No Time for Losers - The 2019 New England Patriots

Spoiler alert: Patriots win. (They always win.)

Welcome back to 'No Time For Losers' and my next detailed look at champions from different sports. This time its from the world of the NFL and it's the 2018 Superbowl winners: New England Patriots. Ready? Let's get to it.

Take a second. Try and cast your mind back to these dates if you can. 

7th September 2014.
5th February 2017.
20th January 2019.

Each of these dates are three examples of a period in which the team was severely doubted and looked in a certain degree of turmoil. 

Date number one. The Patriots were dominated by Miami in a 33-20 week one loss. They looked weak and vulnerable, the dynasty looked over. A long, disappointing season beckoned.

Number two. They were down 28-3 in the superbowl to Atlanta. They were no longer feared. Humiliation loomed.

Finally, number three. They were about to take on Patrick Mahomes and the highly favoured Chiefs in Kansas for the AFC championship. The reign of terror was about to end.

Written off by most in all three scenarios, the one thing they all have in common? The Pats were standing tall with the Vince Lombardi trophy at the end of each superbowl that year.

I guess it's simple really. If there's three things modern NFL history has taught us, it's this:

You don't bet against coach Bill Belichick.
You certainly don't want to provoke quarterback Tom Brady.
And you never, ever, write off the New England Patriots.

And yet, it's the latter which the majority of the NFL fans love to do the most. Hated (and let's be honest, feared) by 31 other fan bases, the Patriots dominant dynasty has seen them painted with the biggest bullseye around. To the haters they're the villains, the reason their plucky local heroes lose. The playground bullies taking their team's lunch money day after day. The nagging alarm cutting their dreams short. The ultimate bad guys.

But even though the 2018 champs have been written off more times than Halloween's Michael Myers, like any classic horror movie villain, no matter what you do to them they just keep...coming....back.

Belichick and Brady. They're coming for your hero's lunch money

Any NFL fan knows the drill. Underwhelming (on paper) additions, key losses in pre season followed by a sluggish start in September/ October, the Patriots usually flatter to deceive early fuelling speculation (aka hope) their reign is nearly over. Then, like any horror movie icon, they sit bolt upright out of the blue and come back stronger then before. (Ironically, in similar fashion to Myers often springing into action around Halloween itself.)

Despite the odd scare along the way their reign of terror continues. Teams are massacred, hearts are broken and we're all left cowering at the might of the Patriot power once again as the NFL's big bad inevitably raise the Lombardi come February.

So why should this year be any different right?

Well star tight end Rob Gronkowski's departure is the obvious big loss this year. His huge blocking and receiving skills have been lost to retirement, and while talk of his return will continue throughout the season, the loss of his massive presence both on and off the field will be felt as long as he stays away. (He's arguably the best tight end ever he's gonna be missed guys, even for the resurgent Pats). Offensive tackle Trent Brown and defensive end Trey Flowers departures should also be felt, as should the injured center David Andrews, a blow for Belichick on both lines it would seem. But beacuse it's the Patriots.... probably not. A year ago many were lamenting the loss of lineman Nate Solder and back Malcolm Butler. They still won the Superbowl.

You do have to wonder though how much longer Belichick and a soon to be 42 year old Tom Brady can paper over the cracks and get the job done. We've seen elite Quarterback Drew Bree's powers begin to wane now he's 40. We've seen it with Big Ben Rothlisberger. We also saw it with another great Peyton Manning some years ago (albeit with serious injuries), is it going to happen to Brady this season? Well the evidence after game one suggests frightening news for NFL  defenses. He's as powerful as ever.

Brady's monster friend Gronkowski is no longer around

Hungry for ring number 7 (seven!) Brady dismantled the Pittsburgh Steelers with 341 yards and 3 touchdowns in a 33-3 victory. His receiving weapons looked particularly dangerous with Philip Dorsett having 95 yards and 2 Touchdowns, and Josh Gordon adding another. Throw in Superbowl MVP Julian Edelman and now, controversially, elite receiver Antonio Brown and you can't blame the rest of the league's defenders for hiding behind the sofa and peeping out their fingers at the T.V.

At least their own defence can't be as good right? WRONG!

Fresh off holding offensive whizz kid Sean McVay's Rams to just 3 points with a defensive masterclass in Super bowl 53, Belichick was at it again weeks one and two. First restricting another of the games top teams and coaches to just 3 points, the Patriots embarrassed the Steelers and Mike Tomlin with a suffocating display, following it up with a shutout of the woeful Miami Dolphins. 
The signing of Michael Bennett from Philadelphia also gives them extra on the pass rush, not a bad addition to defense coming off arguably their best and most impressive display of modern times against the loaded Rams offense. No question about it, defensive guru Belichick's still at the top of his game. Maybe it's time for the league's offenses to hide behind that sofa too....

Michael Bennett takes out Steeler's Big Ben during game one

So, with immense quality on both sides of the ball, can fans find any comfort in the schedule, or perhaps the other contenders?

In the schedule...not really.

The Patriots have one of the easier schedules on paper helped as ever by participating in one of the weaker divisions, (sorry Bills and Jets fans, you're better but it's still true). The trickiest stretch comes in weeks 9-14 in which they have tough road games at the Ravens, Eagles and Texans, with home fixtures coming against the Cowboys and Chiefs. Knowing all 5 of their losses last season came on the road, and how the latter two teams are legit contenders, there's a real sense for opposing fans that they could drop a few games during this period. (They did also lose away to the Lions and the Titans last year, you just never know guys. Any given Sunday and all that).

Our new hero Patrick Mahomes tangles with the big bad Pats

The main contender to their throne in the AFC (and ultimately the NFL) is undeniably Andy Reid's high octane Kansas City Chiefs. The Van Helsing to the Patriot Dracula (or perhaps the Jamie Lee Curtis to our Michael Myers? Nah Van Helsing's probably better..bit cooler right?) the Chiefs are almost everyone's pick for best team in America not based in New England. The game's new superstar quarterback, 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes has excited fans the world over and almost got the better of his counterpart Brady in the AFC Championship game. Leading his team to overtime with a thrilling comeback, the young gunslinger was rueing the coin toss gifting the Patriots the ball and inevitably the win.

Even though they didn't actually manage to drive the stake through their heart, they have undeniably given fans some encouragement the league's big bad can actually be taken down. With the two seemingly on a collision course to the AFC championship game this season, maybe this could finally be the end? (Don't bet on it, its the Patriots). Who knows which way the coin will land this time? (Probably Patriots) And maybe our new hero Mahomes can vanquish the demons after all? (Probably not, it's the Patriots)

Overall chance of retention - 8/10 

With Brady and Belichick the Patriots are always gonna get at least a 7/10, but with Gronk gone, Brady at 42 and the rise of our hero Mahomes, the most they can get is an 8 from me.

Personal Prediction - Loser

Shock horror the Patriots don't win?!? Call me a fool, say I'm contradicting myself, but this season I'm gonna bet again the big bad Patriots. Even though it's probably more heart then head, I'm saying the beast is slain this year and Mahomes is the man wielding the blade. He's gonna be just too good for a 42 year old Brady and the torch is passed, the Chiefs have their revenge and fans across the globe rejoice. At last, a Patriot-free Superbowl! Make sure you enjoy it while it lasts though people. Don't bet against them coming back next year...


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