The 2020 NFL season largely was a frustrating grind for the New England Patriots, who finished below .500 for the first time since the 2000 campaign.
Max Kellerman, for one, is expecting a quick turnaround in Foxboro.
Kellerman and the rest of the “First Take” panel last week were tasked with predicting the AFC East winner for the upcoming season. An active offseason, a healthy Cam Newton and the return to normalcy has Kellerman high on Bill Belichick’s team.
” … If you forced me to pick right now, I’m gonna say the Patriots,” Kellerman said on ESPN. “Let’s keep in mind that was a seven-win team two plays away from being a nine-win team. Now you got that extra game this year, right? Unless there’s a tie, you’re going to be either above or below .500. A 9-8ish team, an 8-9ish team. That’s what the Patriots were underneath it all last year. But what’s happened? They brought in weapons which Tom Brady had none of and neither did Cam Newton. Now they have respectable weapons at receiver and tight end.
“What else happened? Remember how many guys off the defense they lost at the beginning of last year? And Belichick is all about preparation and game-planning and putting people in the right position. They didn’t have a preseason. Their practice facility was shut down last year and then Cam got COVID. Cam said he’s the healthiest he’s been in half a decade now, five seasons. Cam now understands the playbook, has been there for a year. A seven-win team two wins away from nine wins last year. I’m looking at the Patriots, they could win 10, maybe 11 games this year. Who knows? Belichick will be motivated after what Brady just did, after watching the playoffs. I think the Patriots eke out a very tough division.”
While Kellerman is expecting to see a motivated Belichick, there might not be a more driven member of the Patriots this season than Newton. The 32-year-old signal-caller recently acknowledged it’s “put up or shut up” time at this stage in his career.