What the Patriots really need is more motivation while seeking their sixth Super Bowl trophy under Bill Belichick. They appear to have gotten it in the form of a lengthy ESPN story from Seth Wickersham, detailing turmoil among Belichick, Tom Brady and Robert Kraft, because, just like the last time the world was questioning them, they sound angry.

The Pats issued a joint statement from Kraft, Belichick and Brady, lashing back at the ESPN article and calling it and other reports "unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate."

"For the past 18 years, the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship. In recent days, there have been multiple media reports that have speculated theories that are unsubstantiated, highly exaggerated or flat out inaccurate," the statement reads. "The three of us share a common goal. We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future, just as we have for the past 18 years. It is unfortunate that there is even a need for us to respond to these fallacies. As our actions have shown, we stand united."

If this sounds familiar, it should. The Patriots previously went aggressive and scorched earth in response to the Deflategate claims. After initially agreeing to the league's punishment for Brady, Kraft responded with aggression and said that Brady did not get his due process in the investigation.

The Patriots also blasted the Wells Report when it came out, with Kraft saying there was no hard evidence.

But this is different too, because the story from Wickersham, who is a trusted and well-sourced reporter on these larger-scale NFL stories, is technically a theory. There is no smoking gun for the Patriots simply melting down or having so much in-fighting that ownership is going to blow things up, or that Belichick/Brady are just going to walk away after 2017 is over.

Clearly, though, there is some smoke here. The trouble with Brady's trainer Alex Guerrero led Belichick to ban him from the sidelines and the team plane/facilities (outside of the TB12 office he maintains there). Ignoring that tension would be foolish.

The trade of Jimmy Garoppolo, who has looked superb since arriving in San Francisco for just a second-round pick back to the Pats, probably doesn't make life easier on anyone involved here either.

But it's very possible that the Pats are simply dealing with the normal course of living in a dynasty. Pat Riley called it the "Disease of More." The Patriots have been immune for almost 20 years now, but Brady and Belichick are both heading into the back nine of their respective Hall of Fame careers.

Or maybe the Patriots just got handed a platter full of fuel for another Super Bowl run. Don't expect to see "friendly Brady" or "happy Belichick" in the next few weeks.