Sports

Klein ’20: Can anyone dethrone the New England Patriots?

By
Sports Columnist
Thursday, September 7, 2017

The New England Patriots are expected to dominate this NFL season. The team had the best Vegas odds, 6-1, to win the Super Bowl as of Monday, and many pundits give New England an even better shot than that. Though the Pats recently lost wide receiver Julian Edelman for the season to an ACL tear, the team is still an intimidating force after a few key offseason additions. The acquisition of wide receiver Brandin Cooks via a trade with the New Orleans Saints stands out especially. Cooks accumulated 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns last season and should see an improvement in both figures with Belichick and Brady relying on him as an important part of New England’s offense. Cooks could become the Patriots’ best receiver in several years.

While it goes without saying that New England will dominate the AFC East on the way to the playoffs — unfortunately so for this sad New York Jets fan — the question remains whether any team can stop the Pats from yet another Super Bowl win. After all, talk of a 19-0 season has already popped up. The following teams are the best hope for the rest of the country to avoid another New England celebration.

The Atlanta Falcons were only a few minutes away from winning the Super Bowl before their collapse. Up 28-3 at one point in the second half, the Falcons choked throughout the fourth quarter before losing in overtime. Atlanta’s blueprint for this season is similar to last year. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones need to overpower the Pats’ defense for the Falcons to win, along with a solid running game from Devonta Freeman. The Falcons almost won the Super Bowl without incredible performances from those three: Ryan threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns, Jones compiled 87 yards and Freeman went for 75 yards and a touchdown. Better games from them could put the Falcons over the top. A more balanced defense would work wonders as well. Atlanta felt pressured to score a lot last year to make up for the defensive side of the game, forcing themselves into offensive mistakes during the Super Bowl.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Atlanta can emotionally come back from the Super Bowl letdown. To come so close to a championship only to watch it slip away is brutally painful. The first couple weeks of the regular season will be telling in regards to the Falcons’ mental response.

The Green Bay Packers are tied for the fourth best Vegas odds at 12-1 for one reason alone: Aaron Rodgers. Any team that has the best quarterback in the world on its roster has a chance to win it all. The NFL playoffs, with their do-or-die format, are ripe for surprise postseason runs from teams that get hot at the right moments. Rodgers has done it before: he led the Packers to a 2011 Super Bowl Championship, winning the most valuable player award in the big game. The 33-year-old is still at the peak of his powers. Last season’s performance was one of his best yet with 4,428 passing yards, 40 passing touchdowns, only seven interceptions and two playoff wins, including a dramatic victory over the favored Dallas Cowboys.

But the other players around Rodgers will need to step up for the Packers to win this season’s Super Bowl. At the end of the day, one player can only do so much, an issue that surfaced when the Falcons demolished the Packers 44-21 in the NFC Championship. If running back Ty Montgomery can take his game to the next level, he could become a huge part of this Packers team. Suddenly, defenses would have more to look out for than just Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and new tight end Martellus Bennett. Green Bay’s defense needs to improve as well — they allowed the 11th most yards in the NFL last season.

The Seattle Seahawks are another team that almost beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl before losing in devastating fashion. The Seahawks are stacked with their usual suspects. Quarterback Russell Wilson is right in his prime. Cornerback Richard Sherman, and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are ready to lead Seattle’s fearsome defense once again. And defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, acquired in a trade with the Jets, can bring another boost to the Seahawks’ defensive line. But he needs to bounce back from a couple of poor seasons in New York and play up to his potential without being a divisive force in the locker room.

Seattle has fallen short during the playoffs in the past couple of seasons, letting opposing offenses dominate. In back-to-back years, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan overwhelmed the Seahawks in the first half. The Seahawks will need to show up ready to play from the beginning if they want to take down the Patriots.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders also have a chance to defeat New England. But that chance is tiny. The Patriots are the favorites for good reason, and it seems more than likely that New England’s powerful offense and stingy defense will run roughshod over the rest of the National Football League. Belichick, Brady and company are on track to win their third Super Bowl in four years.

George Klein ’20 can be reached at george_klein@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.