By Sam Carroll @3samcarroll
For the past 17 years, the New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East; they have failed to come away with the division crown only once in that period. Now, though, those good times are over for Patriots fans. After coming away from Buffalo Bills home stadium, Orchard Park with a loss on Sunday, the Patriots are on track for their worst record since the 2000 season. But why? What’s gone wrong? Is it simply the absence of Tom Brady?
On the surface, it looks like exactly that. The Patriots have scored the second least points in the NFL, only ahead of the lacklustre New York Jets, while Brady is off in Tampa running one of the league’s most prolific passing attacks.
But there’s more to it than that. Josh McDaniels has tried to utilise Cam Newton’s athletic ability by creating a poor imitation of the Baltimore Ravens’ RPO and run-heavy offence. Needless to say, it’s not working. They don’t have the players to make it work. At this stage in his career, Newton is nowhere near Lamar Jackson’s level. Ryan Izzo is not Mark Andrews and they don’t have a deep threat like Hollywood Brown that can take the top off a defence.
So, Newton hasn’t played well since that narrow week two loss in Seattle on Sunday Night Football and the new offensive scheme isn’t working as intended. However, the main problem is that there just aren’t enough good skill position players. None of the running backs really stand out, Julian Edelman is the only household name in the receiving group, and the tight end position has been arguably the weakest in the league since Rob Gronkowski left.
There are only two collections of weapons who even come close to as bad as the Patriots are: Washington and the New York Jets, both of whom are first overall pick contenders.
Oh no Cam Newton pic.twitter.com/GwaA3K3gvZ— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) November 1, 2020
While the defence is still solid, it looks like the season is already over in Foxborough. The Pats have lost five out of seven, and still have to play the Ravens, Cardinals, Chargers, Texans and Bills again. That’s not even mentioning a visit to Miami to play the Dolphins, who have looked much better than predicted so far this year, especially on defence.
It looks like Bill Belichick has given up on this season aswell. Rumours of him offering up star cornerback, Stephon Gilmore in a trade have been circulating. You can’t blame him for wanting to improve his draft capital. We now know that Newton is not the answer, but the Patriots aren’t bad enough to be able to land one of the three top quarterbacks in this upcoming draft with just their standard pick. The Jets, Giants, Jaguars and Washington at least should all still be picking ahead of them unless something utterly unpredictable happens.
However, if Bill can find the right trade partner he could move up into the top five picks, and then, who knows? We could be looking at Trey Lance in a Patriots uniform this time next year.