The New England Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory.
After a pitiful showing Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7, New England dropped its third-straight game for the first time since 2002, scoring 12 points or fewer in all three of those contests.
Cam Newton was benched after three interceptions, and the showing had everyone from retired Patriots players, former AFC East coaches and talking heads of sports media speculating on what is going on at Gillette Stadium.
Of course, Stephen A. Smith was among them, and in Monday’s episode of ESPN’s “First Take,” he added his two cents.
“Oh it’s panic time,” Smith said. “It’s definitely panic time, I don’t think there’s any question about that when you consider what we’re witnessing going on in the AFC, combined with what the Buffalo Bills are playing combined with he way the New England Patriots look. I feel sorry for the Patriots. I’m worried about Cam. I feel bad for the Patriots because about nine different defensive players don’t want to show up because of COVID-19. And then you’ve got a situation where you have to stop practices and shut down facilities on at least two or three occasions for crying out loud. I’m looking at all of those things, with a new quarterback, and I’m like damn. Regardless of how great Bill Belichick is, that is a lot to overcome when practices are interrupted and you can’t do what you normally do.”
Smith pointed out Newton’s downfall is his ability as a passer in the league, save for his MVP season, despite his athleticism and running abilities. Not to mention, Smith added, the Patriots historically lack talent at the receiving position.
“I’m looking at that, I’m looking at the injuries, I’m looking at the guys that didn’t show up because of COVID-19, I’m looking at the fact that you’re behind the eight ball in the AFC East because Buffalo is ascending,” Smith said. “And on top of that you look at the rest of the AFC: Balitmore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, of course Kansas City, the Chargers can’t be slept on, etc.
“The way it’s looking right now they might not even make the playoffs.”