The New England Patriots’ greatness has been planned. Shrewd front-office maneuvering and diabolical Bill Belichick-ian foresight has put the franchise in position to succeed year after year. There has been some luck, though. Namely a doughy, rather unheralded Michigan Man transforming himself from a sixth-round pick to the greatest, most decorated quarterback in NFL history. This, of course, takes nothing away from what Robert Kraft’s Death Star has been able to do.
Fortune often favors the bold and beautiful. So no one should have been totally surprised when Antonio Brown, game-changing wide receiver and recent Kanye West meltdown cosplay enthusiast, fell into their laps after intentionally getting dismissed by the Oakland Raiders.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers star was not eligible to play in Sunday night’s marquee matchup. The Patriots didn’t need him. Tom Brady looked lethal with his current wide receiving corp, putting up 341 yards and three touchdowns with ruthless efficiency. Five different players caught three or more passes. Julian Edelman was a slot mismatch. Phillip Dorsett hauled in two touchdown grabs. Josh Gordon looked All-World on a nice catch and run for a score. James White did what he always does: be that security blanket underneath.
And then there was the defense, last seen giving up three points in the Super Bowl. All it did is give up three points and crush the spirit of the Steelers.
Belichick seems content to keep painting these masterpieces on that side of the ball, then really make it pop with some accent colors on offense.
What a sick thing to say about a Brady-led offense which now, with Brown, has as much talent as any other unit in the league. The Patriots dynasty has been put on life support so many times, yet always comes back with a stronger heartbeat.
The thumping from Foxboro could be heard from coast to coast. New England is still the team to beat and — potentially — working off the blueprint of the 2007 unit. That’s the one that added a malcontent diva wide receiver (Randy Moss) and went 18-0 before David Tyree happened.
It is not too early to ask the question. Will the 2019 version go 16-0 and, eventually, 19-0? Serious, learned people are asking it in addition to guys named Murph and Sully. The AFC East is weak. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills had a rather unproductive rock fight. The Miami Dolphins looked like an FCS team collecting a paycheck against Alabama. Those are six free wins there.
Conceivably, the season opener was one of the tougher games on the Pats’ schedule and, well, it didn’t turn out to be so tough.
Here are the other nine at play:
- at Washington
- New York Giants
- at Baltimore
- at Philadelphia
- Kansas City
- at Cincinnati
- at Houston
On paper that’s a steep climb. But it must be said, if I’m a Pats fan and understand Brown is walking through that door, I’m not particularly scared about any of these matchups.
Small sample sizes begets bad future takes. And yet, there’s that familiar haunting feeling that New England is scarier than ever and walking onto a completely uneven playing field from here on out.