After winning last season’s Super Bowl and stocking up even more in the offseason, the New England Patriots should again be survival football’s equivalent of the silver bullet.
You know, in case of emergency, break glass for Tom Brady.
There’s a possibility the Patriots could be favored in each game they play this fall. NumberFire projects the team to be a 60 percent-plus favorite in each of its 16 games with its lowest probability being a 61.1 percent favorite at Denver in Week 10. The Patriots’ highest probability is 81 percent at home against the Jets in Week 17 with plenty of other games sitting in the 70s.
So, yeah, the Patriots are going to provide a lot of insurance for indecisive players.
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But still, this is survival football and you shouldn’t make your picks without plenty of assurances and a plan. Even if that pick has a coach and a quarterback with enough rings to cover an entire hand.
If you’re the discerning sort of survival player, the truth is that you might actually have trouble finding the optimal place to play the Patriots this season. Their usual divisional slam dunks — the Bills and Jets at home — don’t come until Weeks 16 and 17.
More power to you if you’re able to save the Pats that long, but you have to have some serious confidence in the rest of the league if you pack Tom Brady away in survival pool carbonite and put him under the tree until the holidays.
Such a plan will be easier to stomach if you don’t take New England in the first two months of the season. The Patriots also have a second half that features road trips to Denver, Oakland and Pittsburgh. All winnable games, but not the type of contests you’re going to stake your survival life on.
Same goes for the Super Bowl rematch in Foxborough with Atlanta in Week 8.
So what looks good? It actually might be hard to pass up picking the Patriots over the Texans in Week 3. Houston is 1-8 all-time against New England and got throttled in two visits to Gillette Stadium last season. If Andrew Luck isn’t well enough to host the Browns that week you might be forced to resort to the Pats that early. It might hurt to burn the champs that early, but there’s also value in surviving with the known quantities early in the season and waiting to get a better handle on the rest of the league before you ride and die with them.
If you don’t pull the rip cord against the Patriots, I think the two best possibilities are a visit to the woeful New York Jets in Week 6 or hosting the Dolphins in Week 12. Both are divisional games, but the gap between the Patriots and the rest of the AFC East is as wide as it’s ever been.
It’s hard to sit here before the season and say you’re definitely going to pick a team in a certain week. If you don’t stay flexible, you’re probably not going to be the ultimate survivor. And maybe you really do want to save the Patriots for the ultimate life preserver.
At the same time, it never hurts to look ahead and have a game plan.
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(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)