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The Mass Media

Prediction for Remainder of the Patriots Season

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Rob Gronkowski, after missing the second half of the 2016 season while on the injured reserve (IR) list, began the 2017 season healthy.

After an underwhelming 2-2 start to the 2017 season, the New England Patriots are now winners of seven straight games and appear to be back on track for another AFC Championship appearance.

Tom Brady is playing the best he has ever played and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The defense was the main concern early on in the year, but now, their “bend-but-don’t-break” philosophy is hitting on all cylinders. With five regular season games remaining on the schedule, the Patriots only have the Pittsburgh Steelers as their only real competition left. The other four games are against weak AFC East opponents—the Buffalo Bills twice, once against the Miami Dolphins, and once against the New York Jets.

What should we be looking for through the final five weeks as the playoffs approach? Both the Patriots and the Steelers are currently 9-2 and will meet in week 15. The winner of that game would, of course, hold the tiebreaker over the other if they finished with the same record.

In my eyes, the only team that’s going to beat the Patriots this year is themselves. Not that this year’s team is as good as they have been in years past, but the rest of the league is about as weak as it’s ever been.

As long as the Patriots show up and play their best on game days, they should be and stay in control. That’s why, more importantly than anything this season, the players need to stay healthy as we enter the home stretch.

With Julian Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, and now Martellus Bennett all on the injured reserve list with season-ending injuries, the Patriots really can’t afford to lose anyone else.

Kyle Van Noy has become an essential part of the defense and he looked banged up following the 35-17 rout of the Dolphins on Nov. 26. Not only did Van Noy look like he was hurt, but both Trey Flowers and Elandon Roberts had to come off the field for a few plays. Last year, the Patriots won the Super Bowl despite losing Rob Gronkowski. The way this current roster is constructed, I’m not sure they could survive another big blow.

As far as the playoffs go, the Steelers are the only team that could maybe—perhaps—be viewed as a threat. With that said, Brady is 10-2 in his career against the Steelers, including the playoffs—he’s a perfect 3-0. Even if someone wanted to argue that the rosters are equally talented, the gap between Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin is huge. Belichick exposed Tomlin’s Steelers in last season’s AFC Championship and I wouldn’t expect anything different this year.

Aside from health, locking up the number one seed should be at the top of the Patriots’ list of priorities as well.

Let’s go back to 2015 when the Patriots went to Miami in week 17 looking for a win to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Patriots used a very uncharacteristic game plan as they ran the ball on the first 15 snaps, causing them to lose the game and drop down to the 2 seed. That meant traveling to Denver for the AFC Championship, which resulted in a 20-18 defeat.

Mismanaging the last game of the year and the importance of home field ultimately cost the Patriots another crack at the Super Bowl. No doubt this taught them a lesson—with home field advantage last year, the Patriots cruised to the big game.

With a healthy team and the number one seed in the AFC, I think Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will be in Minneapolis on Feb. 4 going for their sixth Super Bowl ring.