Stephen A. Smith hasn’t had much faith in the New England Patriots for most of the 2021 NFL season.
Smith has expressed on numerous episodes of ESPN’s “First Take” that he doesn’t believe the Patriots are contenders. He has doubted them time and time again.
And now, Smith is changing his mind.
In light of New England’s three-game win streak, Smith seems to be coming to terms with the fact that the Patriots aren’t a team to be dismissed this season. They’re picking up momentum.
“I’ve changed my thinking on the New England Patriots,” Smith said Thursday on “First Take.” “I have to say that I can’t deny it. The defense is real — top five in points allowed, top 10 in yards allowed. I believe in them, their experience, the way they’re exceptionally coached.”
Check out Smith’s full take below.
Smith argued heavily that Bill Belichick has shaped up the defense wonderfully. He also made a point to acknowledge that Belichick knows what he’s doing and has the Super Bowl rings to prove it.
In terms of Mac Jones and New England’s offense, Smith isn’t surprised by how well the rookie quarterback is fitting into the Patriots’ system given his Alabama experience and championship pedigree. Jones’ transition from Nick Saban to Belichick clearly is working.
“I lean on the expertise of Bill Belichick the way that he’s got the defense rolling,” Smith said. “How opportunistic they are.”
The Patriots’ 27-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers played a huge role in Smith’s change of opinion, especially given his prediction that New England would lose to LA. The Patriots’ defense came up strong again in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers, with three picks off quarterback Sam Darnold.
Moving forward, Smith believes the Patriots have a good chance to advance further than the Cleveland Browns, their opponent this Sunday in Week 10 at Gillette Stadium, in part because of New England’s schedule.