Are The New England Patriots Already The Favorites To Win Super Bowl XLVI?
A week ago, we weren’t sure if we’d be watching a Super Bowl next February. A week ago, we would have told you that if there was a Super Bowl in February, the Green Bay Packers would have to be the early favorite to win it. A week ago, the New York Jets looked like they’d be the team to beat this year in the AFC East. A week ago, the landscape of the NFL looked totally different.
Fast-forward to now and it’s clear that a lot has happened in the last week. The NFL lockout finally (finally!) ended. A handful of NFL players got released by their teams. And a bunch of trades kept ESPN reporters Adam Schefter and John Clayton busy all week long as teams shifted different players around in order to try and get better before heading off to training camp.
There were a lot of really interesting transactions that took place, too. Vince Young made the decision to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, who traded away their backup quarterback Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals. Reggie Bush got shipped to the Miami Dolphins by the New Orleans Saints, who turned around and signed Darren Sproles to a deal to replace him. And the Carolina Panthers turned a few heads by resigning star running back DeAngelo Williams and trading for tight end Greg Olsen. So it’s definitely been fun to watch. But the one team that’s made the biggest moves thus far has been the New England Patriots. And, as a result of it, we’re already ready to hand them the Super Bowl XLVI trophy.
Okay, okay, so it’s probably too early to do that. The Jets are also making a push to land some big free agents, which could make it difficult for the Pats to win their own division, let alone the Super Bowl. But after going 14-2 last season, the Pats have actually managed to get better on both sides of the ball in 2011 by adding defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco to the mix towards the end of the week.
Haynesworth is, admittedly, a risk for the Patriots. After signing a $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins a few years ago, he essentially gave the ‘Skins nothing and caused a whole lot of turmoil in the locker room. The hope is that Pats coach Bill Belichick can get Haynesworth to be on his best behavior this season and return to Pro Bowl form. If he can, he’ll help solidy a defense that, frankly, was already pretty damn good last year.
Ochocinco is another story. Since joining the league in 2001, he’s been stuck on Cincinnati Bengals teams that have underperformed both on and off the field. But he’s consistently put up big numbers and been a problem for opposing cornerbacks. So while he’s no longer in his prime, Ocho provides Tom Brady with another weapon that will help stretch the defenses the Patriots face throughout the season. And if there’s one thing Brady doesn’t need—at least in the eyes of other NFL teams—it’s another weapon. So he’ll be welcomed with open arms in New England.
Basically, the Patriots have gone from a Super Bowl contender to a Super Bowl favorite over the course of a week. Part of that is that there really wasn’t a clear-cut favorite before they made all of their new acquisitions. The NFC’s Packers have been the default favorite because they won the Super Bowl last year with the Patriots being heralded as the favorite out of the AFC to reach the big game. But the Pats have put themselves in great position to leapfrog the Packers thanks to all the moves they’ve made.
A week ago, the rest of the league had just as much of a chance to win the Super Bowl as the Patriots. But for now, they’ve put themselves out ahead of the pack and become the favorites. Good luck catching them.