Every week people think they have NFL teams figured out based on the last 60 minutes of play. It's way too early to know where the Patriots have strengths and weaknesses. To illustrate this, I'm going to write down the early season concerns of every team since 2001, followed by a brief writeup that again shows just how little we actually know right now, and how much of the season is still yet to unfold. Football is a game of timing. During any season there are times when the offense, defense, and special teams all hit their peaks and valleys. 2001 The concern: To begin with, the Patriots were 100:1 shots to win the Super Bowl. They were pretty much terrible in every facet of the game and very few people saw much potential. The one golden egg this team had was Drew Bledsoe, a strong-armed #1 overall pick who was to become the most decorated player in Patriots history. After they started 0-2, Bledsoe went down. Many forecasters were predicting a 1-2 win season. The result: With a spark from an unheralded JAG quarterback out of Michigan, the Patriots put together one of the most unlikely runs in NFL history, finishing with a first round playoff bye. Rallying around a bunch of no-name players like Richard Seymour, Ty Law, and Adam Vinatieri, the Patriots defeated an "unstoppable" Rams team that had coasted through the season to win the NFC for the second time in three years. The final word: No one had any idea how good the Patriots could be coming off a 5-11 season and starting 0-2. Nobody, nobody, saw this coming. 2002 The concern: Riding sky-high from their Super Bowl victory, the Patriots crushed the Steelers to begin the season and started out 4-0. With a championship defense and high powered offense, there was little to stop this juggernaut from contending for its second straight Lombardi. The result: The solid, consistent defense suddenly collapsed, the offense inexplicably played inconsistently and badly, and the Patriots struggled to a 9-7 record. The final word: Despite being a strong Super Bowl favorite, the Patriots missed the playoffs and had one of the worst defenses in recent memory. 2003 The concern: The Patriots released Lawyer Milloy a week before the season and were shellacked 31-0 at Buffalo, Milloy's new team. ESPN's Tom Jackson famously misquoted fake players who "hate their coach." A team in shambles, a locker room in shambles, the Patriots were written off by almost every forecaster in the nation. The result: Dropping Milloy proved to be a blessing in disguise. Rodney Harrison became the team's heart and leader, and a defense that looked horrendous the previous year and awful in week 1, turned out to be the best defensive unit the Patriots have fielded under Belichick. The result, part 2: Despite having the best defense under the sun, the secondary collapsed in the Super Bowl, leaving game-manager Tom Brady to outscore a suddenly red hot Panthers team. Brady proved to be an assassin in the clutch, leading the Patriots to a 31-28 victory. The final word: Again, after the first week of the season, the Patriots proved to be the opposite of their prediction for the third straight season. 2004 The forecast: The Patriots were favored to win the Super Bowl for the third time in four seasons. However, injuries to Ty Law and Tyrone Poole posed serious questions about the New England secondary. The result: I would argue that this was the only "predictable" season for New England, since the team dominated all season and won the Super Bowl. However, problems with the secondary were not problems at all. The final word: Again, this season was anomalous, since the Patriots used their balance on both sides of the ball to coast to a championship. 2005 The forecast: The Patriots were again thought to be a Super Bowl contender with a championship-caliber defense and solid offense, but the defense was awful all season, perhaps weakened by the sudden stroke of Tedy Bruschi. The Patriots, it was believed, would need to rely on their strong passing game in order to win their third in a row. The result: The porous defense suddenly got good in December, riding their momentum into the playoffs. But against Denver, opposite day happened again. The smothering defense pressured Jake Plummer throughout the first half, allowing only a bogus pass interference penalty touchdown. The completely reliable and turnover-proof Brady threw a key interception that swung the game in the second half, and the Patriots uncharacteristically turned the ball over 5 times on fumbles and interceptions. The final word: Although the defense was criticized all season, it was the offense and special teams that blew the Denver game. The defense played heroically, but could not overcome all the turnovers. Again, the opposite of what we predicted happened. 2006 The forecast: The Patriots lost Deion Branch and David Givens before the season and had one of the worst WR corps in recent memory. Through the first few weeks people wondered how this team would ever turn it around on offense, while the defense was statistically the second-best under Belichick. The thought was that, if the offense could score some points, the defense would surely hold up the fort. The result: The Patriots' offense turned it into high gear late in the season, becoming a force to be reckoned with. In the final three weeks of the season, the unlikely offense scored 40 points twice, and then overpowered the Jets in the AFC Wild Card game. They then shocked the Chargers in the Divisional Round when Troy Brown made a key play. But, as you might expect if you have been reading this, the opposite of what we thought would happen, happened again. The vaunted, inpenetrable defense collapsed in the second half of the Indy game, allowing 32 points in that single half. The Patriots offense scored 34 points, setting a record for the most points scored in an CCG loss. The final word: Again, the likely result was the defense would be great, while the offense would struggle. But in the biggest game, the opposite occured. the offense scored a lot of points, and Belichick's veteran defense that had owned Peyton Manning suddenly couldn't stop anyone. 2007 The forecast: Riding on of the most aggressive offseasons in recent memory, the Patriots looked downright scary. With the additions of Moss, Welker, Stallworth, and Thomas, the team had one mission: to win the Super Bowl. The result: I don't think I need to say much that we don't already know. The offense was held to 14 points in the Super Bowl, while the defense was pretty darn good until some bad breaks on the last drive. Still, the most shocking part of that game was we had seen that situation numerous times during the season, and the breaks always went the Patriots way. Fate was on their side until it mattered most, in the biggest game. The final word: It is impossible to predict who is the "team of destiny." All season the Patriots were led by the hand of god, winning by playing great situational football. In the Super Bowl, the opposite happened, with a miracle catch sealing their worst loss ever, to cap off their best season ever. The season, in its entirety, practically redefined "irony." 2008 The forecast: When Tom Brady was injured in week 1, it appeared that the offense would struggle, especially given how shaky Matt Cassel looked early on. The result: Cassel put it together and the Patriots scored 420 points, a very strong offense. The Patriots were predicted by many to win 7-8 games after Brady's injury, but won 11. But the Patriots missed the playoffs despite winning 11 games. The final word: Again, the season unfolded in a strange way, with the Patriots playing great football and having a lights-out offense by the time the season ended. There were fewer concerns on defense, but that side of the ball struggled during key situations. The final, final word: In nearly every season, the Patriots have appeared to have weaknesses in one area, but in the end have proven to have weaknesses in another area, at least during their elimination game or Super Bowl.