Las Vegas opens the Patriots with the best odds (by far) to win Super Bowl LII at 5-2, essentially locking the Pats in for not just another Super Bowl appearance, but another championship. USA Today went as far to predict a 19-0 season for the Pats. Are these expectations justified or flat out ridiculous?
Coming off a 14-2 regular season capped by their second championship in three years, the Patriots haven’t just kept their roster intact, they have enhanced it. The additions of Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore, and Mike Gillislee have the potential to help this year’s team overshadow last year’s Super Bowl winning squad. On top of these major additions, the Pats also acquired role players such as Rex Burkhead, Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen, and David Harris. Although these players may not make a game-changing impact, their stability allows New England to make the most of their assets they have on both sides of the ball. The problem for the league is not the fact that the Patriots were the best team last year. Instead, it’s that they also just won the offseason and further separated themselves from the pack.
Winning Without Gronk
Rob Gronkowski played in only eight games last year. With Gronk in the lineup, the Patriots were 6-2. That means without Gronk the Pats were 8-0 and 11-0 counting playoffs and their Super Bowl victory. Don’t worry, I’m not saying the Pats are better off without The Gronk. We all know that is far from the truth. The reason I bring it up is because last year the Pats proved they don’t need Gronk in order to win a championship. In years prior, the Pats had crumbled after the loss of their star TE. Last year, that wasn’t the case. Their roster last year could win with or without Gronk on the shelf.
So why does this matter? A team that won the Lombardi trophy without its most dynamic player, is getting him back along with adding multiple weapons and keeping nearly the whole offense intact. It’s a daunting task for opposing teams beat the Patriots without Gronk, and with him in the lineup, that task becomes almost insurmountable.
Who can give them a run for their money? Really though, who? The Pats have been the “daddy” of the AFC (and frankly the league) since the Brady-Belichick regime arose, and this year aims to be no different. Maybe the only team that can somewhat come close to matching up with the Patriots talent wise would the Steelers. The problem for the Steelers lies in hands of their head coach. Mike Tomlin has proven to be Belichick’s puppet and a coach that flat out can’t keep up with the Pats in any facet of the game. A talented roster in Pittsburgh continues to be wasted year in and year out due to the man at the helm. Other than the Steelers, maybe an argument can be made for the up and coming Raiders? But still, the Raiders seem a few years off from really putting it all together.
In the NFC things may get a little sketchier. With the likes of the Packers, Cowboys, Falcons and especially the team that did this and this, a Super Bowl victory seems to be tougher than all of the AFC playoff games combined. Still, in a one game winner-take-all, it is nearly impossible not to put your money on the Pats.
Are the Expectations Just?
I’d like to think that it is extremely bold and ridiculous to say that the Pats are already a lock to win the Super Bowl. The problem is the expectations set by not just Vegas and USA Today, but by pretty much everyone else, are backed up and have legitimate validity. Barring any major injury bug that ravages this squad, the expectations should and will stay the same for this team.
I hate coming across as a die-hard hometown hero, but I don’t think the Super Bowl is even the question. The real matter at hand is 19-0, and even that I see as a legit possibility. Before I get fans angry around the country with the 19-0 talk, I think I’ll call it day with the Super Bowl prediction and let the public battle out the possibility of a perfect season.
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