Patriots Preview Capsule
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (14-5)
Key losses: Linebackers coach/defensive play caller Brian Flores, TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Trey Flowers, OT Trent Brown., DL Malcom Brown.
Strengths: Tom Brady. Even at 42, Brady is still Patriots' biggest strength. His numbers have been steady since turning 40. He also will be key in getting most out of rebuilt receiving corps. Yes, Gronkowski, his go-to TE, is retired. So he'll need help from Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, who is recovering from thumb injury. But newcomers such as undrafted rookie Meyers could make impact. They also return entire starting secondary, which will be important on defense that lost highly productive Flowers in free agency.
Weaknesses: Edge rusher. New England hopes veteran Bennett can fill Flowers' production. Patriots also are encouraged by motor rookie Winovich has shown. But will it mask some other holes on defensive line following free agency departure of Brown?
Fantasy Players To Watch: Meyers. His stock rose quickly this preseason thanks to his consistency and ability to haul in acrobatic catches when tightly covered.
Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl 7 1-2. Over/under wins 11.
Expectations: It's hard not to pencil Patriots into fourth straight Super Bowl appearance. Toughest matchups on paper before reaching Week 10 bye are season opener against Pittsburgh and October matchup with new-look Cleveland. Things get tougher in second half with consecutive matchups with Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City. But they close against Cincinnati, Buffalo and Miami, putting 11 wins more than in reach.