Why Patriots are in position to contend

February, 16, 2013
2/16/13
12:00
PM ET
If you were to list five teams in the NFL in best position to dominate in 2013, would the Patriots be on the list?

That's a question CBSSports.com NFL Insider Pat Kirwan asked, and he puts the Patriots in the No. 3 spot. In selecting his top five teams, Kirwan used the following criteria:

1. How good was the team in 2012?

2. How many returning starters are already under contract?

3. Is there a franchise quarterback under contract?

4. How much salary-cap space do they have at this point?

5. Are the head coach and coordinators back for another season?

6. How many significant players have five or less years of experience?

7. How many veterans needed to be released for salary cap, age or injury reasons?

8. Do they have a full complement of draft picks?

Kirwan sees the Patriots checking out well in most categories.

"The Patriots won 12 games in 2012. They have 19 returning starters, Tom Brady is under contract and they have about $18 million in cap space," he writes. "They have 14 significant players with five or fewer years of experience but only five draft picks at this point. Bill Belichick is always capable of creating more draft picks by moving down in rounds. The Patriots will find bargain veterans in the post-draft period of free agency and have the money to sign as many as they want."

To read Kirwan's piece, and see the other teams he selects, CLICK HERE.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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