Are you ready for some football?

Of course you are.

And, to my pleasant surprise, it appears the owners and players of the National Football League are, as well.

The lockout has been going since March 12, but unless you find prolonged labor negotiations between billionaire owners and millionaire players arguing over how to divide annual revenues of more than $9 billion to be riveting, you probably haven’t paid a whole lot of attention.

Why would you?

You weren’t missing any games. All that you were missing were — yawn — minicamps, rookie camps and lots of speculation about what players would be moving to which teams in free agency.


But now, with the start of the regular season less than two months away and the first preseason game less than three weeks away, it’s time to focus on the only thing most fans really care about — what happens on the field, rather than in collective bargaining sessions.

Here in New England, the last time our beloved Patriots took the field, they were soundly beaten by their despised divisional rivals, the mouthy New York Jets, in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium, 28-21.

It was the second straight year the Pats made a premature playoff exit following a frustrating loss in Foxboro. (The Baltimore Ravens embarrassed the Patriots at Gillette in the 2009 postseason, 33-14.)

So it is that, despite going 14-2 last year during the regular season, the Pats haven’t won a postseason game since defeating the Chargers for the AFC Championship game in 2007.

That’s the longest playoff victory drought in the Bill Belichick Era, which began in 2000 and featured three Super Bowl titles in a span of four years between 2001 and 2004.

Speaking of titles, with the Bruins having ended their 39-year Stanley Cup drought, the Patriots now have gone the longest among Boston’s premier professional sports franchises without winning a championship — the Red Sox having won in 2007 and the Celtics in 2008.


Can the Patriots win another Lombardi Trophy this year?

Can they even win the AFC East — a division they’ve dominated for the last decade, finishing first in seven of the last eight years, and eight of the last 10?

The Jets beat them two out of three last season, including that playoff win in Foxboro, and so would seem to deserve the favorite’s role this year.

And superstar QB Tom Brady may not have all that many good years left, although he was spectacular last year, winning his second MVP award after setting an NFL record by throwing 335 passes without an interception in the regular season.

But this will be his 12th season with the Patriots, and he’ll turn 34 next month.

Which means New England’s “window of opportunity” to win another title is not exactly wide open.


There should be no need to worry about that this season, however. Not after Brady threw 36 TD passes and only four interceptions last year in 492 attempts. He’s not only still in his prime, but also clearly on top of his game.

Dangerous deep threat Randy Moss wore out his welcome after just four games last season, but Deion Branch returned to the fold and the Pats’ passing game didn’t miss a beat, thanks to the amazing Wes Welker, who bounced back from reconstructive surgery on his left knee to make a team-high 86 catches, and promising rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski, whose 10 TD receptions were tops on the team, and Aaron Hernandez, who runs in the open field like a wide receiver.

With BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushing for 1,008 yards and 13 TDs — both career-highs — and the addition of inspirational little Danny Woodhead, who looks like the manager of a high school team but plays like a Heisman Trophy winner, the Patriots led the NFL in scoring in 2010.

Ironically, given how Belichick made his bones in the business, it is defense — or lack of it — that has done in the Patriots in recent years, including a devastating defeat in Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants ruined New England’s perfect season by driving 83 yards in the final minutes to the winning touchdown.

Despite the likes of first-round picks linebacker Jerod Mayo (175 tackles) and cornerback Devin McCourty (seven interceptions as a rookie last year), along with powerful veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork, the Patriots can’t be counted on to shut down opposing offenses.

It should help that Ty Warren returns to the defensive front after missing all of last season. It would help a lot more if the Pats could put consistent pressure on the passer.

There’s no question that the pressure is on Belichick and the Patriots to produce some postseason wins.

Because fans in New England are ready for some winning football.

The question is: Are the Pats?

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