In Response to Really, we need to look to next year:
Bill needs some time to try to build the Patriots back to championship calibre. They are painful to watch this year with all the success he's had, and this year with a questionable Brady, and a weak defense. If they make the playoffs an early exit will be merciful.
Posted by dickalan

The Patriots have been stockpiling drafts picks because they are in a rebuilding mode.  Fans are just becoming aware of that fact. (the Patriots are rebuilding)

In the interim they have slipped from being an elite team.  It is what it is. It is difficult for some fans to accept this.  But if you watched them through the lean years and during their superbowl triumphs this downturn should be expected.  The longterm future of the Patriots looks pretty bright to me.

This year the Patriots just do not have the pieces to defend.  Next year and the year after may be a differnt story.  One or two studs in key positions will make all the difference in the world.