The New England Patriots were getting ready for the game’s biggest stage just three years ago.
The Patriots, at that time, won the organization’s sixth Super Bowl against the Los Angeles Rams. From there, New England was knocked out of the postseason in the AFC Wild Card Game, which proved to be Tom Brady’s last in a Patriots uniform, and in the most recent 2020 season, they looked far removed from their title-contending days.
So, as Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers get ready to face Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV on Sunday, it begs the question: How far away are the Patriots from competing in another Super Bowl?
ESPN revealed timelines for all 32 teams Monday, and Patriot fans probably won’t love what The Worldwide Leader predicted for New England.
Simply, ESPN believes the Patriots are three or more years away from championship competition. It earned them a “On the upswing” categorization.
The Patriots, long considered among the league’s elite, now are ranked with the Raiders, Panthers, Washington Football Team, Broncos, Bears, Falcons, Jets, Jaguars and Giants.
Yuck. Only the Texans, Lions, Bengals and Eagles are further away, according to ESPN.
Here’s the reasoning, per ESPN:
Strategy for becoming a Super Bowl contender: After taking a one-year hit on the salary cap in 2020 to pay past bills, the Patriots are well positioned with around $60 million in projected cap space this year. They can potentially capitalize in a rare year when a significant number of teams might have to shed quality players due to a cap crunch. Using that strong financial standing to improve a roster with notable holes is where their strategy begins.
Biggest X factor: Finding the next quarterback, and then giving him the best chance for success by improving the talent at receiver and tight end. The Patriots still have Bill Belichick, one of the game’s all-time great coaches. How Belichick stocks the roster at those key areas — among others — will shine a spotlight on his personnel prowess as he attempts to return the franchise to prominence in the post-Brady years. — Mike Reiss
If that isn’t hard enough to hear, the AFC East champion Bills join the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Packers as teams ESPN believes are ready to compete now.
Even another fellow AFC East rival, the Dolphins, are seen as being closer to a Super Bowl run, despite ranking behind the Saints, Seahawks, Ravens and Rams, who are considered to be one year away.