Super Bowl Prediction - New England Patriots 10/1
As we do every season we try to pick a little bit of a longer shot to with the Super Bowl as we don't like to tie up our money all season long and not get a great return on our investment. This year we'll back the New England Patriots at 10/1 odds. The Patriots made it back to the AFC Championship game last year, but ran into a road block called the Denver Broncos.
When tight end Rob Gronkowski was healthy last season, the Patriots had one of the best offenses in the entire league. When he was out, the Pats weren’t close to the same team and Tom Brady wasn’t nearly as effective as a quarterback. Gronk played just seven games last season but caught 39 balls for 592 yards and 4 TD's. Clearly his health is key for the Patriots this season but word out of camp is that he'll be ready to go for Week 1. Even without Gronkowski for most of the season and no 'big time' receivers on the roster the Patriots were 7th in yards per game, 3rd in points scored and 9th in yards per point scored. Wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman aren't great but seem to get the job done in Bill Belichick's complex offensive system.
Providing Brady with some time to throw this season will be a priority as he was sacked 40 times last year, the second-most of his career. The Patriots have three offensive line starters locked into place with left tackle with Nate Solder, left guard Logan Mankins and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer but the center position and right guard are wide open. Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly filled those positions last season but were inconsistent. The Pats added three offensive linemen in the draft in center Bryan Stork, tackle Cameron Fleming and guard Jon Halapio who should all make the roster and give the Pats depth.
The Patriots typically rely on a 'running back by committee' approach and will again rely on Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen to get the bulk of the carries but watch out for rookie running back James White out of Wisconsin who is being raved about in Patriots camp.
The Patriots suffered some key injuries on the defensive side of the ball as linebacker Jerod Mayo was lost after the sixth week of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. His injury came a week after the Pats lost run stuffing 325lb defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to a torn Achilles.
How important were those two players to the Pats defense you ask?
Through the first five weeks last season the Patriots had the 2nd best YPPA (yards per points against) defense in the NFL at 24.64. By season's end New England allowed 17.66YPPA and were 26th in the NFL in yards allowed per game. Getting those two back to go with Jamie Collins, Donta’ Hightower, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich could make for one of the best front seven units in the AFC.
New England also added one of the best cornerbacks in the game in Darrelle Revis to play alongside of Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty and Brandon Browner which makes the Patriots secondary formidable.
Why New England will get to the AFC Championship game
The Patriots have advanced at least as far as the conference title game in each of the last three seasons and have won 10 or more games in every season since 2002. They should easily win the AFC East again as they've won 34 of their last 43 divisional games against the Jets, Bills and Dolphins.
When we look at their upcoming schedule, according to our power ratings, they should be favored in 13 games this year and could finish with a 13-3 record which will probably give them home field advantage in the AFC Championship game.
The Patriots biggest threat this season is easily Denver but the Broncos play a BRUTAL schedule this year. The Broncos opponents this year won over 57% of their games last season. Their early season slate is especially tough as 6 of their first 8 opponents are teams that were in the playoffs last year (Indy, KC, Seattle, New England, San Diego, & San Francisco).
The Broncos two other games during the opening half of the season are @ NYJ (long travel) and vs. Arizona, who was 10-6 last year. Their road games outside of the AFC West include @ New England, @ Cincinnati, @ Seattle, and @NY Jets. Denver also lost two of their biggest playmakers on offense in running back Knowshon Moreno and receiver Eric Decker so don't expect them to put up points like they did last season.
The rest of the AFC doesn't scare us so expecting New England to get back to the Super Bowl is certainly not a stretch. When the Patriots do get to the big game they're going to face a very good team out of the loaded NFC but backing Tom Brady who has won 77% of his career starts isn't a bad proposition. Oh, and head coach Bill Belichick is still one of the best coaches in the game and is historically very good when given extra time to prepare for an opponent.
At 10/1 odds we really like New England to win it all in the 2014-15 season.
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