Breathe easy, football fans.

There have been multiple reports the NFL lockout is going to end very soon, with players and coaches getting back to business as early as the end of the week.

Are you ready for some football? We sure are. Because if there’s one thing that helps get us through the cold New England winter, it’s the New England Patriots.

Last season’s Pats surely exceeded initial expectations — notice the word “initial.”

Most prognosticators had them around 11-5 before the season began. But 14-2? They’re lying if they say they did.

Before long, though, it was clear Bill Belichick and personnel czar Matt Caserio had assembled a team that could roll with, and over, the best.

It was a fun ride that ended too soon, but fans learned a valuable lesson: Never count the Pats out.

That’s why the expectations will be high for 2011. The lockout will have an effect on most teams’ level of play. But the Pats are in a position — with the right veteran players and coaches — to overcome the layoff and put together another strong season.

It’s going to come down to New England and New York — and the Jets have shown they’re fully capable of taking the Pats down.

But if you don’t think even a locked-out New England team hasn’t been preparing, you haven’t watched the last decade of Patriots football.

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