This article is part of our Team Previews series.
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Patriots turned in their second straight 12-4 record last season, continuing a remarkable and consistent run that began in 2001, engineered largely by the duo of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. While other franchises have endured the typical ups and downs of the salary cap era, the Patriots haven't won fewer than 12 games since going 10-6 in 2009 and currently boast a streak of 11 straight campaigns with double-digit wins.
Though the 2013 edition of the Patriots were defeated in the AFC Championship Game by the Broncos, to get there was quite an achievement, considering the rash of notable injuries the team dealt with as the season progressed. Headlining the list of key players who sustained season-ending injuries were tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Jerod Mayo, offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly. Gronkowski's Week 14 knee injury was especially damaging to the team's offense, given the lift that he provided to the attack when he returned to action from previous injuries in Week 7.
Following an offseason in which the team bid adieu to prolific slot man Wes Welker, much was expected out of newcomer Danny Amendola, but his season was slowed by a nagging groin issue. Fortunately, Julian Edelman emerged as a key contributor, bolstered by the presence of rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. In the wake of Gronkowski's continuing injury woes, the team's run game was