(This story appeared on FoxNews.com)
It’s often said what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. For the New England Patriots last season, the New York Giants killed their chances at perfection. And, while they won’t admit it, they know they’re stronger than ever.
“Our expectations are to take it one day at a time and improve individually and collectively,” backup quarterback Matt Cassel said. “We just keep trying to put one foot in front of the other and try to be more consistent on a daily basis.”
Consistent is not perfect, which the Patriots nearly were last season. They took a 16-0 record all the way to the Super Bowl before the Giants went on to pull off one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
“I think around here one thing I’ve been very impressed with is they don’t deal with the past and they don’t deal with the future,” nine-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch said, just days before the team released him.
On the field, the Patriots are returning the best quarterback (Tom Brady) and wide receiver (Randy Moss) in football. Brady, who missed all of the pre-season with a foot injury, will have a number of targets outside of Moss, including receiver Wes Welker and tight end Benjamin Watson.
The two-time Super Bowl MVP will be handing the ball off to Laurence Maroney, who has the potential to rush for 1000 yards, but may not get the chance with the Patriots’ pass-first offense.
With all of Brady and Moss’ on-field accomplishments last season, the defense was slightly overshadowed. This year, they’re looking to make a strong statement. Lead by Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi up the middle, New England is also solid with Ellis Hobbs and Rodney Harrison on the outside.
After nearly seven months of waiting to get back on the field, the time has come for the Patriots to avenge last season’s heartbreaking defeat.
“I think everybody’s looking forward to the start of the regular season” head coach Bill Belichick said.
It’s also the start of another run at perfection.
MVP Picks: 1) LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego. 2) Tom Brady, New England. 3) Peyton Manning, Indianapolis.
Rookie To Watch: Jerod Mayo, ILB, New England – The Patriots had one of the most complete teams in the league last season, but because of an aging group of linebacker – at least three are 31 or older – they needed to solidify the position for the future. Mayo is a great tackler who plays all over the field. The Patriots will use him in the middle between Pro Bowlers Vrabel and Bruschi. Not a bad place to learn your rookie year.
StanchPoints: I’m jumping on the New York Jets’ bandwagon that Brett Favre will lead them to the playoffs…Bills quarterback Trent Edwards has tremendous potential, but may not be able to show it off in Buffalo. Outside of Lee Evans, the team’s receiver corps are thin, which forces them to depend on back Marshawn Lynch on the ground…The Dolphins may have been the worst team in the NFL last season, but I can’t help but think they’ll win at least three games this year. They’re being led by Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, have one of the most accurate quarterbacks in NFL history (Chad Pennington) and, from what I’m told, a very-in-shape Ricky Williams…This is such a tough conference. I really like Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, but New England and San Diego are just slightly bit better.
Predicted Playoff Picture: New England, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Indianapolis, Jacksonville (Wild Card), New York (Wild Card)
Super Bowl: San Diego over Dallas
Scott Stanchak has covered the NFL for four seasons. For more: ScottStanchak.com.