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Online Patriots Lines & Predictions - New England Future Odds - Free NFL Betting Previews

2006 New England Patriots Season Preview

2006 Patriots NFL News - August 21st, 2006
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2006 NFL Previews - By: Tony Moss For

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Are we witnessing the final days of one of the NFL's storied dynasties?

A case could be made in the affirmative.

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The New England Patriots, they of the three Super Bowl titles in four years, appear to be on the shakiest terrain the franchise has been forced to navigate during the current millennium.

Principles of the championship era, guys like David Givens, Willie McGinest, and Adam Vinatieri, have changed addresses.

Other Super Bowl staples such as Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, and Corey Dillon are aging, injury-prone, or both.

A group of credible AFC East competitors, otherwise known as the Miami Dolphins, are younger and healthier, and appear to be on the rise.

At the heart of the quest to convince the rest of the league that the Patriots are not, in fact, an organization on the decline, are the celebrated quarterback, Tom Brady, and the much-revered head coach, Bill Belichick.

Do you dare ignore the flash of the six combined Super Bowl rings held by those two future Hall of Famers? Do you dare count out the "team of the decade"?

If you do, Brady and Belichick, the leaders of the New England empire, are out to make you pay for your doubts.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2006 edition of the New England Patriots, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2005 RECORD: 10-6 (1st, AFC East)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2005, lost to Denver, 27-13, in AFC Divisional Playoff

COACH (RECORD): Bill Belichick (63-33 in six seasons with Patriots, 99-77 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Tom Brady, QB (4110 passing yards, 26 TD, 14 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Richard Seymour, DE (46 tackles, 4 sacks)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 24th rushing, 2nd passing, 10th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 8th rushing, 31st passing, 17th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: at N.Y. Jets (9/17), Denver (9/24), Miami (10/8), Indianapolis (11/5), at Miami (12/10)

KEY ADDITIONS: RB Laurence Maroney (1st Round, Minnesota), WR Chad Jackson (2nd Round, Florida), WR Reche Caldwell (from Chargers), TE David Thomas (3rd Round, Texas), DT Johnathan Sullivan (from Saints), LB Junior Seau (from Dolphins), LB Barry Gardner (from Jets), CB Eric Warfield (from Chiefs), S Tebucky Jones (from Dolphins), K Martin Gramatica (from Colts), K Stephen Gostkowski (4th Round, Memphis)

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Doug Flutie (retired), WR David Givens (to Titans), WR Tim Dwight (to Jets), WR Bethel Johnson (to Saints), WR Andre' Davis (to Bills), TE Christian Fauria (to Redskins), T Tom Ashworth (to Seahawks), LB Matt Chatham (to Jets), OLB Willie McGinest (released), CB Tyrone Poole (released), CB Duane Starks (released), K Adam Vinatieri (to Colts)

QB: Tom Brady (4110 passing yards, 26 TD, 14 INT) put together perhaps the finest regular season of his young career last season, earning his fourth Pro Bowl citation and carrying the Patriots at times when the running game was bogged down by injuries. Brady is the unquestioned face of the franchise, and at just 29 years of age, is likely to remain so for much of the next decade. Following Doug Flutie's retirement, second-year-pro Matt Cassel (183 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT), who played well in the regular season finale against Miami last season, is now entrenched at No. 2. The front-runner to hold the clipboard as camp begun was Corey Bramlet, a 6-4, 220-pound rookie out of Wyoming.

RB: The situation in the Patriots backfield would appear to be a fluid one. Corey Dillon (733 rushing yards, 22 receptions, 13 TD) struggled with injuries last season, and will be 32 by the midway point of the season. Backup Kevin Faulk (145 rushing yards, 29 receptions) has had his own share of injuries, and is 30. Enter Laurence Maroney (Minnesota), who the Patriots used a first- round pick on and represents the team's primary rusher of the future. The most likely scenario would have Dillon serving as the No. 1 ball carrier this season, with Maroney stepping into the third-down back role formerly filled by Faulk. Faulk could be expendable, especially if multi-purpose back Patrick Pass (245 rushing yards, 3 TD, 22 receptions) has a strong preseason. New England used a fourth-round draft pick on a pure fullback, Garrett Mills (Tulsa), and he and holdover Heath Evans (192 rushing yards, 10 receptions) are likely fighting for one job.

WR/TE: Gone is David Givens (59 receptions, 2 TD), who served as one of Brady's most reliable receiving targets over the past three seasons. Backup receivers Tim Dwight (19 receptions, 3 TD), Bethel Johnson (4 receptions, 1 TD), and Andre' Davis (9 receptions, 1 TD), all of whom had their moments, have all departed as well, meaning Brady will have to get in lock-step with a new corps of pass-catchers early-on. No. 1 wideout and former Super Bowl hero Deion Branch (78 receptions, 5 TD) comes off a great season, but his contract dispute and subsequent training camp holdout is unlikely to endear him to Belichick. His absence meant extra camp reps for rookie Chad Jackson (2nd Round, Florida), free agent pickup Reche Caldwell (28 receptions, 1 TD with Chargers) and holdovers Troy Brown (39 receptions, 2 TD) and Bam Childress (3 receptions). The tight end picture is crowded, as Ben Watson (29 receptions, 4 TD) and Daniel Graham (16 receptions, 3 TD) both return and the franchise spent a third-round pick on David Thomas (Texas). Watson, the former first- round pick, will probably see the most time with the first-string once the regular season begins.

OL: Given the uncertainty in the backfield and at receiver, it is good for Brady that the Patriots had very little offensive line turnover in the offseason. Multi-purpose man Tom Ashworth, who started 30 games for New England over the past three seasons, is the lone defection, and his departure is countered by the return of left tackle Matt Light from a broken leg that cost him most of the 2005 season. Light will line up alongside guard Logan Mankins, who played well as a rookie last season. The right side will be in the capable hands of tackle Brandon Gorin and guard Stephen Neal, while Dan Koppen returns to his familiar center role. Depth will be offered by the likes of Russ Hochstein and Nick Kaczur, both of whom have starting experience.

DL: The strength of the New England defense will once again be up front. The three-man corps of nose tackle Vince Wilfork (54 tackles) and ends Richard Seymour (46 tackles, 4 sacks) and Ty Warren (67 tackles, 1 sack) does not always receive a great deal of glory, but is nonetheless one of the best in the business. Seymour, the unquestioned star of the group, earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl trip last season. The Pats have good depth up front, as ends Jarvis Green (36 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Marquise Hill (3 tackles) are both improving and former Saint Johnathan Sullivan (29 tackles) is a former first-round pick with a great deal of potential.

LB: When Tedy Bruschi (62 tackles, 2 sacks) returned to his spot at inside linebacker seven games into the 2005 season, the Patriots' linebacking corps transformed from average to suffocating seemingly overnight. Bruschi (who is expected to miss the entire preseason with a broken wrist) and Mike Vrabel (108 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 INT) represented an impenetrable tandem force, but Vrabel is expected to move back to his outside position following the departure of Willie McGinest (56 tackles, 6 sacks) from that spot. The leading candidate to take over inside duties from Vrabel was part-time starter Monty Beisel (47 tackles, 1 sack), until the team lured Junior Seau (36 tackles, 1 sack with the Dolphins) out of a one-day retirement in order to offer help. Beisel, Don Davis (21 tackles) and Barry Gardner (17 tackles with the Jets) remain in line for reserve jobs on the inside. Starting at the other outside slot opposite Vrabel will likely be Roosevelt Colvin (60 tackles, 7 sacks), who led the team in sacks a year ago, with Chad Brown (39 tackles) and Tully Banta-Cain (9 tackles, 1 sack) present to provide depth there.

DB: The secondary has been a constant revolving door for the Patriots, and the team again faced much uncertainty there as training camp began. Free agent pickup Eric Warfield (57 tackles, 1 INT with Chiefs) was brought into compete with holdovers Ellis Hobbs (44 tackles, 3 INT) and Asante Samuel (54 tackles, 3 INT) at the cornerback position, though early in camp, it appeared there was a better chance that Eugene Wilson (68 tackles, 1 INT) would move over from safety to get some regular reps at the position. Wilson's movement could come as a by-product of the expected return of strong safety Rodney Harrison (15 tackles), who missed most of '05 with a knee injury. If healthy, Harrison will likely start alongside James Sanders (16 tackles, 1 INT), a fourth-round pick who impressed in limited action as a rookie. Journeyman Tebucky Jones (39 tackles, 2 sacks) is back in New England after a three-season hiatus, and should provide safety depth along with holdover Guss Scott (25 tackles).

SPECIAL TEAMS: Gone after 10 seasons is Adam Vinatieri (20-25 FG), arguably the NFL's first superstar place-kicker. Attempting to replace the ultra- reliable Vinatieri are former Buccaneer Martin Gramatica, who hasn't attempted a field goal in the NFL since 2004, and rookie Stephen Gostkowski (Memphis), a fourth-round draft choice. Josh Miller (45.1 avg.) had a good '05 as the Patriots' punter and will assume those duties again. Bethel Johnson and Tim Dwight, who handle a majority of the team's returns last year, have both departed, leaving Ellis Hobbs (24.1 kickoff return avg.) and Troy Brown (4.3 punt return avg.) as New England's most experienced returners.

PROGNOSIS: The Patriots might not be the team to beat in the AFC any longer, but they remain the safest bet to win the AFC East. With Brady, Branch, and Dillon, along with rookies Maroney and Jackson and a stable line, the offense should still move effectively and score plenty of points. The defense is far shakier due to the always questionable secondary situation and the aging state of the linebacking corps, but that side of the ball is Belichick's speciality and is unlikely to completely fall apart any time soon. The biggest mark in New England's favor, however, could be its competition in the AFC East. The Dolphins are talented but still have a lot more questions than answers. The Bills and Jets will be lucky to combine for double-digit wins. That leaves the Pats, and if they can reach the 10 or 11-win plateau, will likely take a fourth straight division title and give themselves a fighting chance come playoff time.

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