Todd: Tom Brady turned 40 this summer, although he hardly looks it thanks to all that avocado ice cream. Still, TB12 serves as a reminder that none of us are getting any younger.

But all the winning and the championships he has brought to the New England region for close to two decades? That never grows old.

Every once in a while I go to my favorite internet search engine and enter ‘Super Bowl Champions’. At the top of the page it lists the franchises who have won the most Lombardi trophies: Pittsburgh Steelers 6, Dallas Cowboys 5, the San Francisco 49ers 5 and the newest member of the NFL’s Five Timers club, the New England Patriots.

Still amazes me to see the team I’ve rooted for my whole life joining three proud and distinguished franchises that I used to follow during my youth after my team’s season usually ended in December.

I’ve said it many times in this space, and I’ll continue to beat this drum until I’ve punched a hole through it.

Enjoy these times down in Foxboro. Savor them like your favorite meal. The end of the Brady/Belichick era is closer than we think.

The hottest topic on sports radio leading up to this week is who will be the quarterback of the 2018 Patriots. Will the franchise tag be placed on Jimmy Garoppolo or will he sign a long-term deal? Will Brady retire or be traded and play till he’s 45? Will the Pats keep both QBs next year and commit over 40 million dollars in salaries to that one position on the roster?

Here’s my answer to all of those questions. Mind if we wait to discuss this topic after the 2017 season? Remember the current NFL season? It begins tonight at Gillette Stadium. The fifth Super Bowl banner gets unveiled and the Punxsutawney Phil of Commissioners will emerge from his hole, only to see a giant shadow cast from those five banners and a wave of blue clown towels. And a seemingly ageless 40-year old quarterback tries to lead his team to the NFL’s first back-to-back championships since…oh yeah, that was him too!

The 2017 Patriots feature 16 new faces, which is more turnover than you’ll typically see from a reigning champion. Some are the result of the league’s natural evolution of replacing guys like Rob Ninkovich who decide to hang up the cleats (although in an interview this week he did not completely rule out a return to playing), while some are out of necessity because Julian Edelman sees his season come to an end before it even got started.

Also atypical of a reigning champ is the addition of so many talented players to a team already brimming with talent—Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead and Dwayne Allen, just to name a few.

But even with a seemingly loaded roster, winning another title won’t be easy. Obvious as that is, I feel like it still needs to be said because the Pats appear to make winning look so easy.

There are questions about this team, such as which receivers will Brady now throw to when a big third down needs to be converted? Despite a plethora of options, let’s not dismiss Edelman’s absence: since he and Brady joined forces in 2009, the Pats’ winning percentage is better with Jules (215-44, .818) than without (33-19, .684). Not to mention that Brady’s TD/INT ratio is considerably lower when Edelman is not lined up in the slot.

I like the potential that newcomers Cooks and Philip Dorsett bring to the long passing game, but Brady still needs to have reliable guys pulling in his throws underneath and in the middle of the field. To that end, Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola need to defy their recent track records and stay on the field for a full season.

Other questions I have include who will be returning punts? Who can generate a pass rush? Even with a good secondary it helps to get pressure on those opposing QBs. Is there enough depth on the offensive line?

I do like this team, but I think it’s going to take some time for them to hit their stride, and the list of quarterbacks they’re expected to face this year (Brees, Ryan, Carr, Rivers, Newton, Winston) is considerably more daunting than in 2016.

So put me down for a 12-4 Pats regular season, more than enough to again win the AFC East. Also for a change of pace I’m going to predict the Pats to repeat what they did over a decade ago by winning their third Super Bowl in four years. How about Brady outdueling Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for Lombardi number six?

Mike: First of all, can we let this whole Roger Goodell thing go?
The plan by Barstool Sports to hand out towels with a picture of Roger Goodell as a clown is admittedly a bit funny, but it's also a bit juvenile.

The Patriots and Brady won the Super Bowl after all that Deflategate mess, we won, now let's show some class. Frankly, waving a Goodell clown towel at a game where we are celebrating a Super Bowl win makes Pats fans look bad. The whole NFL will be watching, why give them another reason to hate us, especially with a publicity stunt from a website?

Nope, I give this musical advice to Patriots fans still harboring a grudge against Roger Goodell.

To quote the legendary philosopher Queen Elsa "I'm never going back, the past is in the past." Let's enjoy the season and move ahead Pats fans.

In that spirit, I'm going to look ahead at the season. Todd has done his usual great job in breaking down the details, so I just have a few thoughts.

  • The loss of Julian Edelman scares me. I realize the team always has the "next man up" mentality, and that has paid off over the years, but this is a big loss to deal with. It's going to take some time to find a replacement and build up that chemistry with Brady, so that may lead to some issues in the early going.
  • I also think the Pats will lose one game that they have no business losing this season. And I'm thinking it will be against Miami late in the season. The game is down in Florida in December and the Pats always have a tough time down there. The division might be wrapped up by then, so a loss won't be devastating, however.
  • If Gronk can stay on the field for 16 games this season, the Pats will be formidible. However, with Edelman out, I feel that other than Tom Brady, Gronk is the only other player the Pats cannot afford to lose.

With that said, I'm looking at a 13-3 record this season. And yup, a sixth title for New England. I wanted to say they would beat the Packers, but in the interest of being different, I'll say they take out Seattle this season, just to completely drive Pete Carroll over the edge!

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