For the first time since 2002, the New England Patriots are not listed as a regular season opponent for the Indianapolis Colts. However, just because the Pats aren't on the docket doesn't mean the gutting of their roster this offseason won't affect the Colts and the rest of the AFC.
To put it bluntly, the Patriots are toast.
Yes, yes, yes. I know Tom Brady is still the quarterback and I know Bill Belichick is still skulking the sidelines. As long as those two are there, the Patriots are playoff contenders.
By "toast" I mean their chances of seriously contending in the AFC. You have to be a homer of the highest degree of blissful ignorance if you truly think that the loses this team has suffered this offseason, particularly on offense, won't affect their win-loss column.
Let's do a recap of the damage, shall we?
- Owner Bob Kraft got cheap and decided to play hardball with the greatest receiver in franchise history, Wes Welker. Welker bolted and signed with AFC rival Denver (and Peyton Manning).
- Rob Gronkowski had yet another back surgery this offseason, his second in five years. He also had an arm injury-infection this offseason as well. There is no timetable for his expected return.
- By now, if you don't know the tight end Aaron Hernandez was released and is looking at spending the rest of his life in jail, it's not a rock you live under. It's a f*cking mountain.
- Danny Woodhead bolted during free agency and signed with the Chargers.
- The team didn't re-sign Brandon Lloyd.
- Deion Branch was also let go.
These loses account for 354 completions, 29 touchdowns, and 4,129 yards of offense for the Patriots last season. Tom Brady's ENTIRE RECEIVING CORPS is gone from his 4,827-yard season last year!
Now, there are some out there that still think this Patriots offense will be a-okay, okely-dokely with Brady throwing to Michael Jenkins, Lavelle Hawkins, and Danny Amendola.
Sure. Sure they will.
If players like Hernandez are so expendable, why did New England give him a 5-year, $40 million extension? Why did they even try to re-sign Welker this offseason? Why did they franchise him in 2012, paying him nearly $10 million?
Logic: The bane of all New England apologists.
There's also the school of thought that says that no matter who Tom Brady has to throw to, the Patriots will still be fine.
RT @PantherPride86 Who exactly is Tom Brady going to throw to? ... Went to AFCCG with Reche Caldwell as leading WR. That won't be a problem.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) June 27, 2013
I like and respect Evan Silva, but come on.
The season he is referring to is the 2006 campaign, the one that saw the Patriots epically choke in the AFCCG that year to the Colts. That season, Brady still had Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, Ben Watson, and a rookie Laurence Maroney on the team. That's a helluva lot better looking than what they have now.
But hey, whatever. I'm content to see this whole thing play out, and when the outcome ends up being what I think it will, I'm going to enjoy every darling moment of it.