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Tues Dec 27, 16. "New England Patriots Begin Charge for Fifth Super Bowl Title!"

"Tom Brady" (CC BY 2.0) by apc99

The New England Patriots avenged their defeat in the AFC Championship game last season by defeating the Denver Broncos, putting Gary Kubiak’s men on the brink of elimination from the playoffs. Bill Belichick’s men clinched their own place in the post-season as a result of their triumph, winning the AFC East title for the eighth year on the spin and securing a first-round bye in the process in their attempt to claim their fifth Super Bowl.
New England are on the brink of securing the number one seat in the AFC and hold home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which would see the road to the Vince Lombardi title game travel through Gillette Stadium. Due to their dominance this term, Belichick’s side are currently backed at 2/1 in the bet365 American football odds to win the Super Bowl for the second time in the last three seasons.
The form of Tom Brady has been outstanding since his return from his suspension for the deflategate scandal at the start of the campaign, which ruled him out of the opening four games. The 39-year-old has arguably produced the best season of his career, throwing 22 touchdowns to just two interceptions to lead his side’s charge into the post-season. Brady can become the only quarterback to win five Super Bowls should he secure his fifth ring in Houston - and given the quality of his performances and his desire to achieve the goal, it would be hard to count against him.
One disappointment for the Patriots that could prevent them from lifting the trophy is the fact they will be without All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski for the rest of the term. The 27-year-old is truly a dominant force when on the field, but this year a string of issues limited him to just six matches before a back problem that required surgery prematurely ending his season. Belichick has admitted in the past that Gronkowski’s absence has cost them titles, none more so than 2012 and 2013 when arm and knee injuries prevented him from playing in the playoffs.

"Bill Belichick" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Keith Allison

However, this time around the Patriots are stocked well enough to cope with his absence, with tight end Martellus Bennett replacing him in the line-up. The 29-year-old has proven pedigree in the NFL during his time with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Chicago Bears, and although he does not possess the quality of Gronkowski, he is still an overwhelming threat for linebackers and safeties across the league. Add his presence to the form of wideouts Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell along with the ever-consistent play of Julian Edelman in the slot, means that Brady has more than enough talent around him to put points on the board.
During the Patriots’ truly dominant run in the early '00s when they won the Super Bowl in three out of four seasons, their defence was the driving force behind their success rather than Brady and company. After looking lost midway through the season, New England’s defensive players are beginning to shine, with the team allowing the fewest points in the league through 14 matches.
Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler have been the linchpins of their side, which saw talented players Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins traded away. However, the emergence of Malcom Brown and Trey Flowers along with a move for Kyle van Noy has accounted for those departures and has seen the club play some of their best defensive play in years, limiting the Broncos to three points in their win at Sports Authority Field. Should they continue to be a shutdown unit then the club will be celebrating with the Vince Lombardi trophy in hand once again in February.

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