This article is part of our Team Previews series.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Buoyed by return of franchise QB Tom Brady, the Patriots entered the 2009 campaign with high expectations, so even though the team claimed the AFC East Division title for the sixth time in the past seven seasons, a 10-6 record and a humbling loss (at home) to the Ravens on wild-card weekend resulted in a letdown.
The Patriots closed their regular-season home schedule with a perfect 8-0 record at Gillette Stadium, but, as was the case in their historic 18-1 2007 campaign, you're only as good as your last game, and this last one wasn't pretty. The loss of slot machine Wes Welker in Week 17 in a game of debatable importance didn't help matters. Ultimately, it was an up and down season and the Patriots' inconsistency, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where the team was undergoing a changing
of the guard in the leadership department, cost it in the end.
Though Welker's status to start the upcoming season is uncertain, there is some reason for optimism: Tom Brady is further removed from the serious knee injury that cost him most of the 2008 season, Randy Moss is in a contract year and the defense is continuing to get younger and faster, with the drafting of CB Devin McCourty in the first round and DE Jermaine Cunningham and LB Brandon Spikes in the second round of April's draft.
The Patriots' backfield may be a mess from a fantasy perspective,