There is no mystery as to what the New England Patriots primary objective is this season. In the era of Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady there is only one objective: winning a Super Bowl championship.
It’s not easy winning Super Bowl championships. After making it look easy from 2001-2004, the Pats have found that out the hard way. It’s been nine-and-a-half years since the Pats have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, despite getting so very close a number of times.
This year they have another great chance to win the big game, but a lot of things are going to have to come together for that to happen. Winning Super Bowls requires just as much luck and timing as it does skill and grit. The Patriots should have the skill and grit this year to be in the running, but whether or not they’ll have luck on their side will only come to light as the season progresses.
The first key is already in place for the most part. It just has to stay in place. That is the health of the key players in the organization. In 2008 the Patriots showed that they aren’t going to win a Super Bowl with an injured Tom Brady. The past couple seasons they have struggled without Rob Gronkowski. They will need both Brady and Gronk healthy to win a Super Bowl, as well as the other top players on the roster. Darrelle Revis, Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork round out the top five, and the Patriots can’t win a Super Bowl unless all five are on the field.
Injuries will happen over the course of an NFL season. Players are going to inevitably wind up on the Injured Reserve list. Everyone is going to be banged up to some extent. The key is keeping that core as healthy as possible over the full 16-game season and into the playoffs.
The Patriots also won’t win a Super Bowl without significant contributions from their young talent pool. The veterans on the roster will have to play their roles, but there is a little more stability and consistency with that group. You know what you can expect from the veterans. Can’t say the same for the rookies, second-year and even some third-year players.
What you can do is set high expectations and hope they are reached. They will have to be reached for the Patriots to win Super Bowl. That all starts with Chandler Jones. Jones will be in his third year in 2014, but has yet to realize his full potential. He’s running out of time. This has to be the year he breaks out. The Patriots were hoping to invest in an elite pass rusher when they drafted Jones in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, and that’s what they need now. Jones needs to rack up at least a dozen sacks in the regular season plus a couple more in the postseason if the Patriots are going to win a Super Bowl.
The young receivers are also going to have to step up. Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman are going to produce if they are healthy, but they fall into the veteran category where we know what we’re going to get (excluding Amendola’s potential for injury). What they aren’t going to provide is a young deep threat. That will have to come from either Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, or Brian Tyms. One of them is going to have to rack up at least a dozen catches of 20+ yards plus a couple more in the postseason if the Patriots are going to win a Super Bowl.
If the top five players on the team can stay healthy and the young guns step up in a big way, the Pats will be well on their way to a Super Bowl Championship. But they would still need that extra bit of fairy dust to get over the hump. That fairy dust could come in the form of a couple big plays down the stretch.
In a tight playoff game, everything can come down to one play (sorry Pats fans).
If the Patriots can make those big plays, that could be the difference. Namely, they need a couple defensive or special teams touchdowns during their playoff run to win a Super Bowl. Maybe Edelman returns a punt for six. Maybe Wilfork scoops up a fumble and takes it back for six. Whatever it is, someone is going to have to step up and be a hero, however unlikely it may seem.
It’s going to take some serious luck for all those factors to play out, but that’s exactly what it takes to win a Lombardi Trophy. But somebody has to do it, and if luck is on the Patriots side, it’s going to be them.
Follow Tanner Howard at @TC_Howard
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