BOSTON (CBS) — The 2014 season is about to kick off for the New England Patriots, with the expectations that they’ll be playing football into February.

Here are a couple of key players for this upcoming season. If these players do well, the Pats will have a good year.

Tom Brady (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Tom Brady (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

We start with the man it all starts with: Tom Brady. Last year, the Patriots were not healthy but still made it to the AFC Championship game, mostly thanks to No. 12. The key, as always, is to keep him healthy. Brady is getting into a rarified air. This is his 15th season and he’s still considered one of the best. He seems poised to have one of his best seasons in a long while. If that happens, the Pats could finish the year with a big game in Arizona.

Stevan Ridley (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Stevan Ridley (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Stevan Ridley has to have a solid year. This is a strange pick for me but I feel if the Pats have a running threat, other than Shane Vereen, they are going to be dangerous. If they can count on Ridley to run the rock and not fumble away possessions, that would be a huge plus. Also, this is Ridley’s walk year and he’s going to want to show his worth. This could — and needs to be — a good year for him.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski needs to stay healthy. Gronk has been injured for most of the Patriots’ biggest games over the last couple of seasons and that has to come to an end. The Pats have to be careful with their monstrous tight end, and they need to get him on a snap count. Their biggest concern should be having 87 on the field for the games that mean the most. Stop sending him on fly routes; let him be physical and control the middle of the field but protect him. They need Gronk to reach their ultimate goal — raising that Lombardi Trophy in February.

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker cannot hold onto the ball as Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins defends.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker cannot hold onto the ball as Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins defends. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Jamie Collins needs to have a breakout season. The Pats linebacker has everyone in the league watching him and for good reason. He’s fast and can make plays sideline to sideline. The Pats experimented with giving him the green dot and having him call plays during the preseason and it was successful. Collins should be able to cover tight ends for the Pats and that’s something that they’ve needed since Rodney Harrison retired. His second season on defense is important to the Pats’ season overall.

Patriots corner Brandon Browner. (WBZ-TV)

Patriots corner Brandon Browner. (WBZ-TV)

Brandon Browner has to have a good year. Once the Patriots acquired Darrelle Revis, all the focus went to the other corner. This is where Browner steps in. He’ll miss the first four games due to a suspension, but if Browner can lock down on his side of the field, the Pats will be all set. Defenses in the past have been built from the line back, but now they are being constructed from the defensive backfield in. If Browner is solid, the New England defense could be the best it has been in years.

Follow Levan Reid on Twitter @LevanReid.

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