Welcome to the all-knowing Improper 2013 Patriots preview! Now, before we reveal the future, let us immediately issue a disclaimer concerning the twin problems faced by preseason pigskin prognosticators. First of all, it’s August and this is football. It’s hard to know what’s going to happen Week 1, let alone January and beyond. So take any specific predictions with a grain of salt. If we say that Tim Tebow will throw 15 touchdowns in late-game blowouts after discovering that he’s actually right-handed, that’s just a likelihood. A 90 percent likelihood, but still. Second, not all NFL teams are necessarily very interesting. Take the Patriots. We mean, this is frankly a pretty dull team. What’s to talk about? Other than our best receiver going to a hated rival, and Tim Tebow joining the team, and the president of Russia stealing the team owner’s Super Bowl ring. And we feel like there was some kind of news concerning one of our tight ends. Oh, right—Gronkowski’s hurt. Thank goodness he’s only half of the Patriots’ vaunted tight end tandem. The other, of course, being Michael Hoomanawanui.

So with that, let’s start answering some questions. We don’t recommend that you use this wisdom to wager in Vegas, but if you do, it would be nice if you gave us a cut. Thanks.


Is Danny Amendola the new Wes Welker?

The first question, actually, is whether Wes Welker will continue to play like Wes Welker, or if his success was at least partially a function of his status as Tom Brady’s favorite target.
We’ve tested the theory that Brady can throw to anyone, and the Reche Caldwell experiment confirmed that even our deified quarterback needs some quality hands on the other end of his passes. But Welker’s role—run tons of short outs and get leveled going over the middle—is easier to recast than a Randy Moss-style long-bomb freak. Amendola averaged 10.6 yards per catch last year for the Rams, while Welker averaged 11.5. So it’s easy to envision Amendola’s numbers becoming more Welker-like now that he’s part of the Patriots offense.

And besides, if Amendola doesn’t work out, we’ve still got Edelman to step up as the go-to short-route white guy.

Tight end. Let’s talk about it.

That’s not a question, but OK. Last year, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were such a devastating threat that either one of them would’ve qualified as an elite receiver on any other team.
So we probably could’ve afforded to lose one of them. But with Gronk on the physically-unable-to-perform list and Hernandez physically unable to leave the Bristol County House of Correction, the 2013 offense becomes much less versatile than the 2012 version. No longer will Brady have a pair of sure-handed
giants to target on second-and-goal from the 8-yard line. But hey, this is August. For all we know, Michael Hoomanawanui is the Brady to Hernandez’s Bledsoe, if Bledsoe had lost his starting job because of a murder charge.

What about Tim Tebow at tight end?

It’s not happening. Look, some guys moonlight in different positions, but putting Tebow at tight end would be like sending Jose Canseco in to pitch. Remember that?

It did not work out so well. Besides, have you seen the Patriots’ playbook? Us neither. But it probably requires a Ph.D. in football-ology to comprehend, and Professor Belichick will be dropping pop quizzes all fall. So forget Tebow at TE. 

Got any crazy predictions about running backs?

Of course. LeGarrette Blount will have the most rushing TDs.
This is a guy who rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a rookie in 2010. This is a guy who notched a 164-yard game against Seattle. This is a guy who had a totally mediocre year in 2012. But there’s an easy explanation for that: Doug Martin, job-stealer. Well, Doug Martin and injuries. Nonetheless, Blount looks like the kind of high-value sneaky pickup that the Patriots are famous for, and we think he’ll be getting most of the goal-line carries. Mark our words—2013 is the return of the Blount. And also, to a lesser degree, the return of Leon Washington. 

Which trio of new receivers can we refer to as “The Law Firm”?

Call Thompkins, Dobson and Boyce.

They’ll handle all your deep routes, plus real-estate closings and personal-injury claims.

What’s the biggest problem area this year? Receivers?

No way. It’s the defense.

Call it the Curse of Asante Samuel, but if you got the impression that the 2012 Patriots couldn’t stop anyone, you were correct. Last year’s team ranked 29th in the league in passing yards allowed and 25th in completions allowed. To boil that down: The Pats’ D got burned, severely and often. The strategy these past two years seems to involve drafting and acquiring a bunch of young new guys and hoping that some of them exhibit that old Belichick magic—third-round cornerback Logan Ryan, for instance. The Patriots also have the benefit of last year’s midseason acquisition, Aqib Talib, who can cover anyone and looks just like J.B. Smoove from Curb Your Enthusiasm

Overall, are we looking at the playoffs? Deep playoffs? Super Bowl?

We’re looking at deep playoffs.
Plus, the Patriots’ best years seem to come when they have an element of surprise on their side. And this year, the sheer uncertainty surrounding so many positions means that the team’s opponents won’t know for which version of the Patriots to plan. Is it the pass-heavy offense of 2007 and 2012 or the well-balanced ground attack of the 2004 Super Bowl team, when Corey Dillon ran for more than 1,600 yards? Will there be a new version of the two-headed tight end monster? And will a revamped D mean that Tom Brady spends more time on the field? We’ll have a better idea by, say, November.

In the meantime, try not to join the mass hysteria that will inevitably erupt throughout New England if the Patriots lose one of their first three games. If we’ve learned anything over the past decade or so, it’s that Belichick teams are not built to dominate in September. So don’t sweat those losses—chill out, rake some leaves, watch the Sox. Remember that we’ve still got Brady. We’ve still got Belichick. And when the weather’s cold and the holidays are over, we’ll still have some football to watch.