It's become fashionable to write off the New England Patriots, and why not? They have already lost twice as many games as they did in either of the last two seasons, including convincing losses to new darlings of the AFC, the Colts and the Broncos. They have fallen to 27th in the NFL in rushing offense and 31st in yards allowed.
Here's an alternative point of view, however: The New England Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl again this year. If the '01 team could run the table and beat the Rams, this one can do the trick too. Here's how.
--Bill Belichick will be positively on fire. He will work out his grief over the loss of his father by pouring himself into his work on the 2005 Patriots season, and the results will be remarkable. Even Belichick can take it to another level.
--The reconfigured linebacker crew is on the verge of being as good as any this team has featured. That's saying something considering the talent that has graced this corps in recent years. Mike Vrabel has found the zone inside. He brings all of Ted Johnson's lumber, he's getting his reads down, and he sheds blockers. Tedy Bruschi will be himself again by Christmas, and that's just in time. Rosevelt Colvin is moving very well and playing with fire. And then there's Willie McGinest, who blew up the Saints singlehandedly on several plays. He and Johnson are the unsung stars of the Belichick/Brady Dynasty.
--The defensive line is in place: Richard Seymour, Vincent Wilfork and Ty Warren, with Jarvis Green in reserve. They jam up the offensive line and leave the glory to the linebackers. With seven strong (and healthy) up front, the Patriots give the young defensive backfield some much-needed wiggle room.
--Speaking of the defensive backfield… Eugene Wilson got a pick against New Orleans. It might be the start of something. With Wilson, Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs providing cover, this team can overcome the loss of the great Rodney Harrison. Who, by the way, speaks very highly of rookie safety James Sanders, who will probably be the starter a few weeks from now.
--Reserve RBs Heath Evans and Patrick Pass are really taking advantage of opportunity with Corey Dillon injured. Between them they have carried 68 times for 337 yards, a 5.0 average. They will suffice until Dillon is truly ready. It would be great to get Kevin Faulk back.
--The offensive line will be fine. This is an instance where player personnel and onfield need have meshed like magic. Four starters are gone from last season, and every one of them has been replaced either by a high-pedigree rookie (Logan Mankins, Nick Kaczur) or a starter from a prior Patriots Super Bowl team (Brandon Gorin, Russ Hochstein). The Patriots were even able to call back old hand Eugene Mruczkowski as a backup. Line coach Dante Scarnecchia has nothing to prove when it comes to fielding a capable line.
--The NFL's most dangerous fourth-quarter combo--Tom Brady and AdamVinatieri--still plays here.
--Now that Andre Davis has shown that he is just like Bethel Johnson, only good, the Patriots have five truly dangerous receivers: Deion Branch, David Givens, Benjamin Watson, Daniel Graham and Davis. And that's not counting Troy Brown, Tim Dwight and Pass. Brady has the weapons, and come December he'll be nice and snug behind a well-schooled line.
Why not? This is Foxboro. It will probably happen.
John MacKenna is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider. You can also find archives of his columns on the Insiders by searching for "John MacKenna" or