Aaron Rodgers and Brady in consecutive games, Donald will make a strong claim for being the league's best player.