The Patriots have been a force in the NFL for the better part of two decades, winning 15 AFC East crowns and five Super Bowl titles in the last 17 seasons.
Just how long can New England sustain its high level of success?
Tom Brady turns 41 years old this summer, Rob Gronkowski already considered retirement, Julian Edelman received a four-game suspension and there have been rumblings of tension in Foxboro. While it’s hard to say the window is closing with New England coming off another Super Bowl appearance, there certainly are questions surrounding the Patriots going into the 2018 season.
ESPN on Tuesday released its NFL Future Power Rankings, which project which franchises are in the best shape for the next three seasons. The projections are based on ESPN’s panel of experts — Louis Riddick, Mike Sando and Field Yates — rating each team’s quarterback, roster (excluding QB), draft, front office and coaching. A 40-100 scale was used, with each of the five categories weighted after averaging the results from the panelists to create an overall score.
The Patriots, who might be as vulnerable as they’ve been in a long time, still scored very highly, checking in at No. 2 in the Future Power Rankings behind the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles, who just defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, landed an 88.7 overall score to secure ESPN’s top spot, while New England earned the second spot with an 86.7 mark.
Here’s what Riddick described as the Patriots’ biggest worry, per ESPN.com:
It’s all about timing when it comes to what worries me and everyone else about the Patriots’ outlook. When will Tom Brady’s skills start to diminish, and when will Belichick say he has had enough and is unwilling to commit to the work necessary to win at the level he has won at for 17 years in a row? While I believe the Patriot Way is its own self-sustaining thing now, and is something that will last long after Belichick and Brady are gone, their eventual departure will cause major uncertainty when the time actually comes. Until then, it will be business as usual.
The New Orleans Saints (85.3), Minnesota Vikings (84.7) and Pittsburgh Steelers (83.9) rounded out the top five.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images