If, And, But: The New England Patriots Will Be in the Playoffs in 2013

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If, And, But: The New England Patriots Will Be in the Playoffs in 2013
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Tom Brady and his new Justin Bieber Hair style.

They are the NFL's current active dynasty.

So how come the New England Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl each of the last eight seasons?

The league's most consistent franchise, owners of a winning campaign for each of the last 12 seasons, hasn't had the chance to hold up the Lombardi Trophy since 2004. And some of the team's numerous postseason losses as of late have been surprising, to say the least.

Getting to the second season hasn't been the problem. Closing the deal at the Super Bowl has.

Hence, the New England Patriots will make it five straight trips to the playoffs…

If: Bill Belichick's club continues to make the ground game a bigger part of the offense. Last season, New England ranked seventh in the league in rushing yards per game, their best-such finish since ranking sixth in 2008 (when quarterback Tom Brady missed nearly the entire season). Ironically, the last time the Patriots were ranked that high rushing with Brady at the helm was 2004. That was when the club had running back Corey Dillon in the backfield and the franchise captured its last Super Bowl title (XXXIX).

And: The team's first-round picks from 2012 continue to develop. A year ago, defensive end Chandler Jones finished second on the team with 6.0 sacks and forced three fumbles, while linebacker Dont'a Hightower finished fifth on the team in tackles and third on the club with 4.0 sacks. Combine that with the recent addition of strong safety Adrian Wilson and the re-signing of cornerback Aqib Talib and there's reason for optimism here. But the proof will be in the performance and it's safe to say you can't rely on getting 41 takeaways for a second straight season.

But: If free agent pickup Danny Amendola (St. Louis Rams) can't fill the shoes of Wes Welker, who signed with the Denver Broncos, the New England offense will have a very different look. Be it the days of Randy Moss or the current regime of tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, or even when Brady was out most of '08, Welker was a constant with his 672 receptions. New England has scored 500 or more points three straight seasons and four of the last six years and continues to be carried by its offense.

So what do you think? New England remains amongst the league's top organizations and has had their way within their own division, winning the AFC East 10 times in the last 12 years. But what if a bounce or two doesn't go the Patriot way in 2013? Could this club actually be on the outside looking in come playoff time?

Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.

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