When Wes Welker signed with the Denver Broncos in March, the New England Patriots lost Tom Brady’s favorite target and a player that Brady called the ‘heart and soul’ of the team. To counter the loss, the Pats moved quickly to acquire Danny Amendola from the St. Louis Rams. By pairing Amendola with two stud Tight Ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, it could be argued that the Patriots offense wouldn’t skip a beat despite the loss of Welker.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, as they begin training camp this week, injuries and off-field events have left the receiving corps decimated. In fact, Amendola, who has had trouble staying on the field the last couple of years, is one of the few players ready to go as training camp starts. Hernandez has been dismissed from the team, and Gronkowski will start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list after back surgery in the offseason. But wait, there’s more! Wide-receiver Julian Edelman has foot problems that will keep him sidelined to start training camp. There is one sign of hope for the Patriots at this point in time – Jake Ballard, who was claimed off of waivers for the New York Giants to help provide depth at tight end, had been placed on the PUP list to recover from his knee surgeries. He was quickly removed and is expected to be ready to play.
Needless to say, Tom Brady may start the season very short on weapons. The Patriots will have to rely on new acquisitions on offense and hope that they can stay healthy while the rest of the skill players heal (will there be a Tim Tebow sighting at tight end?). Brady has been known to work wonders in these types of situations, but this may be a stiff a challenge for the Patriots offense. If the Pats struggle early on in the season, they could have trouble staying on top of the division.
While the Jets continue to struggle and the Bills start to rebuild, there is one team who is specifically hungry and potentially ready to leap the Patriots in the standings, the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins made multiple moves in the offseason to strengthen their roster and build off a strong rookie season from Quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Most notably they will be stronger in the area where New England may struggle after signing marquee wide-receiver Mike Wallace (formerly of the Pittsburg Steelers). Now Tannehill has a legitimate deep threat to make big plays and stretch the defense. If he can take a step forward from last season, the Dolphins will have a chance to make up ground if the Patriots falter.
Like the New York Jets, Miami’s most expensive home game this season is against the New England Patriots averaging $188. Overall the demand for Dolphins tickets is up; last year ticket prices averaged $126, this year Miami Dolphins tickets are $156. While the Dolphins have seen an increase in ticket prices, the Patriots have recently seen a decline. New England Patriots tickets averaged $523 before the PUP list grew and the releasing of Hernandez took place. Today, prices have dropped to $407 and the Pats are no longer the most expensive ticket in the League. In comparison to others in the Division, New York Jets tickets are averaging $225 and Buffalo Bulls tickets are $109. Based on potential and ticket prices, Miami Dolphins fans are getting the greatest bang for their buck. Last season the Dolphins finished 2nd in the AFC East but had the second cheapest ticket in the Division.
Image Credit: John Bazemore (AP Photos)