Sports Illustrated released its predictions for the 2017 NFL season, and the pick for Super Bowl LII is in: the New England Patriots.
The regional cover depicts Tom Brady kneeling with miniaturized versions of players from the remaining 31 teams straddled about his figure, with the caption “31 Teams, 1 Goal: Solve the Patriots Problem.”
“Can the unstoppable dynasty be stopped?” the cover asks. “Answer: no.”
It’s the fifth time in the Brady/Belichick era that the Patriots have been SI’s preseason pick to win it all, following covers in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2013.
Only the 2004 team actually won, when the Patriots outlasted the Philadelphia Eagles to win Super Bowl XXXIX. Like this year’s team, those Patriots were going for their third championship in four seasons. SI predicted a Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl 10 years early, with David Givens the featured player on the page outlining the pick.
In none of the other three instances of SI picking the Patriots to win the Super Bowl has the team even reached it. In 2008 (a.k.a. the Matt Cassel year), the Patriots finished 11-5 but missed the postseason.
The 2009 team, with Brady back from his ACL tear, won the AFC East but was blown out at home in the AFC Wild-Card round by the Baltimore Ravens. That year also marks the last time the Patriots didn’t have a first-round bye in the postseason.
The 2013 team fared better than the ’08 or ’09 squads, reaching the AFC Championship Game, but ultimately fell to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Since 1990, SI has correctly predicted just three Super Bowl winners from its preview issues: the 1993 and 1995 Dallas Cowboys, and those ’04 Patriots. The 1996 preview is ambiguous, with the magazine declaring a Green Bay-Kansas City match-up without naming a winner; the Packers wound up winning Super Bowl XXXI that season, over the Bill Parcells/Drew Bledsoe-led Patriots.
Patriots acquire Marquis Flowers from Bengals
The Patriots made a roster move on Tuesday morning, acquiring linebacker Marquis Flowers from the Cincinnati Bengals for a 2018 seventh round draft pick.
Given the fact that the draft choice is not a conditional pick, Flowers seems likely to be on New England’s roster following Saturday’s league-wide cut down of rosters from 90 players to 53.
Flowers was originally a sixth round draft pick for the Bengals out of the University of Arizona in 2014 and has made the bulk of his contributions on special teams. He missed the entire 2015 season with a shoulder injury suffered in the final week of that year’s preseason, but appeared in all 16 regular season games in both 2014 and 2016.
It’s unclear whose roster spot could be jeopardized by the acquisition of Flowers, who is due $690,000 in the final year of his rookie contract. While he’s listed as an outside linebacker, Flowers has zero career sacks; he doesn’t fit the need along the edge of the defensive front.
Jonathan Freeny is another linebacker who plays primarily on special teams, but would cost the team roughly $1.1 million against the cap if he’s cut. Trevor Bates has been getting lots of run in the preseason on both special teams and with the defense, as has Harvey Langi, who signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent this April.
It’s possible the addition of Flowers could signify the Patriots will go lighter at another position, such as wide receiver or tight end. We’ll know for sure what the plan is by Saturday.
The Patriots also signed a trio of undrafted rookies yesterday on the defensive side of the ball: defensive lineman Michael Bart and linebackers Nick Usher and Christian Kuntz.
Life after Edelman
Julian Edelman released a statement this morning via his Twitter account, @Edelman11.
Following the confirmation that he tore his ACL in Friday’s preseason game vs. the Detroit Lions, Edelman wrote, “This has been an extremely trying week. That being said, the amount of support I have received since Friday night is truly humbling. I will approach this rehab process the only way I know how, with everything I have, to make sure I come back stronger than ever.
“Thank you to everyone for you unwavering love and support.
“Tough times don’t last, tough people do.
It’s been well documented just how much Edelman has meant to the Patriots offense through the years, particularly since 2013.
New England is yet to make a roster move as it pertains to the wide receivers corps. Is it because the team believes it can try to fill Edelman’s void from within, in a rather unconventional manner?
The Patriots are loaded at running back, flush with backs that can not only run the ball efficiently, but backs that excel at catching the ball out of the backfield.
James White is perhaps the most versatile of the group. His 60 receptions last year were second on the team among all pass catchers – behind only Edelman – and he set a single-game Super Bowl record with 14 catches in February at Super Bowl LI.
White will certainly become even more of a focal point on offense for the Patriots in the absence of Edelman, but he didn’t just stump for himself this morning.
White told reporters that running back D.J. Foster, who played some wide receiver at Arizona State, could play the position if need be in the NFL as well.
“D.J. is a good football player,” White said. “He probably could play receiver if you really needed him to. He can catch, block and run. He’s gotten better at things, he’s a lot more confident now and he’s out there flying around making plays.”
Foster, who signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2016, seemed a long shot to make the roster prior to Edelman’s injury. Given his skill set and past experience, he just might be trending towards the right side of the bubble.
“I’m trying to do everything that I can as a football player,” Foster said. “Whenever the coaches call on me, whether that’s at receiver, running back, or special teams; whenever my number is called I go out there and try to do my job the best that I can.”
Foster’s usage is one of the most intriguing story lines heading into Thursday’s preseason finale against the New York Giants.