Season Preview: New England Patriots
Tom Brady has left Foxborough, so this is going to be a weird year in New England. Big Bill and Co are still there however and with former MVP Cam Newton in to to replace Brady, they are still in a pretty good position to succeed.
2019 Season Recap:
Last season started great for the Patriots, starting out 8-0. The defense looked historically great, with New England conceding just 61 total points over the first two months of the season. During this dominant stretch, the Patriots went down to Miami and demolished the Dolphins 43-0.
Then things started to get a bit iffy, they suffered their first loss of the season in Baltimore. Going down 37-20 to Lamar Jackson and his Ravens. Then they began December with back to back defeats to the Texans and eventual champions, Kansas City. The Patriots always dominate in December but this pair of defeats, all be it to talented teams, served as foreshadowing for the nightmare at the end of the month.
The Patriots seemed all set to secure a first round bye, they just had to beat Miami at Gillette Stadium but it was not to be as Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Mike Gesicki for a go-ahead touchdown with 24 seconds remaining. Forcing the Pats to host Tennessee in the opening round of the playoffs and we all know what happened next.
Belichick without Brady:
Belichick is indeed the greatest coach/manager in North American sports history. Because nobody has done what he has been able to do. Not only has he won six Super Bowl titles while in the big chair, but he's done so in the free agency era. In a league that thrives on parity. Through the decades, many of the greatest coaches across sports benefited greatly from a nucleus remaining largely intact. But for the Patriots of the past 20 years, it's been two guys: Belichick and Brady. The two were a combo, now Belichick is on his own.
This is a chance for Belichick to prove to anybody who doubts his greatness. This is clearly going to be the biggest challenge of all. Not that a losing record would impact Belichick's legacy one way or the other, but he could really cement unparalleled greatness if he takes a Brady-less team to the Super Bowl. I wouldn't be betting against it.
Cam Newton filling Brady's shoes:
The Pats brought in Cam to replace Brady on a very affordable one year, prove yourself deal. Newton is not far removed from being 'the man' in the NFL, having been named MVP in 2015. Cam is 31 years old and brings an athleticism to the New England offence that Brady did not.
While Newton has suffered with injuries over the last few seasons, he still has a huge amount to offer the Patriots and the NFL. Obviously we are all sick of the Patriots dynasty but Cam is going to be a baller in New England, simple as that.
Finding another option to Edelman:
Edelman had 100 receptions in 2019 for a career-high 1,117 receiving yards but he did have 71 more catches than the Patriots' No. 2 receiver last year, Philip Dorsett. That was the second-largest differential, trailing only New Orleans' Michael Thomas, who had 119 more receptions than Ted Ginn Jr. But like the Saints, who have Alvin Kamara (81 receptions last year), the Patriots also have James White as an effective receiver out of the backfield. White had 72 grabs in 2019. In fact, since entering the league in 2014, White leads all NFL running backs in receiving yards (2,809) and receiving touchdowns (24). He's not quite Christian McCaffrey, but he's pretty damn good.
Still, the Pats need more from their other wide receivers. The Pats gave up a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu, but he made little impact down the stretch. One guy to keep an eye on is 2019 first-rounder N'Keal Harry, who had just 12 receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns in Year 1. Harry is an uber-talented receiver who could make that second-year leap.
What the Patriots must do to have a successful 2020 season:
Make the AFC Championship Game- If they were going with a rookie quarterback, you probably wouldn't have your expectations too high after losing Brady but getting a former MVP like Cam Newton in, puts the Pats right back in the mix. They may still be a bit behind the likes of the Chiefs and the Ravens but with big Bill Belichick in charge, you always have a shot.