By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Every year around this time, since a little after the turn of the century, we all dutifully sharpen our pencils and play Nostradamus with the Patriots’ schedule, typically landing somewhere between 12 and 14 wins. It’s as much of a late-summer New England tradition as clambakes and sunburns.

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But given the unique circumstances of this year, the task of trying to predict the future is much taller. And after the avalanche of bad news on Sunday, it feels like the most uncertain summer in recent Patriots history.

Tom Brady, as you might have heard in the news, is being forced to sit out the first four weeks of the season. That’s bad enough, but he’s been unable to even generate positive momentum in the preseason. After missing the first preseason game to attend memorial services, he missed the second game due to a bizarre incident that was reported to be an accident with scissors. Now, he’s been excused from practice for two days.

You have to just wonder what is going on there. He’s twice been a surprise absence, and now he’s missing practice — which is something he almost never does. You could write off the hand injury as a Bill Belichick ploy to test Jimmy Garoppolo’s readiness; or you could get equally worried that he’s seriously hurt and needs further medical attention.

He’ll be out Weeks 1-4, but he’s had a hard time getting through the preseason. Perhaps it’s nothing; perhaps the mental toll of the past 20 months and the creeping reality that the suspension is going to take hold has caught up to him.

But even putting aside the Brady concerns, he may be the least of the team’s concerns.

Dion Lewis, in just six-and-a-half games, was the most dynamic influence on the Patriots offense. At the least, he was right up there with Julian Edelman. And now he’s set to undergo a second surgery on the knee he tore last year in early November.

Now, the Patriots may be better off in the long run by keeping him on ice and activating him midway through the year. But that’s an optimistic view. The fact is he tore his knee, returned to the practice field, injured the knee, took two months off, and still needed a second surgery. He’s been dogged by injuries his whole career, which is unfortunate for a player with that level of talent. Since being drafted in 2011, he’s managed to play in 31 of a possible 80 games. He went nearly three full calendar years without touching a football in an NFL game. The history provides little reason for confidence here.

And then there’s the offensive line, where Sebastian Vollmer is reportedly heading to injured reserve. This is the real problem.

The 2015 Patriots were a powerhouse, one that seemed capable of surviving injuries to Lewis and Edelman as well as a long stretch of absence from Jamie Collins. The downfall last year quietly came after Nate Solder went down early. The Patriots would survive the remainder of the regular season, but once it came to nut-cutting time in Denver, they didn’t stand a chance. They had no tackles, and Brady no time.

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The Patriots got by after Solder’s season-ending injury with a combination of Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming and the undersized, out-of-position Bryan Stork working at the tackles. They went 8-4 to finish the regular season, though at times (notably at home against Buffalo on a Monday night, and in Miami in Week 17) Brady took a severe beating.

And then, of course, the AFC Championship Game in in Denver was utterly disastrous. Brady was hit 20 times. On many snaps, he had a zero percent chance of making anything positive happen. Cannon and Fleming were human turnstiles. Vollmer struggled that day, too, but his body of work over seven years is much stronger than either of those two.

Now, with a first-year starting quarterback under center for four games, opposing pass rushers will be hungry, knowing that hitting the quarterback can likely play an even larger role in deciding the outcome of the games. And with a still-recovering Solder manning the left tackle spot, it’ll be a question mark over on the right side.

And here’s an unsettling thought for the Patriots: A Week 15 trip back to Denver.

And while Shaq Mason’s broken hand doesn’t quite register on the same level as potentially losing Vollmer for the entire season, Mason has been working as the team’s starting right guard this summer … in the absence of Jonathan Cooper, who hasn’t participated in practice in a month due to a plantar fascia issue. The interior of the line is somewhat less concerning than the tackles, but being without Mason and Cooper for an unknown length of time is certainly not ideal.

In addition to all of this, Rob Gronkowski did leave practice due to injury last week. By all reports, it’s minor, but there never does seem to be any certainty with Gronkowski’s ailments. Julian Edelman should be OK, but Danny Amendola has yet to participate in practice.

The positive outlook for Garoppolo’s month as starter was based in large part on the Patriots’ ability to hand him the keys to a Ferrari and simply ask him not to crash into any poles. But now that well-oiled machine looks like it may have a few more issues than expected. Navigating those four games might not be so simple for Garoppolo and Co.

None of this is to be Chicken Little. It’s merely a statement of reality. Folks around here judge the Patriots based on one thing: is the team good enough to win a Super Bowl? At this moment in time, you’d have to be an extreme optimist to say yes.

There’s a very, very long way to go before that really matters, and surely the players penciled in across the board today won’t be the same names present in December and January. But save for a few choice years in the Belichick era — 2006, 2009 — there hasn’t been this much uncertainty in a given summer surrounding the team in Foxboro.

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.