Last season, the New England Patriots surprised everyone as it appeared that the team may have finally plateaued. The Patriots’ poor defense began to really impact the team’s success early in the 2011 season. New England was giving up a lot of points and basically leaning on their offense as usual to pull them through.
As a result of the shaky defense, no one was sold on the Patriots until they got red-hot following a loss to the New York Giants (24-20) in Week 9. New England finished the season winning the final eight games of the regular season and dominating the competition in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl once again in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
Unfortunately, the Patriots fell to the Giants for a second time in the Super Bowl and went home empty handed.
Despite a rocky start to the 2012 NFL regular season with three losses in the first six weeks, New England has been able to bounce back and run the table with the exception of a loss to the San Francisco 49ers (41-34) in Week 15.
According to veteran wide receiver Deion Branch, this Patriots team is better than last year’s AFC champions via Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com:
“We want to make this team, the 2012 Patriots team, a special team,” said the veteran wideout. “Each year is going to be something different. We’re a lot better than we were last year. We don’t have the same players. That team, the 2011 team, was totally different from this year.”
Although this may appear to be a bold statement from Branch, there’s some merit to his comments. This season the Patriots are a force running the football and are much improved on defense. The two aspects of this team that have been deficient, the team has vastly improved and therefore it could be argued that they’re a better team in comparison to last year’s squad.
Of course, the best indicator of whether or not Branch’s statement is true is the end result of the postseason.
After a first-round bye, the Patriots will face the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. New England destroyed the Texans in Houston earlier in the season and will attempt to have a repeat performance playing host to Arian Foster and company.