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Is Tom Brady on the decline?

Last week the AFC East blog talked to ESPN NFL analyst Matt Williamson about the New England Patriots. The focus mostly was on the shelf life of New England Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. But Williamson also had some interesting thoughts to share on Patriots future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.

Up Or Down

Total QBR suggest Brady played some of his best football in 2012.

According to Williamson, he can already see signs of Brady on the decline.

"I don’t think he’s the deep passer he used to be, but I don’t know if he was ever great at it," Williamson explained. "He tore it up when Randy Moss was there. But everyone wants to blame Brandon Lloyd for last year, and I think Brady is partially to blame for the inability to connect deep, vertical passes. I thought Brady played very bad against the Ravens in the playoffs. He looked old, beat up and tired. At that age, I think the length of the season starts to wear on you. Brady’s still one of the best and he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level, but I think we’ve seen the best of him."

Are Brady's best days behind him?

The 35-year-old quarterback cannot play forever. But last year New England led the NFL in total offense and scoring offense with Brady under center. Brady threw for 4,827 yards, 34 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He had his highest Total Quarterback Rating (77.1) of the past five seasons. But, as Williamson mentioned, good teams like the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants have made Brady look average in the playoffs.

New England, as usual, will rely heavily on Brady this upcoming season. The Patriots are starting over at wide receiver and tight ends Rob Gronkowski (arm, back) and Aaron Hernandez (shoulder) both have injury concerns. Brady must be at his best from Week 1 and throughout the playoffs in order for New England to compete for a fourth Super Bowl title since 2001.