The New England Patriots have been the NFL’s model of stability for the last two decades, but the offseason departure of Tom Brady created some doubts among the pundits and analysts: Will New England be able to find success even without the greatest quarterback to ever play the game? While some still see them as a top-10 team heading into 2020, others are not convinced. Enter NFL.com’s Adam Schein, who recently shared his bold predictions for the upcoming season.
The first item on the list: The Patriots will collapse and draft in the top five in 2021.
Tom Brady is in Tampa. Jarrett Stidham is Jarrett Stidham. Yes, Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in the history of sports, but the roster just isn’t that good. The problems that ultimately led to New England’s undoing down the stretch last season still exist — in fact, they’re probably even more problematic. And the Patriots no longer have the G.O.A.T. to serve as the ultimate deodorant for what stinks. The receiving corps remains underwhelming. I like the long-term upside of the two tight ends New England drafted in the third round — Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene — but the roster lacks a proven NFL commodity at the position. The offensive line is average at best. Same with the backfield. Defensively, the Pats went from historic during the team’s 8-0 start last season to leaky in the second half of the year. And the unit lost a number of key players, including Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.
Schein went on to write about the schedule — “New England will be the inferior team in almost every single game it plays” — and predicts that the Buffalo Bills “will maul” a Patriots team on its way to a 5-11 record if everything “breaks right”.
There are obviously some major questions about the Patriots’ status entering the 2020 season, but Schein hits the panic button when it comes to the team’s ability to compete this year. The offense remains a major work in progress, yes, but to call its offensive line “average at best” seems to be selling the unit short even without assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia in the fold. New England’s defense, meanwhile, still features the best and deepest secondary in the league.
Could the team indeed go 5-11 and finish with an early first-round pick? It is possible, but until they do so they have earned the benefit of the doubt even without Brady in the fold.