The New England Patriots just love being the underdogs. So often favorites to win on the big stage, Bill Belichick’s men strolled into Kansas City – with many backing the Chiefs to go on and represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. New England’s doubters got it massively wrong on that day and critics were wrong again in the National Football League’s showpiece game just two weeks later.

Heading into the 2019 season, New England may slip further down the projected pecking order. Tom Brady is the greatest player of all-time but age will catch up with him at some point. However, he showed no signs of slowing down last season and plenty of punters will fancy the Patriots quarterback to lead the franchise to another successful year. Write New England off at your peril; that will only fuel their hunger and desire.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the Patriots and NFL (more competition for Patriots players in free agency creates challenge for team; Adam Humphries; wide receiver remains big need; Patriots-Browns too good for opener?; special 2018 locker room etc.). <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) <a href=””>March 17, 2019</a></blockquote>
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Tom Brady will be 42 years old when the 2019 season gets underway. We repeat: Brady will be 42 years old. He is playing like a 24-year-old and it would be foolish to suggest that his decline is imminent. With Peyton Manning, you could see his form deteriorate but Brady is still one of the best in the business. In those clutch situations, he gives the Patriots a clear advantage over his rivals at the quarterback position.

On paper, the AFC Conference is wide open – the gap between the Patriots and the chasing pack is now closer than ever. There are at least seven or eight contenders to win the AFC title and that enhanced competition will act as the catalyst to motivate Belichick and co. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see New England send out a real statement of intent in the early stages of the 2019 campaign.

While the standard inside the conference is improving, the same cannot be said for the AFC East. This is New England’s territory and the free sports picks will all suggest another divisional title. It is hard to see one of the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills or Miami Dolphins bridging the gap to the Patriots. At some point, New England’s rivals will turn things around but not whilst Brady and Belichick are at Gillette Stadium.

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Predicting the Patriots to win the Super Bowl is almost expected these days but reaching the showpiece fixture at 42 years old would be Brady’s best achievement. Retaining the AFC East title for the 11th year in a row has to be the primary objective but New England fans will want more than that. With time running out for both Brady and Belichick, Patriots followers will be hoping for at least one more Super Bowl crown.

The Patriots might not have the most talented roster but anything can happen when you have the greatest head coach of all-time and the greatest player of all-time on your team. If New England reaches the latter stages of the playoffs, the rest of the NFL will start to panic. When push comes to shove, the Patriots step up and prove their worth on the big stage. Watch this space, another Super Bowl berth beckons in 2020.