Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 7:00 AM
The 2013 New England Patriots could end up being one of the most interesting teams in the history of sports. What was already shaping up as a dramatic season because of a loss of receivers for the Hall of Fame passes of Tom Brady took a tragic turn with the Aaron Hernandez saga. It’s way too serious to be called a soap opera. Elements of tragedy to be sure. And, you have to wonder if this could be the end of the line for the Belichick/Brady dynasty in New England.
*The team has struggled to play to market expectations in recent postseasons, despite playing a lot of home games.
*The quarterback is getting old.
*The head coach is running out of tricks up his sleeve that work against top teams (they still work great against bad teams, which is how the team compiles such big stats every year).
*The rest of the division is in URGENT mode trying to build for the future. Miami has a second-year head coach and a second-year quarterback. Buffalo has a rookie head coach and probably a rookie quarterback. The NY Jets are ready to commit to Geno Smith as the quarterback of the future, and will DEFINITELY be looking for a new head coach if the team doesn’t improve this season.
All dynasties come to an end. The official “juggernaut” years may hit a wall the first time Eli Manning beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. The dynasty itself could very well be on its last legs. Something to think about as you prepare for Friday Night’s Patriots/Eagles game that will be televised by the NFL Network…and as you outline the coming season from a handicapping perspective.
Our key indicator numbers for the AFC East entering the new season…
2012 AFC East Standings (turnover differential/strength of schedule)
N. England: 12-4 (+25 turnovers, #22 schedule)
Miami: 7-9 (-10 turnovers, #27 schedule)
NY Jets: 6-10 (-14 turnovers, #20 schedule)
Buffalo: 6-10 (-13 turnovers, #30 schedule)
The Patriots dominated a horrible division, but didn’t play dominant very often when facing quality opposition during the regular season. They lost at home to both Super Bowl teams (SF during the regular season and Baltimore in the playoffs). A very clean offense still puts them in position to win the turnover battle overall. The older Brady gets…the less likely that is to continue. Oh, notice that the bottom three teams had losing records despite playing very easy schedules!
N. England: 5.7 on offense, 5.7 on defense
Buffalo: 5.6 on offense, 5.6 on defense
Miami: 5.1 on offense, 5.3 on defense
NY Jets: 4.8 on offense, 5.1 on defense
Very bad news for the Patriots. Their defense was soft…and a differential of net zero against a soft schedule is very poor. This tells you that MOST of what separated the Patriots from the field were their advantages in the risk/reward area. Conversely…what made the other three so bad was their negative turnovers. They weren’t so bad in yards-per-play differential…though it does get worse once you adjust for strength of schedule. If the Bills, Dolphins, and Pats play smarter with the ball, they can gain on the Pats very quickly.
2012 Third Down Conversions
N. England: 49% on offense, 40% on defense
Miami: 38% on offense, 37% on defense
NY Jets: 37% on offense, 37% on defense
Buffalo: 39% on offense, 44% on defense
More evidence of veteran savvy. Brady knows how to move the chains. The Patriots basically beat people by moving the chains and protecting the ball. This allows you to dominate bad teams…but you run into trouble against good defenses that don’t bend or break so easily.
2013 Projected Win Totals in Las Vegas
New England: 11 wins
Miami: 7.5 wins
NY Jets: 6.5 wins
Buffalo: 6 wins
The AFC as a whole is still so weak…that the Patriots are on the very short list of favorites to go to the Super Bowl again. If last year’s losers can’t make significant improvements…last year’s winners will return to the playoffs by default. The deal is…last year’s losers aren’t taking things lying down. And, that’s happening while New England’s golden era is winding down. It’s a storyline smart handicappers need to be paying attention to!
JIM HURLEY knows that all 32 teams have their own stories. That’s why he has sources with all 32 teams to let him know what’s going on in the trenches and behind the lines. This puts NETWORK apart from the field in sports handicapping because the combination of stats AND information dominates the Vegas line! You can purchase full season football right now for a very affordable price. If you prefer to test the waters with daily top plays, those can be purchased online as well. Questions? Call the office at 1-800-323-4453.
Back Saturday with another divisional preview. We’ll study the AFC North to get you ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the NY Giants on the NFL Network. Sunday finishes off the AFC as we study the South before Indianapolis hosts Buffalo. When Week Two arrives next Thursday, we’ll finish off the NFC for you.
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