BOSTON (CBS) – The 2013 NFL season is about to get underway, and the expectations are once again high for the New England Patriots despite a tumultuous off-season.

NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s The Adam Jones Show on Wednesday night, and said no matter what happened this off-season, the Patriots should be one of the last teams standing come playoff time.

“The expectations aren’t any different than they are any year for the Patriots. I expect them to win the AFC East and I expect them to be very competitive when it gets to the playoffs. They returned the offensive line from last year, a very good group. Defensively they should be stronger than they ever have. And they have a young receiving corps that Brady and Josh McDaniels have spent a great deal of time with, and I expect a lot of good things from that group.”

Baldinger watched the Patriots’ joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles this preseason, and really likes what he saw out of Brady and the rookie receivers.

“I’ve watched the Thompkins, Dobson, Boyce and Sudfeld and the way Brady coddled them and put his arm around them, and was firm with them and coached them,” said Baldinger. “Now they have to go play the games and Sunday will be a lot diff than scrimmaging the Eagles, but it looks like a talented group.”

On defense, Baldinger applauded New England’s acquisition of tackle Tommy Kelly, calling it their biggest addition of the off-season.

“If you want to improve your team, go pluck good players off bad teams the way the Patriots did with Tommy Kelly.  He’s a big man and better than (Brandon) Deaderick or (Kyle) Love. He’s a load in there,” he said. “I think he’s the best tackle they’ve had opposite Vince Wilfork in a long time.”

The Patriots will get the first look at EJ Manuel, who will get the start at quarterback for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. How does Baldinger think the rookie will do against the Pats?

“I think he’s going to struggle in every category you would expect a rookie quarterback [to struggle in],” he said. “He’s missed a lot of time so he’s very limited in what he can do. He’s a talented guy, but I don’t think he’s going to know what he’s looking at on Sunday.”

[cbs-audio url=”″ size=”340px” download=”true” name=”NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger On Patriots, Tommy Kelly” artist=”The Adam Jones Show”]

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