Coming off the team’s fifth Super Bowl this century with loads of new weapons, the Patriots hype train has reached an all-time high. There is talk about this team being the greatest of all-time, head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the league, and even a lock to be in Super Bowl 52.
ESPN’s Bill Polian did not hold back when talking about how the Patriots are overrated heading into the season. “They are a great team. They are not as great as people think they are. They’re not invincible,” Polian said. “What they are is exceptionally well-constructed and exceptionally well-coached. But, Tom Brady isn’t going to play forever. He showed some signs of being human last year on a number of occasions, including in the Super Bowl.”
Well, I am here to double-down on Polian’s statements. The Patriots are the most overrated team heading into the 2017 season.
People are quick forget just how brutally the Patriots were getting beaten in last year’s Super Bowl. They only remember the comeback, which was respectfully incredible, but was only possible due several factors outside of their control. If Alex Mack and Ryan Schraeder are not playing on one leg in the second half, does the Falcons offense continue to cruise on their way to a 42-14 victory? If Matt Ryan was not on the cusp of a career-defining moment in winning the Super Bowl, does he still crumble under the immense pressure? If Kyle Shanahan calls a freaking knee and the Falcons kick a field goal, do the Falcons not walk out of NRG Stadium Super Bowl champions? The comeback was outstanding, but the Falcons blew the Super Bowl.
Now, I understand the Patriots look to have had a terrific offseason on paper. They locked up Stephan Gilmore to a huge deal, traded for Brandin Cooks, kept Malcolm Butler and have a healthy Rob Gronkowski to begin next season. But let’s not act like Gilmore is a superstar corner. His play was less than spectacular as he ranked outside of the top 25 cornerbacks, as he recorded a 73.2 rating according to PFF. He is wildly vulnerable to big plays, but is also a play-maker at the cornerback position. Brandin Cooks is also no Randy Moss, and there was a reason the Saints were willing to trade him rather than locking him up to a monstrous long-term deal. And finally, lets not act like there is not at least a 50% chance Gronkowski is sitting the postseason out with an injury once again. The Patriots front office deserves endless kudos for their work during this era of sustained excellence. They have earned the benefit of the doubt, but these players have yet to even step on the field and play a game in a Patriots uniform.
New England was also not the only busy spenders this offseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers loaded up on offense with the additions of O.J Howard, DeSean Jackson and Charles Godwin. Then they added to their already terrific defense in the draft with the picks of Justin Evans and Kendall Beckwith. The Packers went out and stole the Patriots tight-end Martellus Bennett. Bennett was a humongous part of the Patriots Super Bowl run without Rob Gronkowski. The Packers offense is poised to be electric, and they spent the rest of their offseason revamping their defense. The Falcons also made some significant additions to the defensive side of the ball of their own. They signed former pro-bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe to a one year deal, snagged one of the best pass rushers in the draft and get their all-pro corner back fresh off season-ending shoulder surgery. Seattle, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Oakland were busy this offseason as well trying to close the gap and once again become Super Bowl contenders. There are several teams that can compete with the Patriots on any given Sunday.
Yes, the Patriots are the greatest dynasty in football history. Tom Brady is the best quarterback to ever sling the rock. They are deserving of being favorites for various reasons. But let’s just cut it with the talk that New England is in a league of their own heading into the season. They are not going undefeated, they are not head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the league, and they sure as hell are not locks to win the Super Bowl.
Here is a hot take for your Friday afternoon: The Patriots were so unusually trigger happy this offseason because what that Super Bowl showed them was how much room for improvement they had, rather than how great they were. The Patriots knew they got away with one, and knew they would have to be a lot better if they wanted to see the same result this season.