Every season the New England Patriots have been the consensus preseason favorites to win the AFC. The Patriots dynasty led by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady has now lasted for almost two decades, since it began in 2001 with their first of the dynasty’s five Super Bowl rings.
In my opinion, it is pretty tough to argue against them being the greatest dynasty in NFL history. Whether you like it or not, their consistent dominance throughout the past two decades has truly been remarkable, especially in an era in where the game has changed immensely since 2001.
The last time New England did not make play in the AFC Championship was in 2010, due to an unbelievable New York Jets upset led by Mark “The Sanchize” Sanchez. As long as the Patriots dynasty is still intact, they rightfully so should be the heavy favorite to at least win the AFC every season until proven otherwise.
So, for the past few seasons the recurrent narrative discussed throughout the media with the Patriots has been: When will this dynasty come to an end?
New England typically doesn’t start off the season looking anywhere nearly as dominant as they do by the end of it. Last season they started off (2-2), but then ended up winning the next eight-straight games and finished at (13-3). It usually takes until about roughly mid-season for Belichick to make the right adjustments. Which allows him enough time to figure out the right guys to put in place just in time for a Super Bowl run.
This time feels just a bit different… After their week one victory over the win-less Houston Texans, the Patriots currently are on a rare two-game losing streak. The team struggled heavily on both sides of the ball on Sunday Night in their loss to the Detroit Lions.
They are faced with an upcoming home game against the undefeated division-rival Miami Dolphins. There are a ton of questions surrounding who could possibly contribute for the Patriots, especially already entering the season with a major turnaround to their roster.
They lost some very highly impact players in the off-season including CB Malcolm Butler, OT Nate Solder, RB Dion Lewis, WR Brandin Cooks & Danny Amendola. Now they are experiencing the misfortune of the “injury bug”, which includes six rookie draft picks placed on injured reserve.
We all are very aware that the Patriots have proven in the past that they are more than capable enough to handle some adversity…
So, now the real question should be is…
Who needs to step up and make and immediately make an impact?
Former running back Dion Lewis who has been their main starter left in the off-season to sign as a free agent with Tennessee. Jeremy Hill was acquired and Rex Burkhead returned, but now they are both suffered season-ending injuries.
This eludes to the fact that it is officially time for Sony Michel to prove why they the selected him in the first round, and has received a tremendous opportunity to take over as the main ball carrier.
Sony Michel, the 5’11” 215 lbs. running back from the University of Georgia, who emerged onto the national scene last season throughout Georgia’s playoff run. Michel was typically known as being the “second or third option”, due to being overshadowed from playing behind Todd Gurley or Nick Chubb his entire college career.
Michel is equipped with some tremendous athletic traits, displaying great ball carrier vision, elite pass protection, and demonstrated he’s capable of receiving out of the backfield in college. Besides sixth-round CB Keion Crossen, Michel is the only Patriots rookie that is currently not inactively placed on the Injured Reserve.
James White is the other running back, but he typically is used primarily as a pass catcher. Their only other running back on the active roster is journeyman Kejon Barner. Barner recently signed this past week, and should be able to receive some sort of an opportunity, but not anywhere nearly as much as Michel.
Tom Brady has made it a point of emphasis to frequently utilize his running backs throughout their passing game, so it will be essential for Michel to start contributing right away as a pass catcher.
Michel in the two games he’s played has struggled so far, rushing 24 times for 84 yards, with managing only just one reception and no touchdowns. Michel really could ease their adjustment of playing without Rex Burkhead by performs well. Expect him to see the majority of the carries from anywhere between (15-25) carries per game, plus as well as some receptions which will boosts his Fantasy PPR value tremendously.
It is officially time for the former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon to prove what he can do on the field in a winning culture, alongside arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time. Gordon has never played with anything remotely close to a franchise quarterback, which was pretty much a crap-shoot to whoever the Browns had in throwing to him.
The Patriots recently acquired Gordon from Cleveland for a fifth-round draft pick, with hopes to address their crucial need for depth at receiver. Last year’s starters Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, Malcolm Mitchell are not longer on the roster. They already have attempted to bring in potential replacements during the preseason, but all of them already have been released such as; Jordan Matthews, Corey Coleman, Chad Hansen, and Amara Darboh.
With Julian Edelman just one game away from returning from his four-game suspension for PED’s, Gordon is expected to make a huge impact immediately. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are the only receivers that have notably contributed so far this season, and Cordarrelle Patterson is the only other active receiver, but he is utilized primarily as just a returner specialist.
There is no question the athletic ability and talent that Josh Gordon possesses, which makes the potential of him providing Tom Brady with their best receiver since Randy Moss. It is all going to come down to whether or not Gordon is mentally tough and focused enough to adjust with the Patriots’ culture, as well as hopefully putting an end to any off-field concerns.
Despite his outstanding 2013 season, in which he racked up 87 reception, 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns, there are still some noteworthy concerns with his on-field performance. Although, Gordon has missed 2015, 2016, and the majority of 2017 due to suspensions and managing his his off-field issues. Despite that, Gordon has only played in 11 games, and scored just twice since 2013. It is still worth to note because only scoring two times and playing 11 games in the last five years is a bit of a red flag no matter what the circumstances are in play.
This is the absolute perfect opportunity for Gordon to prove he is still the elite receiver we once had a glimpse of. To show the world that he has overcame any personal struggles, that he’s mentally tough and dependable enough to be one of the key impact pieces of a championship contender.