After their first losing season since 2000 the Patriots have re-loaded in free agency, will it be enough for them to challenge for the AFC East title once more?
The Patriots first season in the post-Brady era didn’t quite go to plan as the already depleted offensive roster was joined by a lot of the stars on defense opting-out due to fears over Covid. It left both sides of the ball short of stars and it played out as such on the field.
They brought in Cam Newton on a cheap “prove-it” deal and frankly, he played like a $2m per year QB, throwing just 8 TDs in the whole season (3 of them in the final game) although he did rush in for 12 himself. Of course the lack of pass-catchers definitely hurt him; when your leading receiver is second year Jakobi Meyers with 729 yards there’s probably not going to be a lot through the air.
Then there’s the improvement within division. The other three teams have been planning for the Patriots without Brady and they’re taking advantage now, the Bills won 13, the Dolphins 10, and the Jets… well, they were still in the division as well.
What Was Their Win Total Last Year?
The closing line at online sports betting site was around 9 wins. Obviously in hindsight that was way too high with the truncated off-season and a new QB as well as the opt-outs on defense and the total lack of talent on offense. It’s a credit to Belichik that they got to 7 wins and he alone was probably the reason for the line being so high.
What Have They Done So Far This off-Season?
They have been VERY busy so far this season, giving out by far the most guaranteed money in free agency with a host of signings strengthening both sides of the ball.
They drafted two tight ends in last years draft, it seems they’re giving up on them already with the signings of Jonnu Smith from the Titans and Hunter Henry from the Chargers, both on big deals. They later added Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to the pass-catching group from the Raiders and 49ers respectively. Smith, Henry and Bourne all add red-zone threats for the team.
On the other side of the ball they welcome back a couple of the guys who opted-out as well as the big-name signings of Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy at LB, Jalen Mills at DB and Davon Godchaux at DT. All good players with experience who should fit well in the Pats system.
It seems they thought Cam Newton did a good enough job as well as they re-signed him for another season, although at a max. of $3.5m it’s tough to argue against his contract.
What Will Their Win Total Be Next Year?
They were lined at 9 last year and won 7 with a lesser roster than they have now, no real off-season and a lot of tumult.
With so much change in the organisation and within the division it’s tough to figure this one out. I think the books will play it safe and go for 8 wins.
Will They Cover That Total?
The adage of not backing against Bill Belichick is usually one to follow even without Brady, but the division has improved markedly, online betting sites have the Patriots as second favorites for the division behind the Bills with the Dolphins only a little higher in price.
They have a middling schedule based on last season’s records, (ranked 20th), although the 17th game actually made it a little easier in comparison to other teams, the NFC South is going to be tougher, the AFC South around the same with the Jags getting better and the Texans markedly worse.
With the 17th game now announced, I think it opens at 8 and I’d lean to the over on that number.