For all that’s taken place since the last time we’ve done one of these roundups consisting of a mixture of dart board analysis and forecasting bravado, the New England Patriots might as well consider getting through their chaotic offseason a victory unto itself.
The 2018 calendar year has been unkind to the once-unflappable Patriots, a characteristic that they’ll truly earn back if they can withstand the forces swirling amidst them in the wake of Seth Wickersham, Malcolm Butler, Bill Belichick’s inherent responsibility for the loss in the Super Bowl, Danny Amendola’s departure, Julian Edelman’s PED suspension, Tom Brady’s odd decision to skip offseason practices, the all-powerful Oz-like presence of Vitamin Man Alex Guerrero, and…did we mention Malcolm Butler?
It has all combined to make some figure that the Patriots enter the 2018 NFL season as vulnerable, an adjective once only reserved for New England’s situation in the secondary. At the age of 41, Brady has said he wants to play another five years, a hope that he might want to re-think after managing to survive a good portion of this season with the Reche Caldwell Memorial Crew serving as his receiving corps. If Rob Gronkowski is injured at any point during the season, Brady may figure his team’s best shot lay in however many loaves of bread Guerrero can figure out how to multiply.
That is a role once tabbed for Belichick and Josh McDaniels, but if this offseason of turmoil has taught us anything, it has confirmed the fear that Brady is now a brand, ultimately before Patriot; all with a financial vendetta to go where no other quarterback has gone before him. And all that might mean for Patriot fans is another Super Bowl title to tuck away with the rest.
Either that or the potential for the first truly dysfunctional season under Coach Belichick.
This week’s picks:
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 27, Texans 20. “Upset Alert! Won’t pull the trigger. Going with Tom Brady at home is a pretty hard/fast rule of mine. But Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt both healthy again makes Houston a whole ‘nuther team.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 31, Texans 21. “The Texans have Deshaun Watson back at quarterback, which is a big thing. But the offensive line has issues, and that’s never a good thing against the Patriots. Tom Brady has a limited number of weapons, but he has enough. Patriots take it.”
CBS Sports staff: Six out of eight pick Houston against the spread (-6 New England). Everybody likes New England to win straight-up.
Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Patriots 37, Texans 34. “Ravaged by injuries in 2017 that ended their streak of back-to-back division titles, the Texans are hoping the return of J.J. Watt and DeShaun Watson will put them back among the playoff elite. They will find out against the Patriots.”
David Steele, Sporting News: Texans 31, Patriots 29. “It’s both a different team facing the Patriots than last year … and the same. Deshaun Watson announced his presence in that narrow loss in his second NFL start; now his return from his torn ACL is in the same building. J.J. Watt is back, and he’s joined by Tyrann Mathieu. The Patriots, again, are tempting fate by shuffling the roster around Tom Brady and figuring a way to make it work. Thus, whatever happens likely won’t reflect who they are by December and January.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 34, Texans 27. “Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady dueled in a classic last season, and with both pass defenses a little improved but still having similar issues, this game can play out in a similar way. While Watson remains aggressive looking for big plays with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, Brady will be pushing the ball down the field with his backs, TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Chris Hogan. He’ll try to avoid having to put this one away in the final seconds and will give New England a little more breathing room.”
Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Houston (+ 6 1/2). “This is, admittedly, a foolish thing to do. But I’m doing it anyway. I’m putting the Patriots in “prove it” territory. This is something that will make me feel like an absolute moron when Tom Brady hits Rob Gronkowski for a sixth touchdown on Sunday afternoon, but I feel for a number of reasons as though we ought to exhibit some caution before we go out and start picking the Patriots to win by a touchdown when their receiving corps is … not the best it’s ever been.”
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Texans 27, Patriots 23. “Another year, another Week One home upset loss for the Pats.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 27, Texans 24. “I almost want to pick Deshaun Watson to go to New England and pull off a Week One shocker, but I don’t quite have the guts to pull the trigger. It should be a close game that the Patriots just hold on to win.”
SB Nation staff: Six out of nine pick New England.
MassLive staff: Three out of four pick the Texans (New England -6 1/2).
NJ.com: Split among six staff members (New England -6 1/2).
Tampa Bay Times staff: Five out of six pick the Patriots.
USA Today staff: All Pats.
Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots (-6.5). “This is an interesting line. In years past, when the Pats were thought of as a dominant juggernaut, this line would be much higher. It’s not the same team, though I’m not about to start picking against them just yet.”
FiveThirtyEight: Patriots with an 86 percent chance of winning.
ESPN staff: All Pats.
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 34, Texans 30. “This sucker might be a track meet, not tooooo dissimilar from last year’s tilt. Can Deshaun Watson pull off his insane three-touchdowns-in-every-game act again? There is plenty of concern about the Patriots‘ defense providing the kid plenty of opportunities. After narrowly escaping with a win over the Texans last year, New England’s defense majorly flipped the script, going from Swiss cheese to the stingiest unit in the league the rest of the season. Houston’s defense will have trouble covering the Patriots’ backs. Give James White 10 catches.”