The 2020 Patriots are going to be just fine.
That’s the TLDR (too long, didn’t read) gist of all the rankings after three weeks of play. Add in a few, “this Cam Newton guy is still pretty good” and “maybe we declared the Patriots dead too early” takes, along with a slowing-turning tide of positive perception in New England’s favor. Sounds about right.
Kansas City and Seattle hold firm at the top spots in the AFC and NFC. The Patriots weigh in around 7th, and climbing. Weeks four and five bring the toughest matchup of the season at the Chiefs, followed by a not-as-tough home game vs. the currently winless Broncos (unless, who knows, maybe new starter QB Brett Rypien will be ‘the guy’?) Pats get their bye-week breather in Week 6.
Best case is the Pats hit the bye week at 4-1 and I’m here to say, with confidence, it’s doable. The Patriots aren’t going to fold like the Ravens do. Bill Belichick will put his team in the best possible position to win, and I swear there’s nothing he loves more than heading into a week of preparation as a legitimate underdog. I’m picking the Pats to win in a nail-biter.
Around the AFC East:
5th - MMQB Staff (SI): We wondered for so long what the post-Brady Patriots would look like. But just three games in, Cam Newton is fitting in as if this was the succession plan all along. As a result, this upcoming week’s annual matchup with the Chiefs has not lost any of its luster.
6th - Nate Davis (USA Today): For all we heard about their lack of offensive weapons in 2019, you now wonder if they would have won it all by unleashing RB Rex Burkhead.
6th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): The Patriots rebounded from the loss in Seattle to win at home Sunday against the Raiders. They’ll play at Kansas City this Sunday, perhaps catching the Chiefs at a good time with them on a short week after the big Monday night matchup in Baltimore.
7th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots got methodical with their seasoned running backs, Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, helping to support Cam Newton in the rushing attack. The young defense also woke up nicely against the Raiders so they could stick with their conservative but effective winning formula.
7th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): Contenders.
7th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): For many people, the New England Patriots are the team they love to hate. Dominating the AFC East for two decades and winning six Super Bowls will do that.
When Tom Brady bolted for Tampa Bay, those people rejoiced. The evil empire was finally dead.
Or so they thought.
After nearly beating the Seahawks in Seattle last week, the Patriots got back to winning in Week 3, dispatching a Las Vegas Raiders team that entered Week 3 undefeated. And in doing so, the Patriots made it clear what the team’s new identity was…
Pounding the rock.
Against the Raiders, the Patriots ran the ball 38 times against 28 pass attempts from Cam Newton. The team piled up 250 yards on the ground—almost 100 more than through the air. New England possessed the ball over 34 minutes as a result.
It’s not necessarily going to work every week. But whenever possible, the Pats are going to grind out games on the ground and play defense.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how that new philosophy plays out in Week 4 when the Pats visit KC. ...
7th - Staff (AP Pro32).
7th - Doug Farrar (TouchdownWire): The thing about the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era has always been that no matter how much you try to do what Belichick wants to do to you (take away your best player by any means necessary), Belichick will come up with something to upend your team. So, when the Raiders came to Foxboro and Cam Newton didn’t have his best day, it didn’t matter. running back Rex Burkhead had three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing), and New England did the “take away your opponent’s best player) thing by limiting tight end Darren Waller to just two catches for nine yards.
The more things change… with a new quarterback, a new offensive system, and massive losses on defense in the offseason, the Patriots are a close game against Seattle from 3-0, and chugging right along as they tend to do.
8th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The fact that New England won decisively on Sunday means the Patriots are really the same old Patriots. They just don’t lose games like that, coming off a loss and at home against a team they should beat. The Patriots aren’t going anywhere this season, no matter how many players they lost.
8th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): Some things never change for the Patriots. They’ll still draw you offside on fourth-and-short (got ya, Maxx Crosby), they’ll still cook up a game plan to negate your best player (sorry, Darren Waller), they’ll still bludgeon you with the running back you least suspect (hi, Rex Burkhead), and they’ll still benefit from a controversial fumble call when the Raiders come to town (that’s life, Jon Gruden). It all added up to a 36-20 win over the Raiders, and it showed how this new Pats offense can still roll up yardage and score points even when Cam Newton has a C game (his grade, not ours). New England remains a major player in the AFC.
8th - Peter Botte (NY Post): Cam Newton led the Pats in rushing yards in each of the first two games with his new team, but running backs Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead accounted for 238 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Raiders. Next: Sunday at Kansas City.
8th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): As their young players improve, they will as well. Get them early if you can. This week’s game at Kansas City will tell a lot about them.
9th - NFL Nation (ESPN): 2020 preseason predictions we got wrong: Rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene would boost the team’s sagging production at tight end. After ranking last in TE pass-catching production in 2019, the Patriots traded up in the third round to select both Asiasi and Keene. But Asiasi has been used sparingly behind third-year pro Ryan Izzo, while Keene has been a game-day inactive each week.
11th - Adam London (NESN): The Patriots bounced back from a frustrating loss to the Seattle Seahawks with a win over the previously unbeaten Las Vegas Raiders. A 16-point victory despite a “subpar” performance from Cam Newton is promising for New England.
AVG. RANK: 7.1 [last week: 9.3]