As you can see on these pages today, I do not believe will be Tom Brady and Co. hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at frigid MetLife Stadium in February.
But ... It still could happen. Here’s how.
1. No heroics — Make that no miracles, considering the sad state of the AFC East. I expect a 6-0 for the Pats in this disgusting division. And I figure all three opponents to be out of the playoff hunt by Nov. 1. Something weird could happen to change things, but it would take a miracle -- a legit two-more-and-you’re-canonized miracle.
2. Ridley hits the numbers— Stevan Ridley will have to put up 1,400 regular season yards and another 300 in January, keeping the heat off Tom Brady and the passing game. Most importantly, he must have zero fumbles after December 1.
3. Every post-Thanksgiving snap for D.A.— Newcomer Danny Amendola can miss games, but they better had happen in the heat of September and October. Once Turkey Day is gone, this kid can’t miss a snap. He is the passing game.
4. Gronkey Kong returns — Can Rob Gronkowski be anything after back surgery and forearm surgeries? He has to be, even if it’s coming off the PUP list halfway through the year.
5. No waiting on these two — Logan Ryan and Jamie Collins have been the top two rookie defenders in the preseason. They need to be a part of this defensive unit and flash their speed and athleticism, if the defense is to be great.
6. Blackjack — J.J. Watt of Houston led the NFL with 20.5 sacks last year. I’m setting the bar high for Chandler Jones. I’m looking for a perfect 21 and will accept no fewer if this team is to be of championship mettle.
7. Under 10 — Tom Brady’s workload will be less. He had better be nowhere near 10 turnovers (interceptions, fumbles lost) this season. This team cannot afford it.
8. A clean police blotter -- No distractions! This team endured a painful offseason. That craziness has to end, now, in August, before they light it up for real.
9. Win the injury war -- The Pats won’t be able to survive the injury barrage Baltimore got hit with last year, only to move on and win the title. This season has to be a clean one.
10. Mannings meltdown -- Think of the pressure on Peyton Manning in Denver, right now, having lifted Tom Brady’s binky in Wes Welker.The elder Manning won’t handle it, and he’ll fold this fall. But it’s the other guy, Eli, potentially playing on his home turf in Jersey if the G-Men make the Super Bowl, that could be the implosion of a lifetime.