Tonight, football’s second season begins. For the fourth time in five years, the New England Patriots will be a part of it. The way they play December and January football, they could be a very big part of it.

As unlikely as another Superbowl run looked a few weeks ago, the improved health of a few key players has turned that around. In their last four games that the starters played, the Patriots defense gave up an average of 31 yards on the ground, 131 yards passing and a TOTAL of 31 points. Looking at the Jacksonville offense, I think they will have trouble scoring against the Pats revitalized defense.

Jacksonville enters the game with just four losses in the regular season – two against the Colts, one against Denver and one in St. Louis. The Jags have beaten teams like Seattle and Cincinnati, yet struggled against teams like San Fran and Houston. Leftwich is probably not 100% and Garrard is a rookie – both very likely targets for a Belichick-powered defense.

The Pats offense has a few weapons back that it missed during the season. Kevin Faulk and Patrick Pass are healthy, and usually seem to be in the middle of a big 3rd down play during every game. Dillon rested last week, and the receivers are relatively injury-free. Oh, and the Pats have a guy named Tom Brady.

The stage is set for a great primetime game tonight. At risk of being called a homer I see nothing but Patriots tonight, as Coach would say, “in all facets of the game.”

Prediction: 31-10

Finally, a shout-out to my buddy Jen Keefe – you rock!