Hey, Brady’s back. Have you heard?
In the simplistic world of predicting pigskin prevalence, it comes down to this equation: Tom Brady and his surgically-repaired knee are back to pick up where we all left off 21 months ago in the desert of Arizona. Put the rest of the NFL on alert, and be prepared to use whatever hackneyed Gisele reference is at your disposal at a moment's notice.
Still, the Patriots aren’t seen as overwhelming favorites to be the AFC Super Bowl entrant as they were a year ago headed into the 2008 season. This year’s darling team appears to be San Diego, which is humorous on many levels. Yes, the defense will be better with the returns of Shawne Merriman and Antonio Cromartie, but it’s a game in itself trying to pick which whiny particular is going to self-destruct first; LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers, or Norv Turner. Super Bowl champion Chargers? Right.
Baltimore? Maybe. Joe Flacco had a nice rookie season and all, efficiently handling the Ravens’ offense. But Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton is really one step above what Brady had in New England back in ’06. If Flacco can do what the latter managed to with his B-class receivers, then sure. Baltimore is in the mix. Good luck with that. Tennessee? If you think Kerry Collins can capture whatever pixie dust he had at his disposal a year ago, sure.
Like most seasons this decade, it’s going to come down to the three preeminent teams in the conference: New England, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. If you like offense, the Pats are your team. If you’re a defense wins sort of fella, go with the Steelers to repeat. Somewhere in the middle lies the Colts, which could either mean great things this season for Indy or getting lost in the playoff shuffle of New England and Pittsburgh dominance.
Here’s how folks from around the country see the Patriots’ 2009 season unfolding:
- Boston Globe staff: Dan Shaughnessy: 12-4, Giants over Patriots in Super Bowl. Mike Reiss: 12-4, Ravens over Giants in Super Bowl. Chris Gasper: 12-4, Eagles over Patriots in Super Bowl.
- Cold, Hard Football Facts: Doesn’t like New England’s Super Bowl odds. “The story du offseason (that’s French for “sh*t people repeated over and over”) was fairly well documented: ‘Tom Brady is back, and he re-joins a team that went 11-5 last year with a quarterback who hadn’t taken a snap in anger since his Pop Warner days. Brady is a good for another two or three wins, so the Patriots should roll through the division and into the Super Bowl.’ We get the giddiness, New England, over the return of Brady. But no improvement on defense means no Super Bowl soup for you.”
- ESPN.com staff: Patriots as AFC East champs across the board. Bill Williamson, Pat Yasinskas, Mike Sando, Paul Kuharsky, and Matt Mosley pick New England as the Super Bowl champs on the 16-person panel.
- Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com: Patriots over Packers. “Gisele and Brazil rejoice”
- CNNSI.com staff: Patriots as AFC East champs across the board. Peter King and Don Banks pick New England as the Super Bowl champs on the nine-person panel.
- Pete Prisco, CBS Sports.com: Patriots over Giants in the Super Bowl.
- Clark Judge, CBS Sports.com: New England as AFC East champs, falling to San Diego in the AFC title game.
- USA Today staff: Patriots as AFC East champs across the board. Sean
Leahy, Gary Mihoces, and Tom Pedulla pick New England as the Super Bowl champs on the eight-person panel.
- Dallas Morning News staff: Patriots as AFC East champs across the board. Tim MacMahon, David Moore, Kevin Sherington, and Jean-Jacques Taylor all pick New England as Super Bowl champs on the eight-person panel.
- The Sporting News: Only Clifton Brown picks the Patriots as Super Bowl champs on the seven-person panel.
- Steve Serby, New York Post: Patriots, 11-5, AFC East champs. Odds to win the Super Bowl, 4:1. “The more things change in the wildly popular NFL, however, the more they stay the same. Tom Brady is back, and Bill Belichick hasn't gone anywhere, which means the Patriots are the team to beat again. And no one will beat them.”
- Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette: Patriots fall to Chargers in the AFC title game.
- Yahoo! sports: Tiki Barber picks Eagles vs. Steelers (Pittsburgh as champs), Michael Silver picks the Packers vs. Titans (Tennessee as champs), and Jason Cole picks the Eagles vs. Chargers (San Diego as champs) in the Super Bowl.
- Our picks: AFC East: Patriots
AFC North: Steelers
AFC South: Colts
AFC West: Chargers
Wild cards: Ravens, Titans
NFC East: Eagles
NFC North: Bears
NFC South: Falcons
NFC West: 49ers
Wild cards: Packers, Saints
Super Bowl: Packers 34, Patriots 25