I have spent the last couple of weeks responding to NFL media members who seem to believe that just because Tom Brady is no longer that the quarterback of the New England Patriots, they are suddenly going to drop off the map and hand the AFC East crown over to the Buffalo Bills, despite Las Vegas thinking differently.
I’m also very aware that I am a Patriots fan, so my opinion can sometimes only sway one of two ways. Either I am going to be completely negative and scream about Bill Belichick finally being exposed without Tom Brady, or I am going to stomp around asking “Brady who?”, while screaming from the rooftops for the haters to keep doubting the Patriots, because they are ready to prove you wrong again. Keeping that in mind, I try to base my opinion on what I read, what I see, and what the numbers tell me, and when you do a deep dive of the Patriots, there not going to be as bad as the pessimistic entitled side of Pats Nation believes. But, let’s not get too crazy, I wouldn’t be calling the Patriots Super Bowl favorites either.
I have been out of character for most of this offseason, and have taken a very conservative approach to the Patriots 2020 season, and have had them going about 8-8. Today I decided to take an eagerly optimistic approach to the schedule, and basically, if the Patriots opponents weren’t clear cut favorites, I gave the edge to New England, and I had the Patriots going a very respectable 11-5. Correctly picking a teams record in the offseason isn’t a science and I would like to remind everybody that everybody in the NFL media gushed over the Cleveland Browns last season, and we saw how that worked out for them.
Let’s say for a second that the Patriots are closer to my original 8-8 record but a little better, is this season about the Patriots over performing people’s expectations, or more about the rest of the AFC East not taking advantage of a vulnerable New England team? NFL writer Adam Rank is leaning towards the latter, and he doesn’t believe that the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, or even the stacked Buffalo Bills, are ready to take over the division.
“I have the Patriots at 9-7 winning the AFC East. Listen, I know that everybody’s looking at this division and (they’re) like, ‘This is time.’ Even though they’re likely to start Jarrett Stidham, when you look at that division and you see Adam Gase, you see Josh Allen, you see Ryan Fitzpatrick, all of those guys. I still don’t believe that any team is ready to topple the New England Patriots at this point. Nine and seven, first place in the AFC East.”
When you look around the AFC there is a lot of strong competition, but with the added Wild Card spot, I have had many discussions wondering if 9-7 would be good enough to secure a playoff spot. I think if you’re a New England Patriots fan 9-7 is a nightmare record if they don’t make the playoffs. 9-7 puts them lower down the Draft board in 2021, and you gave yourself no shot at competing for a Super Bowl because you didn’t make the playoffs. But, that 9-7 record could be okay if Jarrett Stidham shows you enough to have confidence going forward.
Even though I love Rank giving the Patriots the East and at the very least we would get to watch the Patriots play in one more game in January, I just can’t see 9-7 being enough to win the division.
I get that Josh Allen is a bit of a wildcard, but he is probably the most talented quarterback in the division, and if he can show some consistency this season, how are the Buffalo Bills going to win less than nine games? Buffalo finished the 2019 season with a 10-6 record, and now they have added Stefon Diggs into the mix. The Miami Dolphins are still a year away from being legit, and the New York Jets will be a disaster as long as Adam Gase is directing the ship, so I can safely say 9-7 is more than good enough to come second in the division, but first? That just seems a little hard to believe.
Even though the NFL is doing everything it can do to make sure the season kicks off on time, we are still three months aways from the season starting, which means we should be prepared for a lot more predictions both favorable and not-so-favorable for the Patriots. The one thing everybody needs to remember is the season isn’t played in June, and everything that we’re talking about right now is probably going to be meaningless come September.