Top questions facing contenders

Will Tom Brady and the Patriots have enough downfield threats to compete for a title? Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Parity often reigns in the NFL, as, for example, few predicted entering the 2012 season that a trio of 2011 division bottom-dwellers -- Indianapolis, Washington and Minnesota -- would combine for 31 regular-season wins, with each team qualifying for the playoffs (the Redskins via a division championship).

Another team (or perhaps more than one) is likely to surprise again this season, catching many of the prognosticators off guard and reminding us that the process of rebuilding an NFL franchise is neither precise nor predictable.

But there are other teams that we are confident in proclaiming contenders before game action beginning, many of which were contenders for Super Bowl XLVII a year ago.

None of these contenders are without flaws, however, one of which will be highlighted below. More specifically, we're going to examine an area of weakness on the roster that could hold back the rest of the team in its quest for a Lombardi triumph.

New England Patriots

Position group: Tight end/wide receivers
Snapshot: We'll lump these two together, as the passing game is a work in progress for the Patriots after an unusual offseason that saw Wes Welker depart and the team part ways with Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd. Two of the team's other top five receivers from 2012, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, remain on PUP early on in training camp, leaving Tom Brady to work with a sampling of largely rookies and relative unknowns, outside of newcomer Danny Amendola. As a matter of fact, six of the 12 wide receivers on the Patriots' roster are rookies, two of whom the team drafted in the top four rounds.