For the first time in decades, the odds largely are stacked against the Patriots to reach the Super Bowl.
New England experienced quite a bit of roster turnover in the offseason, headlined by the departures of Tom Brady and a handful of key defensive contributors. There also were some losses across the coaching staff, including longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. More tough blows were delivered shortly before the start of training camp when eight Patriots opted out of the 2020 campaign.
The Pats now are tasked with overcoming those obstacles, as well as a pretty brutal regular-season schedule. New England probably is a longshot for Super Bowl LV, but Bill Barnwell believes there’s one way the Patriots can reach football’s biggest stage in February.
From Barnwell for ESPN.com:
The path forward isn’t as clear for the Patriots. Can they still rely on the league’s top-ranked defense from 2019? The league’s deepest cornerback depth chart and Devin McCourty all return, but the front seven is a mess. They have lost six of their top 11 defenders by snap count from a year ago, and while I’d trust Bill Belichick’s ability to coach in a weird season more than anybody else’s, there’s going to be some rebuilding time here. Stephon Gilmore and the secondary also aren’t going to post an interception rate of nearly 5% this season.
Any Super Bowl-caliber season from the Patriots would likely require a return to form for new quarterback Cam Newton after a foot injury zapped his 2019 season. The Newton we saw from the first half of 2018 was good enough to hold up his end of a Super Bowl bargain, although New England has even less to offer in terms of weapons after Mohamed Sanu failed to recover from an ankle injury and was cut last week. If Newton has an MVP-caliber season, the Patriots could be one of the best teams in football. Anything short would probably leave them without the upside they need to beat the Chiefs and Ravens in January.
It remains to be seen if Newton is capable of returning to elite form, but he’s drawn nothing but positive reviews from his new coaches thus far in his Patriots tenure. We’ll likely receive some idea of whether or not the 2015 NFL MVP is capable of staging a career bounce-back Sunday when he makes his New England debut against the Miami Dolphins.
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