Vote: 'Fact or fiction' on Pats predictions
July, 21, 2012
ESPNBoston.com reporters Mike Reiss, Mike Rodak and Field Yates play a game of "Fact or Fiction" on the 2012 Patriots season (video above).
Rodak: Fact. "The reason on that is the competition Bill Belichick has created with the roster. I think he will be able to weed out and find the best players, and in turn create the best team."
Reiss: Fact. "The defense will be better -- 28th in the league on third down last year -- I think the athletes that Bill Belichick brought in are really going to help."
Yates: Fact. "I think you have to look at the schedule as well. They play two divisions -- the AFC South, which is sort of on the bottom and pretty weak, and the NFC West; although the 49ers are a strong team, I think that the bottom three teams below them might be favorable matchups for the Patriots. I think 13 wins is almost a lock."
Rob Gronkowski will catch 15 or more touchdowns.
Yates: Fact. "He had 17 last year, 18 if you include his technically running score. It's a big total he's reached before, but this is where I think Rob Gronkowski will be able to take advantage in 2012. The Patriots have reloaded an already tremendous offense; they're going to move down the field very quickly and efficiently. That will give Gronkowski lots of opportunities in the red zone."
Reiss: Fiction. "Just because I think the opponents -- teams like the Bills and the Jets -- have really focused on how to limit Gronkowski. I don't think you ever stop him, but I think the number will come down."
Rodak: Fiction. "You have Gronkowski, but you also have Brandon Lloyd, who you did not have last year. A disappointing receiving corps last year has now gotten better. More opportunities for them to score means less opportunities for Gronk to score."
Devin McCourty will return to Pro Bowl form.
Rodak: Fiction. "I think you're probably going to see an average of what he did the last two seasons -- his first season being great, his second season being not so great."
Reiss: Fiction. "I do think we'll see a better Devin McCourty, Field, mainly because I think the safety play behind him is going to be better. So he'll be able to play a little bit more [freely] on the corner."
Yates: Fact. "I think the best thing that happened to Devin McCourty in 2011 was the season ending. He needed to just wipe the slate clean. He's going to go into 2012 with a full offseason, a fresh take. We talk about defensive backs; a lot of it comes down to confidence. I think that his confidence will be there from the start, whereas last year he lost it early. He couldn't really regroup within the season -- that's a difficult thing to do. I think 2012 is a bounce-back year for Devin McCourty."
Fact or fiction on each topic? Vote in the polls, and share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog entry.