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Not so fast

Strong offseason doesn't make Pats AFC favorites

Posted: Thursday May 3, 2007 3:21PM; Updated: Thursday May 3, 2007 3:21PM
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Tom Brady
It wouldn't be a total surprise if Tom Brady and the Patriots again fall short of winning the AFC.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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The Patriots have had the best offseason of any team in the NFL. They signed arguably the best defensive player available, Adalius Thomas, and traded for the best offensive player on the move in Randy Moss, and further rebuilt their weak wide receiving corps by adding Donte Stallworth, Kelley Washington, and Wes Welker.

But this week I've heard multiple analysts declared that, after the Moss trade, the Patriots have to be considered the favorite to win the 2007 Super Bowl.

But since when does the winning the off-season translate into postseason triumph? Dan Snyder and I would like to know.

The Patriots' championship talk reminds me of a few years ago, in basketball, when the Lakers, who already had Shaq and Kobe, picked up Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Four Hall-of-Famers in one lineup. How could they miss? Of course we look back on that season now and see it as the beginning of the end.

I'm not saying the same will happen in New England, just saying these moves need to be kept in perspective. Only a couple times in the modern era of NFL free agency have pickups or trades that looked big in the off-season actually proven to be defining in the following post-season.

In 1999 the Rams traded for Marshall Faulk, and won a Super Bowl. Of course Kurt Warner, the backup quarterback they picked up the year before from NFL Europe -- a transaction absolutely no one outside the Warner family cared about at the time -- had something to do with that as well.

In the early '90s Deion Sanders won a Super Bowl with the 49ers and then jumped to the Cowboys, where he won another Super Bowl. Sure, both those teams were stocked with Hall-of-Famers, but he was the difference maker -- just ask him.

More often championship teams are not defined by trades or free agents the spring and summer before. They are defined by a core of players who have practiced and grown together for years. The key players on Super Bowl teams are rarely meeting for the first time at the minicamp leading into the season.

Look at Indianapolis last year.

Or Pittsburgh the year before that.

Or the Patriots, in their three-titles-in-four-years run. They did have key free agent contributors, but mostly they were low-key pickups like Mike Vrabel -- guys whose signings didn't make a huge splash, but went on to play better in New England than they had been anywhere else.

And we'd all agree their run wouldn't have happened without the quietest move of all, the sixth-round selection of Tom Brady.

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