Joel Bartilotta takes a look at the Patriots’ roster and current situation, giving his take on why the Patriots are good value for this season’s AFC East.
A lot of people consider the Dallas Cowboys “America’s Team” but we’re changing that notion starting today. From now on, it’s going to be the New England Patriots.
Everyone loves New England because of Bill Belichick’s glowing personality, Tom Brady’s athleticism and their honesty as an organization. Haha, people actually hate the Patriots but I’ve always respected how consistent they are and how well they run things. Even though Brady is gone now, this is going to be a fun team to watch and it’s honestly tough to know what to expect. With that in mind, let’s deep dive on this team.
Tom Brady was the face of this organization for over a decade and they’ve now chosen to go another direction. Many people expected Jarrett Stidham to be his predecessor but a Cam Newton signing threw a wrench in his hopes and dreams. That was a huge move in my opinion and I truly believe that Cam has a lot left in the tank. We’re talking about a former MVP who’s only 31-years-old.
Many people think he’s injury prone but Cam has only missed five games through his first eight seasons. Belichick has done magic with Matt Cassell in the past and this should be a much easier puzzle to put together than that mess.
If we’re talking about fantasy, this is one of the most frustrating backfields in the NFL. If we’re talking about pure production, this is still one of the most dangerous backfields around. Sony Michel handles first and second down while James White is one of the most dangerous pass-catchers out of the backfield for third downs. That doesn’t even include Rex Burkhead, who’s volatile in his own right. So, while they averaged just 107 rushing yards per game last season, they ranked Top-10 in total yardage from their backfield when you consider all of the short passing. That’s an underrated part of this offense and it helps them move the chains more fluidly than most teams.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Julian Edelman has been one of the most consistent WRs around over the last six seasons, collecting 530 receptions for 5,793 yards and 32 touchdowns in that span. There’s only a handful of guys in the league who can match that and he looks fully ready to go this year.
They also have an up-and-coming N’Keal Harry in his sophomore season. It’s very possible that he could breakout this year, making this a dynamic one-two combination. Don’t forget about Mohamed Sanu too, acquiring him from Atlanta just before the trade deadline last year.
If there’s a weakness with this passing game, it’s their tight ends. The Rob Gronkowski-Aaron Hernandez days are a thing of the past, with Devin Asiasi, Ryan Izzo and Dalton Keene covering that position. Look for them to run more than ever this year and feed their RBS and WRs.
Deciphering offensive lines is a tough task with so much other stuff going on but if you forget about that with the Patriots, you’re not looking at the full picture. This club ranked ninth in O-line rating last season and that’s on par with what they always do. This line has pretty much been together since 2016 and that sort of comradery tells you everything you need to know about this organization.
Lawrence Guy is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the NFL and this is definitely another strength of this team. Beau Allen and Adam Butler are good players too but there’s not much depth behind those guys. This is a position that they need to stay healthy.
Don’t’a Hightower was a huge loss to the COVID opt-out. What makes that really annoying is the fact that this is essentially a new-look group. Ja’Whaun Bentley is going to have to step into that Hightower role and it’s moving up all of these unknown pieces in the depth chart. This is a position worth watching with this team but they tend to always fin diamonds in the rough at LB.
The Patriots secondary is probably the best part of this team. Despite the fact that Patrick Chung opted out, they still have Devin McCourty and Stephon Gilmore. They also have a cheetah names Jonthan Jones, who’s shown flashes of brilliance in video and drills. Jason McCourty is Devin’s twin brother and he should continue to see time too. Look for the Pats to ride this strength and play a lot of nickel to get as many of them in there as possible and cover their weakness at linebacker.
Matthew Slater is still a Patriot and he’s honestly one of the most underrated players in the NFL. He makes plays on special teams all the time and shows these youngsters how to make a career with hustling and buying into the program.
What is new about this club is their punter and kicker. It looks like they’ll have Jake Bailey as their punter and Justin Rohrwasser as their kicker. This is a team that usually dominates in that facet, so, you have to imagine both of those guys will be solid contributors.
This team was affected more than any other because of the COVID opt-outs. These are the players who will be sitting the season out: Brandon Bolden, Marcus Cannon, Patrick Chung, Dont’a Hightower, Matt LaCosse, Marqise Lee, Najee Toran and Danny Vitale.
Bets to Look For
There’s a lot of hate towards the Patriots right now but c’mon guys, it’s still the Patriots.
Since 2003, the Patriots have won the division in all but one season. That makes for 16 of the last 17 seasons and 11-straight coming into this year. While they did have Tom Brady at the helm, it’s not like Cam Newton is some bum. What makes me like this bet even more is the fact that this division is still weak. Sure, Buffalo and New York are improving but there’s still some major flaws with those teams.
If you’re offering me plus money to bet on something that’s happened 17 out of 18 times, I’ll always take that. I get that this is a new-look team but Bill Belichick could easily get them back to a 10-win season just by doing his voodoo magic. This is a bet that could come down to the final three weeks but facing the Dolphins, Bills and Jets in those games is the exact thing that could get them over the hump.
I’m 29-years-old and one of the most important things I’ve learned in my short life is to never bet against the Patriots. These guys just figure things out and it’s silly to assume that they do anything but be successful.