It’s never too early to look ahead to next football season.
So much can change from mid-February through late-April — with coaching changes, player retirements, free agency and the NFL draft — but it’s still fun to forecast how teams will attack their offseason and hear how bookmakers truly perceive them.
Conventional wisdom says the Pats will improve in 2021 with the return of defensive veterans Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung. My guess is that head coach Bill Belichick also will do his best to improve the quarterback position. It’s a must.
I spoke with WynnBET senior trading manager Alan Berg about New England’s near future. Most NFL win totals don’t come out for at two least months, but Berg is not one to turn down a challenge.
“Fortunately, I don’t have to put these up immediately,” he joked. “Belichick could also start to just rip things apart and go full scale with this whole rebuild process. Bottom line, they need talent. That’s what it boils down to. It’s the reason Tom Brady left. The Patriots went after all those Super Bowl titles at the end and mortgaged a little bit of their future here and there.”
So what’s the Over/Under for Patriots wins?
“First glance I would probably make the number 7.5 (wins),” Berg said. “That’s the first number that pops into my head. That being said, I would not be ashamed at all to move to 8 as fast as possible because of how much respect I have for Belichick. But you have to have players to win.
“The Bills, Dolphins and Jets are all rising franchises. New England got away with that for years. They played average to absolutely horrible teams in their division for a long time. It’s going to be interesting to see how quickly they’ll be able to get back into the mix.”
It felt natural to loop NESN Patriots beat reporter Doug Kyed into the conversation. I bombarded Doug with betting questions when I first started two months ago, so why mess up a good thing?
“I would expect the Patriots to win more than eight games next season,” Kyed predicted. “They have the fourth-most cap space in the NFL at over $60 million. That money can go a long way even if they have to spend big on a quarterback or receiving weapons.
“The Pats won seven games last season despite having $20 million in leftover cap space and $30 million in dead cap. Now, they have their veteran opt-outs returning, plus a boatload of money to spend to improve the roster. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but with that much cap space, Belichick should be able to devise a solid offseason plan to significantly improve his team.”
Personally, I can’t imagine Belichick taking last season’s failures all that well. The organizational frustration is also compounded by Brady’s amazing success with a brand new squad. It’s just hard to imagine Belichick pulling the pin at age 68 and tearing down all the walls. He’s got to ride this thing down to the rim.
At the end of the day, most teams live and die with the quarterback position. And I saw enough from Cam Newton to know that he’s not the missing puzzle piece that will complete the Pats’ return to contention. If they can find somebody that can actually throw the ball 25 yards with accuracy, it’ll open up the entire offense.
I’m more optimistic than Berg at this point, but he’s the one who has to brace for bettors trying to win money at his sportsbook. And remember, a Vegas bookmaker speaks with his wallet, not his heart.