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Around the AFC East, Week 5: New England Patriots

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When you're New England Patriots WR Randy Moss, it's easy to get away with bold predictions.  It's even easier when your quarterback is Tom Brady.  In case a year of Matt Cassel in New England wiped your memories, Brady-to-Moss in 2007 was by far the most productive QB/WR tandem in the history of the NFL from a single-season perspective (Brady threw 50 touchdowns, 23 of them caught by Moss).

With Brady back in the saddle for the Patriots, it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which Moss isn't thrilled.  He's got the game's best quarterback throwing to him again.  Perhaps that's why Moss has already gone on record saying that the 2009 Patriots offense will be more productive than the record-setting '07 Patriots attack, which put up 589 points (36.8 per game) en route to a 16-0 regular season.  (Can you imagine going through an entire regular season knowing that 20 points would be your team's lowest single-game output of the season?)

Clearly, those are lofty expectations that Moss is setting for his team.  It is difficult to imagine an offensive attack more potent than the '07 Patriots' was.  Is it possible for essentially the same team, two seasons and a few missteps later, to not only replicate, but exceed, that success?  Are the pieces in place?  That was my question for MaPatsFan from Pats Pulpit this week.

Randy Moss boldly predicted that the 2009 Patriots offense will be more productive than the record-breaking Patriots offense of 2007.  On paper, however, one could argue that the talent available to Tom Brady hasn't changed much - and Brady's knee injury is a question mark until further notice.  What do you believe exists for Moss to be right?

MaPatsFan: I think a great deal of Moss' statements was exuberance (he later toned down the rhetoric because he probably had his hand slapped by Bill Belichick).  I think he's happy as a clam to have Tom Brady back at the helm.  I never thought Cassel developed a connection with Moss, so having Tom throwing footballs to him is making him say stupid things.  Wes Welker was a part of those statements as well.  What DOES make a lot of sense is that both Moss and Welker were essentially noobs to the Patriots offense in 2007.  In fact, Welker is on record as saying he was simply worried about where to line up during that season.  Both now have two years in the system and feel that will make for a better offense in 2009.  Sure, there's a lot more film, but the coaching staff is coming up with new stuff all of the time.

We've never had a second deep threat to complement Moss.  Donte' (now behind bars) Stallworth was supposed to take on that role, but it never materialized; I always viewed Stallworth as more of a mid-field threat.  Jabar Gaffney was a fine receiver, but never got enough reps for some reason.  I thought he could be hot and cold, so maybe Belichick saw the same thing.  Many are projecting the 38-year-old Joey Galloway to be the Yang to Moss' Yin.  At the very least, Galloway could be a decoy and help spread the field.  Based on his age, I do have my concerns, though.

The most interesting prospect to me is Greg "Glew" Lewis.  We know Welker will work the underneath and slant routes, but we've always lacked a mid-field receiver - someone who could turn into the linebackers and grab passes.  Moss tried those routes in 2008 and was an abysmal failure.  Physically, he can't pull it off.  I believe Greg Lewis is that receiver.  He can work a slant route, but is taller than Welker, so my guess is he'll be able to work the mid-field better than a Welker or a Moss.  PFW's Andy Hart proposed a three wideout set with Welker/Moss/Galloway, but I'd think they could pull off a Welker/Lewis/Moss to spread the field and a Welker/Lewis/Moss/Galloway to spread the field AND provide two deep threats.

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Yeah, yeah, we get it.  The Patriots have good receivers who just happen to be catching passes from an uber-productive legend.  And Bills fans wonder why the team loads up on cornerbacks...

I highly doubt that the '09 Patriots will average 37 points per game.  That's ridiculous production, and so much went right for New England that season it was disgusting.  But the talent is there to come close; there are just a few questions to ponder, namely Brady's knee, the offensive coordinator, and the offensive line.  Knowing the Patriots, they'll find answers before the games count.

One more installment coming your way this afternoon, where we'll discuss the Dolphins in some capacity.  Keep it locked in.