The New England Patriots are a week away from their regular season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patriots went 14-2 in the regular season and undefeated in the playoffs to win the Super Bowl.
Here are three predictions for the Patriots this season.
#3 Stephon Gilmore set career-highs in passes defensed and interceptions
Gilmore was one of the better free agents on the market. When the Patriots signed him, there was a lot of speculation that Butler would be dealt. Instead, the Patriots now have the best cornerback duo in the league.
Opposing offenses will not be able to avoid one side of the field and just throw at the weaker defensive back all the time. That will put Gilmore on the spot at times. That and opposing offenses will have to throw more than Gilmore saw while playing for the Bills to try to stay in games. The Patriots are a better team than the Bills and will have more fourth quarter leads.
Gilmore’s current career-high in passes defensed (passes broken up) is 18 and interceptions is five (set last season).
#2 Malcolm Mitchell will lead the team in receiving
With Julian Edelman injured, someone will have to step up. Mitchell will be that guy.
Brandin Cooks will be the player everyone talks about. He will make big plays, but will not catch as many passes as Mitchell.
Mitchell caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns, but almost all of it came over the last seven weeks of the season. He even sat out the final game with an injury that also cost him the divisional round.
Mitchell made big strides as his rookie year progressed. That development will continue as long as he can stay healthy. He has the size, hands, route running and athleticism to become a favorite target of Tom Brady sooner rather than later.
#1 The Patriots will repeat as the AFC East and Super Bowl champion
The Patriots won the Super Bowl last season and got better in the offseason. They are the favorites to repeat, especially with Ryan Tannehill’s injury, as AFC East champions. Then, as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, should beat the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round at home, get revenge on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field for a regular season loss and then defeat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.