A look at how the preseason predictions for the Patriots compare to reality

"This season will signal the beginning of the decline of the Brady-Belichick dynasty."

Tom Brady
Tom Brady celebrates during the trophy presentation after the AFC Championship game. –AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Tony Romo’s famed crystal ball must have been a bit cloudy when he peered into it in July. The former Cowboys quarterback, now known for his prescient color commentary, predicted the Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars would meet in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII.

Neither team even made the playoffs, but in fairness to Romo, he was far from the only NFL analyst who whiffed on their preseason picks.

Locally, three of seven Boston Globe writers  — Dan Shaughnessy, Nora Princiotti, and Jim McBride — thought the Patriots would reach the Feb. 3 decider. Shaughnessy predicted a rematch of Super Bowl LI with a different outcome this time around: “The Falcons beat New England, 42-3. Arthur Blank makes rings with 423 diamonds.”

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McBride picked the Patriots over the Saints in a “battle for the ages.”

“Tom Brady outduels fellow 40-something Drew Brees to seize his legacy-sealing sixth Super Bowl,” he wrote. “Tom vs. Time? I’ll take Tom, thanks.”

Four of five Boston Herald scribes selected New England as the AFC representative to the season’s final game. One of them, Steve Buckley, forecasted a Patriots victory — over Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers.

“The Ghost of Super Bowls Past bests the Ghost of Super Bowls Future in an epic Super Bowl of the present,” Buckley wrote.

On a national level, plenty of pundits picked the Patriots to return to the Super Bowl after losing to the Eagles last season. But there were also those who thought this would be the year cracks in the Patriots’ foundation brought the whole house down.

Seven of 21 writers at NFL.com predicted New England would still be in season in February. David Carr correctly named both the Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams, adding the Rams would win as “Sean McVay proceeds to out-scheme Bill Belichick for his first Lombardi.”

Only Jeremy Bergman saw a Super Bowl victory in the Patriots’ future. He believed New England would eke out its sixth title by utitlizing a thousand-papercuts attack, with running back Rex Burkhead claiming the MVP award.

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“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” he wrote.

For Sports Illustrated, six of 15 writers picked the Patriots to make the Super Bowl. Ben Baskin and Jenny Vrentas were the only two who thought they’d come out on top.

“I’ll stop picking the Patriots when Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are no longer there—it’s as simple as that,” Baskin offered as explanation.

Their colleague Mark Mravic did not share that rosy outlook for New England. He foretold a first-round exit against the Houston Texans for Brady and Co.

“It has to end sometime for the Patriots, right?” Mravic asked. “This season will signal the beginning of the decline of the Brady-Belichick dynasty. No matter how brilliant, Belichick can’t continue to patch together championship-caliber teams out of thin air.”

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“The behind-the-scenes cracks began to show last season, and those will play out on the field this year. New England should still win a weak division (though look for the Jets to push them), but will exit the playoffs early, to serious questions about what the future holds for the game’s greatest quarterback and greatest coach.”

Longtime Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, now with NBC Sports, nailed the Super Bowl matchup. He noted it was only the second time in 35 years covering the NFL he’s gotten the pairing right. Patriots fans will be hoping his accuracy returns to normal when it comes to the final result.

My Super Bowl pick — which annually stinks — is a combo platter of the old and the new,” King wrote. “I’m going all-in on the franchise that last won a playoff game with Marc Bulger under center. Super Bowl 53, Atlanta, Feb. 3, 2019: Los Angeles Rams 29, New England 20.”

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