I'm getting pumped for the start of camp coming up soon. It's going to be 100 degrees at my house today in CT, but I'm already turning my attention toward the upcoming football season. Unlike (and not that everyone here cares) the lead-up to the baseball season, when I was as unenthusiastic as I have ever been about a Red Sox team, I am as excited as I can ever remember about a Patriots team. Here are my reasons for optimism. 1. They have some of the best leadership in the game of football today. I look at the tomfoolery that goes on on Yawkey Way, and it's an easy contrast with how the Patriots do business. Robert Kraft is a tremendous owner. And I think Jonathan Kraft is solid as well. They have the best head coach in the game. And yes, he's good at drafting too. And they have a premier on-field leader in Tom Brady. Essentially, from the very top down, this team is loaded with quality leaders. 2. The NFL is a quarterback league, and the Patriots have the best QB in the game. Yes, he's 35. But he's coming off the greatest 2-year stretch in NFL history at the QB position. 65.7%, 9135 yds, 75 td, 16 int, 108.0 rating, just otherworldly numbers. He appears to be as driven and motivated as ever, and I think the "Brady Window" still has a few more years for him to be an elite player. Eventually he'll slip into the "still damned good" tier, but right now, he's the elite of the elite. 3. The offensive weaponry is astounding. Again, it would be nice if they had a Steel Curtain kind of defense, but we know that's not the case. What they do have, however, is a potentially record-setting offense. Incredibly deep and versatile and talented offensive line. Unbelievable set of tight ends that allow them to do pretty much anything they want on offense (run, pass, power game, spread, you name it). A terrific group of wide receivers that gives a defense all kinds of looks (possession with Welker, deep with Lloyd, intermediate routes with Gaffney and Branch). They have experience, speed, great hands, toughness...pretty much everything you'd want in a receiving corps. And then the RB group is also strong, with a bunch of young and explosive runners who can also catch the ball. In sum, this team could potentially break the '07 Patriots' scoring record. 4. Their defense is young and very much on the upswing. I've run these numbers before, but I'll post them again here because this stuff matters. Last year's stats... - first 4 games * 24.5 pts allowed * 477.5 yds allowed * 368.8 pass yds allowed - last 12 games * 20.3 pts allowed * 388.9 yds allowed * 269.0 pass yds allowed - playoffs * 17.0 pts allowed * 348.6 yds allowed * 224.0 pass yds allowed - last 15 games (12 reg. season + 3 playoffs) * 19.6 pts allowed * 380.9 yds allowed * 260.0 pass yds allowed So compare their first four games with their last 15: PPG: 24.5 --> 19.6 TYDS: 477.5 --> 380.9 PYDS: 368.8 --> 260.0 Clearly they are not dominant, but those last 15 games' worth of stats represent a colossal improvement over the first four. Plus, they've added a bunch of good young players on defense that should help. 5. There are no dominant teams in the AFC. In fact, one could argue that the Pats are the only dominant team in the conference. Pittsburgh should be good, as should Baltimore and Houston. But does anyone really fear anyone in the AFC West? How about the South, besides Houston? Cincinnati in the North? The Jets? Seriously? The Pats will lose a few games but they stand the best chance of any team in the conference at getting the #1 seed and HFA throughout the playoffs. No, that isn't always the ticket to the Super Bowl, but it does give a team the best advantage to get there. There are reasons for concern with this team, but as they head into camp, I'm as optimistic and excited as ever about a Patriots' team.