By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
At long last, after nearly two decades and six Super Bowls later, the Patriots dynasty is over.
We will no longer see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick teaming up to essentially be the NFL’s equivalent of Thanos every season, as the greatest quarterback in NFL history decided to pack his bags and head to Tampa Bay, where he immediately made himself at home by walking into someone else’s mansion.
(If I had a dollar every time that happened!)
That type of disorientation brought on by sudden change will apply in the same way for anyone who has followed the Patriots since this dynasty began.
It’s become NFL tradition to turn on the television every Sunday afternoon in the fall and openly root for the Patriots to finally have everything come apart and for the dynasty to end, only to feel as deflated as a football in late January in the chilly Foxboro air.
It’s tradition to question the Patriots means to get to the successful endpoint they so often found, and it’s tradition to openly wonder how year after year the Patriots would just seem to be better all-around than everyone else, and why no other team could manage to figure out how to do it themselves.
So when the Tennessee Titans stormed into Foxboro and effectively put the final nails in the coffin with, of all things, a Tom Brady pick-six by ex-Patriot Logan Ryan, the disbelief that this dynasty was finally at its closure had begun to set in.
It became official the day Tom Brady announced he would be leaving the only place he had called home during his 20 seasons with the Patriots, and the party across the rest of the NFL would soon follow.
But before everyone dances on the Patriots grave, the greatest coach of All-Time and overall football savant Bill Belichick would have one more Ace in the hole. Belichick would assemble the best defense the Patriots have seen in many years and would have a former NFL MVP, still only 31-years of age, fall right into the Patriots laps, giving them the chance to begin a new era — the era of Cam and Bill.
Patriots 2019 Season Review
The Patriots entered 2019 fresh off another Super Bowl victory, this time a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams that abruptly ended a run of Patriot Super Bowls that didn’t involve an NFC team doing everything they can to gift-wrap another ring for Belichick and Brady in the waning stages of the game, instead the Rams did about as little as they could to ensure that Brady would get ring number six.
So once again, New England was the presumptive favorite to win the AFC and bring home yet another Lombardi Trophy, and through the first eight weeks of the 2019 season, the Patriots were well on their way to steamrolling through the NFL yet again, as they started the season a perfect 8-0, set numerous records on the defensive side of the ball, and even had a brief cameo from Antonio Brown!
Despite the 8-0 start to the season, however, the Patriots were not quite the dominant force they appeared to be.
While the defense was certainly spectacular, New England benefitted largely from an opening eight-week schedule that saw them face only one team with a winning record (a 16-10 win over Buffalo in Week 4).
When New England would head to Baltimore to face the red hot Ravens behind the eventual MVP Lamar Jackson and get absolutely ripped apart on both sides of the ball. The Patriots offense would look noticeably slow, lacking a serious threat in the passing game and Tom Brady would finally show signs of age. The heralded Patriots defense would surrender 37 points after just allowing 44 points combined in the previous five games, and suddenly an 8-1 team was surprisingly vulnerable.
New England would rebound in the following weeks with a pair of wins over the Eagles and Cowboys to bring their record to 10-1, but again the same theme held true. The Patriots defense was doing the heavy lifting and the explosive Tom Brady/Josh McDaniels like offense we had grown accustomed to watching every season, looked more like an offense you’d expect to find with Blake Bortles at the helm.
The Patriots offensive issues finally came to a head as the team entered December, where New England would fall to eventual AFC division champions Houston and Kansas City to move to 10-3 on the season.
After beating Cincinnati and holding off a scrappy Buffalo team to clinch the AFC East, it looked like a foregone conclusion that New England would secure another first-round bye with a Week 17 home date against the tanking Dolphins the only thing standing in their way.
Instead, the 4-11 Dolphins, led by former Belichick assistant Brian Flores, would march into Foxboro with nothing to play for but pride, and stun the Patriots with a last-second game-winning drive by Conor McGregor stunt double Ryan Fitzpatrick. The loss would drop New England to 12-4, and allow for the Chiefs to match their record and clinch that crucial first-round bye.
That would punt the Patriots to the Wild Card Round for the first time since 2009 where they would face the Tennessee Titans, also led by a former Patriot Mike Vrabel. Vrabel and the Titans would pound the Patriots vaunted defense behind Derrick Henry and locked down the Patriots offense to pull one of the biggest shockers in Wild Card Round history.
The dynasty would end that chilly January Foxboro evening, and pave the way for a new era of Patriots football to begin.
Awful at Timing Since They Joined a Dynasty After it Ends and not When It Began
QB Cam Newton (Panthers)
RB Lamar Miller (Texans)
WR Marquise Lee (Jaguars)
QB Brian Hoyer (Colts)
S Adrian Phillips (Chargers)
FB Dan Vitale (Packers)
WR Damiere Byrd (Cardinals)
DT Beau Allen (Buccaneers)
G Joe Thuney / Signed Tender
Left Boston Quicker than the Red Sox’ Championship Hopes
QB Tom Brady (Buccaneers)
TE Rob Gronkowski (Buccaneers/Trade)
LB Kyle Van Noy (Dolphins)
LB Jamie Collins (Lions)
DT Danny Shelton (Lions)
S Duron Harmon (Lions/Trade)
S Nate Ebner (Giants)
C Ted Karras (Dolphins)
WR Phillip Dorsett (Seahawks)
K Stephen Gostkowski (Free Agent)
RB Brandon Bolden
OT Marcus Cannon
S Patrick Chung
LB Dont’a Hightower
WR Marqise Lee
OL Najee Toran
FB Dan Vitale
TE Matt LaCosse
Patriots 2020 Offensive Preview
New England will enter the 2020 season and new era of Patriots football behind former Carolina Panther and 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton. While the Patriots are also expected to give Jarrett Stidham the chance to win the job, all indications are the former #1 overall pick is running away with the competition in training camp.
With no preseason games scheduled this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Patriots will not have the opportunity to see Newton and Stidham battle for the job against other competition, and with everything else being very out of the ordinary this offseason, the Patriots turning to Cam Newton would make a lot of sense given his experience as a starting quarterback in the league.
Newton hopes to return to the form he played in for much of his career, before the past couple of seasons where Newton was playing through injuries, ultimately leading to Cam missing 16 games in his last two seasons, the bulk of which came last year when Cam would miss 14 games with a foot injury.
By all accounts, the year off from football has fully healed both his shoulder and foot, and the Patriots hope that a free agent market that showed no real interest in signing the 31-year old veteran will be the added fuel Cam needs to return to his status as an elite quarterback.
Even if Cam is back to 100 percent health, there are still concerns with the Patriots offense, and just like a season ago, the glaring question marks come with who Newton, or Stidham, would be throwing the ball to.
Entering the 2020 campaign, 34-year old wide receiver Julian Edelman will be the Patriots top wide receiver once again, while 2019 1st round pick N’Keal Harry will be elevated to start full time opposite of him.
Harry began his rookie year on the injured list before joining the team later in the season, but his impact as a rookie was minimal at best, as the rookie only had 105 yards receiving and two touchdowns in his debut season.
The Patriots brought in Marqise Lee after the Jaguars released him earlier in the offseason, but he has since elected to opt-out of the 2020 season alongside seven other Patriots due to health concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. That leaves New England’s depth at wideout in a precarious position, as Mohammed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, and free-agent addition Damiere Byrd wouldn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of the Boston College defense, much less NFL defenses.
At running back, New England seems to be in much better shape. The Patriots once again return the 1-2 punch of Sony Michel and James White, and 2019 3rd round pick Damien Harris figures to get more action in 2020. Veteran Rex Burkhead and free-agent signee Lamar Miller figure to compete for one of the last spots on the 53-man roster, however, Miller may be stashed on the team’s PUP list to start the year as he continues to return from an ACL injury that ended his 2019 season.
The Patriots made waves in the offseason when they traded the rights to unretired tight end Rob Gronkowski to Tampa Bay, and they hope the 2020 NFL Draft will yield the next great Patriots tight end as the Pats will start two rookies at that position with third-round picks Devin Asiasi from UCLA, and Dalton Keene from Virginia Tech.
Fortunately for the Patriots as they try to figure out their offensive personnel, the offensive line remains the strength of this offense, and it’s really not close. The team elected to use the franchise tag on guard Joe Thuney, and three starters from the rest of the starting line return from a season ago, including center David Andrews who missed all of the 2019 season with blood clots in his lungs. The Patriots, however, will be without starting tackle Marcus Cannon who is one of the eight aforementioned players to opt-out due to COVID-19. Former Arizona Cardinal Korey Cunningham figures to get the start in place of Cannon this season.
Patriots 2020 Defensive Preview
The Patriots defense was the lifeblood of the team a season ago and was the overwhelming reason why New England finished 12-4, to begin with. However, due to free agency and opt-outs from the COVID-19 pandemic, the defensive unit has undergone quite a bit of turnover from a season ago.
New England will be without Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung due to their respective decisions to opt-out and lost three other starters when Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Danny Shelton all left via free agency, leaving Bill Belichick with the challenge of replacing half of the #1 ranked defense from a season ago.
The Pats’ strength on defense once again looks to be with their secondary, as arguably the best cornerback in football, Stephon Gilmore, returns to play alongside Jason McCourty, with Jason’s twin brother Devin returning to play safety in his 10th season with the team.
New England will replace the void left at safety with the departures of Patrick Chung (COVID-19 Opt-Out), Nate Ebner and Duron Harmon with free-agent addition Adrian Phillips and Terrence Brooks
While the secondary is mostly intact, the Patriots linebacking corps will have an entirely new starting group as the team lost four linebackers from a season ago due to the same COVID-19 and free agency cocktail. Jamie Collins (Lions), Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts (Dolphins) each left the team in free agency to go play with former Patriot assistant coaches, and Dont’a Hightower opted out of the season entirely.
That leaves plenty of question marks for Bill Belichick to deal with, and the Patriots will now need to rely on the inexperienced tandem of 2020 2nd round pick Josh Uche and 2018 5th round pick Ja’Whaun Bentley to anchor the middle of their defense.
Belichick also has roster turnover to deal with on his defensive line, as Danny Shelton joined Jamie Collins in departing for the Motor City. New England added former Bucs nose tackle Beau Allen in free agency as a means to try to fill that role, but replacing Shelton will be a challenge as he had perhaps his best season as a pro in 2019.
Patriots 2020 Outlook & Prediction
The Brady/Belichick era is over but there is still a good deal of talent on the New England Patriots roster to still consider them as a contender to win the AFC East for the 12th straight season.
As is usually the case in the NFL, the season will most likely come down to the type of season they get from Cam Newton. There is a lot of cautious optimism at the potential of a Josh McDaniels offense with a quarterback that doesn’t move slower than molasses in the pocket and who has a rocket arm, but after quite a bit of roster churn, the weapons in the cupboard for Newton (or Stidham) to get the job done may not be enough to get past a Bills team on the rise.
We’ve learned many times over to never bet against Bill Belichick no matter the circumstances, but this season may have too many challenges for even ‘Master Belichick’ to overcome.
We like the Patriots to finish tied with the Bills atop the AFC East but to lose the division tiebreaker, ending their reign atop the AFC East but still leaving them as a potentially dangerous Wild Card team.
Patriots 2020 Projection: 10-6, 2nd AFC East (Lose Division Tiebreaker to Bills)
Patriots 2020 Betting Preview
When it comes to the New England Patriots, we like these bets more than Bill Belichick likes chopping the sleeves off a perfectly fine hoodie.
- Patriots OVER 9 Wins — (+105) at PointsBet Sportsbook
Despite the roster churn, the Patriots will still be in more games than they are not, and while we believe they’re not the Super Bowl contender in 2020, they’re certainly a contender to have another winning season and we’ll grab the plus-money on the Pats here.
- Cam Newton to win Comeback Player of the Year — (+400) at DraftKings Sportsbook
While Alex Smith may win this award just by stepping on the field in 2020 (and deservingly so), Cam has some very enticing odds in his own right to win the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. Should Cam start the majority of the season and look like his old self, he has a great chance to deliver a 4-to-1 winner. We like this a little better than the MVP prop that’s getting quite a bit of love from futures bettors too.
- Bill Belichick to win NFL Coach of the Year — (+1200) at DraftKings Sportsbook
If there were ever a season where Belichick could win the NFL Coach of the Year Award it’s this season. The sheer amount of losses to the Patriots roster puts Belichick at the top of the odds board here. This award typically goes to bad teams that become good the year after, but considering everything the Patriots are trying to replace in 2020, a playoff berth could lead to Belichick’s 4th COTY honors and first since 2010.