New England Patriots Fans SadThe New England Patriots have been the most consistently good team in the NFL over the last 12 years. They have won nine or more games in each of those seasons, and made the playoffs in 10 of those seasons. For as long as Bill Belichick has been at the helm and Tom Brady has been his QB, they have been excellent.

But the Patriots haven’t gone into a season with as much uncertainty on offense as they are this season.rady is still the quarterback, but his receiving core right couldn’t be more different. Here were the Patriots top five pass catchers last season: Wes Welker (118 receptions), Brandon Lloyd (74 receptions), Rob Gronkowski (55 receptions), Aaron Hernandez (51 receptions), and Danny Woodhead (40 receptions).

Not a single one of the players I just mentioned will be on the field when the Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 of the 2013 season.

So yeah, it’s time to start worrying if you’re a Patriots fan.

Let’s start with the good news, though.

The other three teams in the AFC East aren’t very good, so the Pats still have a very, very good shot at winning the division. The Bills should be better, but who knows how E.J. Manuel will pan out in his rookie year. The Miami Dolphins should be very good defensively, but their offense looks like it is going to struggle. And the New York Jets are the New York Jets. I just can’t see any way of them being any good this year.

Now, let’s look at the bad news.

Hernandez was released earlier today after being arrested, and Gronkowski is out until at least the middle of the season as he recovers from surgery. Who really knows when Gronk will return though, because it seems that every time he gets close to returning he faces another set back.

The Patriots go-to formation last year was their two-tight end set with Hernandez and Gronk. It was a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. However, with both of these players out, the two-tight end set of Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells is a lot less scary and dangerous. Ballard is a bigger tight end and is a decent receiver at best, and Fells has 92 career receptions in 5 NFL seasons.

Okay, so Brady can’t throw to his favorite tight ends anymore. At least he has Welker and other solid receivers.


Welker signed with the Denver Broncos this offseason, and New England replaced him with Danny Amendola. Amendola could be a very good replacement for Welker, but he has to stay healthy. He has already missed 22 games in his four NFL seasons, so staying on the field has been a struggle for him in the past.

The rest of the Patriots receiving core looks like this: Michael Jenkins, Julian Edelman, Donald Jones, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce. These players combined for 102 receptions and 9 touchdowns in 2012.

With all these changes, it is very safe to think that the Patriots offense in 2013 will look a lot different then it did in 2012. There is a legitimate chance that for the first time in a while, the Patriots could actually struggle offensively, especially early in the season.

With the duo of Belichick and Brady leading the team, I still expect the Patriots to find a way to make the playoffs, but without all of Brady’s favorite offensive weapons, I just cannot see them contending for a Super Bowl this year.

[Mike Lucas Sports]


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