2011 NFL Predictions: Patriots Will Be NFL’s Best Regular Season Team

Did the Jets expose the Patriots in the playoffs last year? Did the Patriots just have a bad game? Were the Jets just really good?

The answer is a combination of two and three. The Patriots weaknesses weren't really exposed against the Jets. To the extent that they were exposed, many of those holes have been filled.

New England had one of the youngest defenses in the NFL in 2010. Now, a year later, they have extra experience. They also have Shaun Ellis, as well as possibly Darren Sharper. Given those tools, Bill Belichick will put a good defense on the field.

Albert Haynesworth is a question mark, but the Patriots aren’t expecting him to be anything more. If he can play at the levels we’ve seen in the past, then that makes the Patriots better. If he fizzles, he isn’t a big enough part of New England’s plan to make that big of a difference.

Offensively, the Patriots have plenty of weapons for Tom Brady to work with. Chad Ochocinco isn't the deep ball threat that Randy Moss was in the past for Brady, but all the quarterback needs is good, possession receivers to pick defenses apart.

Picking a Super Bowl winner at this point is a little like shooting fish in a barrel. The league is filled with parity and in a one-game scenario; any team that gets to the playoffs can win the Super Bowl.

Still, predicting which team will be built best for the long haul is a little easier. The Patriots have the best top-to-bottom roster in the NFL. That’s what will get them the best record in the NFL again.

What would keep them from making that move is that they do play in a tough division. The Dolphins and Bills aren’t pushovers, and Rex Ryan and the Jets seem to have New England’s number. They’ve managed a split against them in Ryan’s two years as the head man in New York.

But the Patriots have shown no evidence that they can’t overcome that. Look for them to lose maybe one divisional game, and one (maybe two) non-divisional games. If you don’t like the Patriots having Home Field Advantage, you probably won’t enjoy this season.

—Michael Dixon

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