When the 2012 season began, numerous predictions pegged the New England Patriots as a 15-1 team. Though lofty, these expectations weren’t all that unreasonable. The AFC East was thought to be fairly weak, a belief that was confirmed as the season progressed. The difficult games on the schedule were all in Foxboro with the exception of a trip to Baltimore; the Broncos, Texans, and 49ers all had to play on New England’s turf and terms if they wanted to beat one of the league’s top offenses.
The Patriots’ attack, led by perennial MVP candidate Tom Brady, was perhaps the main reason for the optimism surrounding the club. Despite last year’s frustrating finish– a second Superbowl loss to the New York Giants– New England’s stock was soaring thanks to a highly-complex, balanced, and effective offense that could score in chunks. In fact, the only thing holding the Pats back was the uncertainty surrounding the defense, a unit that was victimized last year for more than 411 yards per game (31st in the NFL).