I’m admittedly guilty of wishing summer away sometimes.
While baseball, beaches and hot dogs on the grill are great, nothing beats the kickoff of a brand-new football season.
Especially when the New England Patriots are to unveil another championship banner this evening at Gillette Stadium before starting their drive for a sixth Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.
We all remember where we were on Sunday, Feb. 5., when James White bulled his way into the end zone at Houston’s NRG Stadium, completing the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history and turning the Atlanta Falcons into victims of Internet memes. My son somehow slept through the tense fourth quarter and overtime.
But Bill Belichick doesn’t dwell on past success, so we won’t either. We’re on to 2017, and the road to Minneapolis and Super Bowl LII starts tonight.
Here are five bold predictions for your 2017 Patriots.
1. Danny Amendola will have a breakout year. Julian Edleman’s injury in the preseason sent shockwaves throughout New England, with the venerable slot man being quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite offensive toy.
Now, this is Amendola’s chance to provide Brady with the 3rd-down blanket that the Patriots lost in Detroit.
When Wes Welker left for Denver after the 2012 season, Amendola was billed as the next great inside receiver in Belichick’s system. That turned out to be Edelman.
Amendola has the speed, hands and versatility to play in the slot. The Patriots will need him to stay healthy.
2. Gronk will return to form. Yes, the Patriots went 10-0 without tight end Rob Gronkowski last season. But with Edelman on the shelf, Gronk will need to stay on the field for the duration of the season, and have his prototypical big year.
Expect the big guy to bounce back in a big way this season. With defenses looking to shut down deep threat Brandin Cooks, Gronk should own the middle this season.
3. Butler-Gilmore will be the best cornerback tandem in the league. Is there a better cornerback tandem in the NFL than Malcom Butler and Stephon Gilmore? While the Patriots pass rush is a bit questionable, there’s no doubt the team’s secondary will be among the NFL’s best. Safety Devin McCourty is as good at quarterbacking a secondary than anyone in the game.
4. The road to the Super Bowl will again go through Foxboro. No, the Patriots won’t go 19-0. But, the road to Minnesota will go through One Patriot Place.
There aren’t too many games on the schedule that should scare Patriots fans (until Denver finds a competent quarterback, there’s no reason to fear the Broncos, even in Denver), but road contests with the Saints, Raiders and Steelers will be challenging, although I can see the Raiders taking a bit of a step back this year. Final regular-season record: 14-2.
5. The Pats will beat the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl LII. Football fans will finally get what they’ve been clamoring for in the State of Hockey in February. A matchup on the grandest stage in sports between two No. 12’s, Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Former Pats tight end Martellus Bennett is now catching passes in Green Bay. Imagine the ratings that a Patriots-Packers matchup would get.
Patriots 35, Packers 24. Sorry Green Bay fans, Desmond Howard is not walking through that door.