The Case for the New England Patriots: This team is all in. The Patriots have broken their mold for holding onto their draft picks and not overpaying for players when their contracts are up and they went out and started acquiring. Here are the players they added to their lineup for 2018:
Brandin Cooks – first true deep threat that Tom Brady has had since Randy Moss. Stephon Gilmore – best free agent Corner on the market. Kony Ealy – one of the best Defensive Lineman on the market. Dwayne Allen – who I believe will have a big year in the Patriots offense alongside Gronk.
And to add to these names, the Patriots were able to re-sign Dont’a Hightower and Malcolm Butler. The fun thing with the Patriots and these moves is that they know their years with Tom Brady are limited and they are all in for making the most of the time they have been given with him at the helm.
The concern that I have with the Patriots revolves around Tom Brady still competing at age 40. I would never bet against this player because he is the ultimate competitor but Peyton Manning had an incredible season at age 38 and once he hit 39, he immediately showed his age. This really came with no warning and no signs and then right as he crossed that threshold, you knew he was in his final season. Same thing with Brett Favre, who at age 40 had one of his best seasons ever, but at age 41, you knew he had to walk away because his body was too beat up.
I would not bet against Tom Brady conquering this age threshold of 40, but what we have seen with great quarterbacks is there is not always a gradual decline but rather a complete drop off, which forces me to not put too much weight into his last season since the age clock continues to wind.
But what the Patriots have done, is prepare for this exact outcome in the absolute best way possible. They shored up the Defense, added a deep threat offensive weapon to compliment what the Patriots have already developed in Edelman, Gronk, and Co. We know what the Patriots can do with a backup Quarterback and for the red flags that stand in the way of the Patriots success, the New England front office has already addressed them.
The Case for the Las Vegas Raiders: There are a lot of things that I love about this team. The young core is definitely developing in stride, they have built a strong offense going from the line outward, but I still have concerns on the Defensive side. This defense is going to develop in time but I think their secondary is a little flat and at times this team ran into an offensive firefights and it wasn’t until the Raiders defense dug in just enough in the 4th quarter to win the game. You can’t put that much pressure on an offense to outscore all your opponents. I love this team going forward because I think defensive players have better transitions in going into the NFL and having immediate impact. So down the road they will definitely be able to shore that up through the draft or even through free agency.
But like the Patriots they also improved from last year through free agency acquisitions including that of Cordarelle Patterson, who is is the best special teams return player in the game and a terrifying gunner in the punting game. This addition, will set up the offense for success and set up the defense for prime field position and as a result will help both sides of the ball with this single player.
Now we get to talk about Marshawn Lynch. I am so happy he is back! There are a lot of question marks revolving around what his production will look like after taking a full season off, but to address those questions I will start with the time off.
1) Time Off – He was not out for a full season due to injury so as far as rehabbing goes, we don’t have to worry about that. And with another physical runner in Adrian Peterson, we saw that a year off was the best thing for him to rest his body, rehab, and ultimately have one of the best years of any Running Back ever. When you take the rehabbing out of the equation of Marshawn Lynch, you have a guy who took a year off, rested his body and is ready to win.
2) Age – Now to address Marshawn Lynch’s age. On this side of 30, history shows that he will slow down, but let’s remember what he is replacing. Latavius Murray had 788 all purpose yards on the year and Marshawn Lynch had more than double that in his last full season with 1673 all purpose yards in 2014. So even if he takes a step back due to age, this will almost definitely still be an upgrade.
3) Team and O-Line – And last but not least, the supporting cast that will surround Lynch this season, will be the best he has ever played with. Running through the list you have Carr, Cooper, Crabtree and the best offensive line in the AFC. In my opinion, this is going completely offset the age concern and Marshawn Lynch will be a force to bring this team all the way to the AFC Championship.
Conclusion: While I believe that Patriots are in a better position to go back to the Super Bowl, I think this season could mark the transition of power in the AFC and that power will be passed to the hands of the Raiders going from this season. So whatever the outcome, I think this is the year we see that shift in power, but anything can happen and Tom Brady has proved us wrong before.
Regardless, this is going to be a great preamble to the Super Bowl. It is going to give Marshawn Lynch another shot to get the best of the team that stole a Super Bowl from him on the 1 yard line, due to one of the most gutsy and backfired play-calls in the history of the NFL. And it will give the Raiders organization the ability to right the past and finally have another shot at the Super Bowl after falling victim to the infamous tuck rule where the Patriots first began their dynasty.