Another title for Touchdown Tom. This has to be getting old for the New England Patriots, right? And the city of Boston! My goodness, they have to be tired of celebrating championships. It’s a hard life.
It’s sort of funny how we go into every season wondering if this is the year that Father Time catches up with Tom Brady. It hasn’t happened yet. He’ll turn 42 before the season starts and he is coming off of one of his more pedestrian seasons. But, still, he’s Tom Brady and the Patriots just know how to win. It doesn’t hurt to have Bill Belichick. The endless brain drain of assistant coaches and front office personnel doesn’t seem to hurt either. They are a model organization across all of sport.
I will say this. The Patriots did not look like a Super Bowl winner last season. They were eighth in yards per play on offense and 22nd in yards per play allowed on defense. Brady had a 2/3 TD/INT ratio in the playoffs. The Patriots allowed 24 or more points in five of their first seven games and had at least one turnover in all seven of those games.
And they still found a way to get it done. It felt like this juggernaut had slowed down early in the season, but then the switch got flipped and all was right in the world. The Patriots have won at least 10 games every year since 2003 and at least 11 in all but two of those seasons. Keep that in mind as you survey this season win total.
Super Bowl Odds: +700
Odds to Win the AFC: +400
Odds to Win the AFC East: -400
Season Win Total: 11
(lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
|6||NY Giants (Th)||-11||.87|
|7||@ NY Jets (MNF)||-4.5||.67|
|9||@ Baltimore (SNF)||-2.5||.55|
|13||@ Houston (SNF)||-3||.59|
Total Expected Wins: 11.65
As is often the case following a Super Bowl run, a lot of players jump ship to take advantage of the robust free agent market. Playoff success in a small sample probably isn’t the best barometer of future success, but that doesn’t stop teams from ponying up for those “proven winners”. With that in mind, the Patriots said goodbye to Trey Flowers, Trenton Brown, Malcom Brown, Cordarelle Patterson, Dwayne Allen, Eric Rowe, Chris Hogan, and Adrian Clayborn.
Of course, a lot of players also stayed to be part of the Patriots dynasty. A lot of new players entered the fray as well. New England picked up Mike Pennel, Brandon Bolden, Jared Veldheer, Ben Watson, Demaryius Thomas, Matt LaCosse, Dontrelle Inman, and reunited with Jamie Collins.
Linebackers coach Brian Flores took the head coach gig with the Dolphins and took a few assistants with him, including Chad O’Shea, the quarterbacks coach. Greg Schiano was hired and then abruptly resigned, which means Belichick and the defensive staff will collectively call plays. At least Josh McDaniels is still around.
Rob Gronkowski retired to spend his days partying and gambling and whatever else he does.
We just have to automatically assume that every player drafted by the Patriots becomes a star. They took N’Keal Harry to give Tom Brady and the future quarterback a big, athletic weapon. Joejuan Williams, Chase Winovich, Byron Cowart, and Ken Webster will work into the defensive rotations and Damien Harris will be part of the running back room.
Yodny Cajuste and Hjalte Froholdt will provide offensive line depth and fight for jobs. It looks like a successful draft on paper for the Patriots, but then again, everything they do is successful.
Tom Brady threw at least 12 interceptions in each of his first six seasons. Up until last year, he had only done that three times since and hadn’t done it since 2013. He threw 11 last season. He had his lowest completion rate since 2015 and his fewest yards per game since 2014. He also looked human in the playoffs. I think we really have to ask if this is the year that Brady’s signs of decline become more evident. Once again, he played into the month of February and he started all 16 games for the second straight season and has now played 269 games in his career.
Of course, the Patriots were also third in rushing attempts, fifth in rushing yards, fourth in rushing touchdowns, and ran for at least 154 yards in the three playoff wins. Sony Michel is a stud and the receiving hands of guys like James White never go out of style. Somebody will have to step up at tight end and replace Gronk’s production, but he only had 47 catches and three touchdowns. It’s not like he was a huge part of the equation.
I’m sure the Patriots will be just fine offensively, but I’m not going to be shocked if they continue this pivot towards running the football. Last season marked the fewest passing attempts for Brady in a 16-game season since 2010.
With Brian Flores gone and nobody with the defensive coordinator title, absolutely nothing will change for the Patriots. It’s crazy, but this organization excels at getting everybody on the same page. Maybe some things need to change, though. The Patriots allowed 5.7 yards per play and really lived off of their 28 takeaways. They were fifth in turnover margin and that allowed the team to overcome some of its shortcomings without the football.
The Patriots had no pass rush to speak of with just 30 sacks and top sack man Trey Flowers got paid very handsomely by the Detroit Lions. Most of the veterans in the back seven are back and this is a very experienced and disciplined defense, but who will make those big plays this season? The by-committee approach for the Patriots has worked forever because few teams can match New England’s depth, but an anemic pass rush has gotten even weaker. Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty are going to have a lot of work to do.
Notes & Nuggets
The Patriots draw five primetime games, including one Thursday night tilt against the Giants. Their only road trip on a short week coming off of Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football is to Miami in Week 2 of the Josh Rosen era. The schedule makers did New England a lot of favors in that regard.
New England is a touchdown or more favorite seven times based on the early look-ahead lines. Considering how the Patriots looked at the outset of last season, that seems a little bit presumptuous.
You really haven’t gotten rich betting against the Patriots during the Brady and Belichick years. In fact, you’ve lost a lot of money. With a season win total line of 11, that seems like a disappointing outcome for New England. The three AFC East teams are all in a state of flux and all have second-year quarterbacks. It would be a surprise if the Patriots can’t get to six wins with division play. The NFC East and AFC North are interesting draws outside of the division and so are Houston and Kansas City.
Even with the flaws and the potential warts, it’s hard to see New England winning fewer than 11 games. The most likely outcome here is a push and paying juice on the over doesn’t make much sense in that regard. The razor-thin lean here is on the over, but there are better win total options around the league.