By Danny Cox

The New England Patriots had a fantastic regular season and a great run through the playoffs that only included a few small hiccups. Unfortunately, the Pats ended up having a hiccup at the worst possible time and it resulted in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.

With that being said, it is time to look ahead to the future and see what’s in store for the Pats as they prepare for next season and beyond.

What went wrong in 2017? Fixing the defense is the top priority

It’s really hard to find much wrong with the Patriots this season and honestly, there is nothing on offense that can be looked at. Brandin Cooks, Dion Lewis, Gronk, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, and Tom Brady put together one of the most prolific offenses who were hard to stop. If there is anything to fix on offense, one may have to think long and hard about what it is.

Now, the defense is a different story. At the beginning of 2017, many believed that the defense would be the downfall of the Patriots’ season, and ultimately, it may have been. Giving up 41 points in the Super Bowl is almost inexcusable and it was that way most of the season. Believe it or not, the defense gave up less than 18 points per game, but they allowed more than 366 total yards per game as well.

That is something that simply can’t be allowed and it needs to be tightened up. Some thought that the addition of James Harrison would help, and it did, but it may have been a bit too late. The secondary really came into its own as the season progressed, but the pass rush of the Patriots leaves a lot to be desired.

The return of Tom Brady for another season

He’s 40-years-old and he’s playing better than he ever has in his career, but how long can he keep it up? As a matter of fact, Tom Brady is playing better than some rookie phenom quarterbacks and most others who are veterans in the league. There is no denying that TB-40 is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, but he can’t play forever.

Can he?

If the Patriots and the team’s fans had their way, he would be on that field until he couldn’t walk anymore. Many wondered if the Super Bowl would be the final game of his career as the Patriots recently said that Brady earned the right to call it a career when he decided the time was right.

Win or lose, the rumors had Brady retiring after Super Bowl LII, but he squashed that before kickoff even happened. In pre-game interviews, he simply told everyone, “Yeah, you’re going to see me playing football next year. I don’t envision not playing.”

Looking ahead at the 2018 future of the Patriots

The New England Patriots have so many of the pieces in place and it is really difficult to say that there is anything to fix, but there are areas to be improved upon.

At this point, the defense is what needs the most work and it will need to be addressed in both free agency and the 2018 NFL Draft. The secondary could use a little help, but the defensive line will need a great deal of work. Strengthing that front seven is something that coach Bill Belichick needs to focus on and get done before anything else.

It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to start looking for the quarterback of the future. This year’s draft will have a number of great talents under center and Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger. Bringing in a rookie quarterback to train and learn under Brady would be a tremendous experience and would show that the Pats are already planning for the years after their future Hall of Famer retires.

The New England Patriots had an incredible 2017 campaign and almost did the rather unthinkable as repeat Super Bowl champions, but they came up just short. It’s hard to fault much of anything, though, as 99 percent of what was done this season was done right and in the best way possible. This team is strong and will be for many years to come, but even the quietest of wheels need a little grease to run better.