When the season started, all Patriots fans wanted the same thing: for the season to end with Roger Goodell handing Robert Kraft and Tom Brady a 5th Lombardi trophy, this one all the more satisfying after a year of bogus accusations of tampering with footballs. For most of the season, it seemed like they were headed in the right direction; starting 10-0, and dismantling some key opponents along the way. However, around midseason the Patriots began to deal with more injuries to key players than I have ever heard of. At different points in the season, they lost both main running backs (Blount and Dion Lewis), their three main receivers (Gronk, Edelman and Amendola), multiple offensive lineman and key components of the linebackers and secondary. They had to use more offensive line combinations than any other team, and still finished with a #2 seed in the AFC.
The last month of the regular season was a rough patch for the Patriots. They suffered their first stretch of 4 losses in 6 games under Belichick, and limped into the playoffs at 12-4, facing the Chiefs in the divisional round. While they may have only won by 7, it really felt like they were back to being the favorites, with everyone mostly healthy and doing their jobs. Leading up to the game in Denver, all the talk was about Manning and if he would be able to keep up with Brady on Sunday. Unfortunately, it did not matter what Manning did, as the Broncos top-ranked defense stifled the offense all day, leading to an extremely frustrating 20-18 defeat.
Looking to the offseason, the Patriots have some areas they need to address if they are going to return to the Super Bowl. On the offensive side, they need to sign a legitimate deep threat again, similar to Randy Moss in 2007. The best option currently seems to be Alshon Jeffrey, a free agent from Chicago. If Dion Lewis and Blount both come back healthy, the offensive line needs to have some depth added, as they have struggled to stay healthy all season.
The defense was a surprising bright spot this season, especially after losing Revis, Browner and Wilfork to other teams. However, Malcolm Butler more than held up as the number one corner, and Malcolm Brown looks to be more than suitable as a replacement for Wilfork. What the Patriots need to address on the defensive side of the ball is the secondary; Butler was solid, but the Patriots did go through some instances this past season where they got picked apart all the way down the field.
After dealing with the insane rash of mid-season injuries, I did not see any way New England would repeat. However, they looked the part in the divisional round, and hopefully they can bring the success from that game and earlier in the season, adding a 5th Lombardi trophy in 2017.