Patriots

Browns better than Patriots in 2020? Former NFL player makes bold claim

Browns better than Patriots in 2020? Former NFL player makes bold claim

The New England Patriots have spent much of the last 20 years at the summit of the NFL -- the most successful franchise of this century. Over that same time, the Cleveland Browns have been one of the league's worst teams, with only a single postseason appearance since 2000.

Could these teams begin to switch places in 2020?

Last season was supposed to be the Browns' return to the spotlight, and the playoffs. Expectations were high for quarterback Baker Mayfield, star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and an up-and-coming defense. Instead, Cleveland got off to a horrible start in 2019, losing six of their first eight games, including a Week 7 loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. 

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Despite all that unfolded in Cleveland last season, many experts are still high on the Browns' chances in 2020. In fact, one of them is even willing to predict the Patriots will be worse than the Browns.

“When you look at those two teams and the difference in the trajectory of what we feel they’ll be, I believe that the Browns will be a better football team than the New England Patriots this year," ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark said on the "Get Up" morning show earlier this week. 

"I believe that the Browns young quarterback (Baker Mayfield) will play better than the young quarterback in New England. And when you put all of these things together, that leaves Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots on the outside of the playoff picture and (Browns coach) Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns in.”

Oddsmakers don't agree with Clark. 

The Browns are underdogs to reach the playoffs with +137 odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook, while the Patriots are expected to make the postseason at -177 odds.

It's also hard to trust the Browns until they show the mental toughness required to play football into January. Bad penalties, turnovers, poor coaching and other avoidable mistakes have plagued the Browns for many years, and last season was no different.

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Another factor working against the Browns is their division. The AFC North is not a joke.

The reigning division champion Baltimore Ravens went 14-2 last year and should again be a top Super Bowl contender. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been a playoff team for much of the last two decades, and they'll be aided by the healthy return of veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who missed most of 2019 due to injury. The Cincinnati Bengals are the worst team in the division, but selecting Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft has renewed hope in Cincy.

It's not inconceivable for the Browns to be better than the Patriots in 2020. The Patriots will have plenty of challenges, too, most notably adjusting to a new starting quarterback. New England's schedule also is among the toughest in the league, and the defense lost several key players in free agency.

Still, it's hard to bet against a Belichick team, especially when the other team in the conversation is the Browns. The smart money in this debate is with the Patriots.

Don't proclaim Patriots' dynasty over, even with Cam Newton replacing Tom Brady

Don't proclaim Patriots' dynasty over, even with Cam Newton replacing Tom Brady

You haven’t truly arrived as a member of the Boston sports media until you’ve picked up your pen or microphone and declared the Patriots' dynasty dead.

Lots of people you know and love have done this, but I believe I hold the record. And it can’t be broken: In January 2000, before Bill Belichick was even hired, I said there would be no dynasty if Belichick got the job.

So there. See if you can top that.

Over the last 20 years, there have been numerous warnings, in the media and beyond, of big trouble on the Patriots’ horizon. Trades, defections, defeats, retirements, scandals, new and talented challengers. One of those things had to provide the last and final word for this historic run.

Right?

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We already know what didn’t do it: The Drew Bledsoe trade; the Lawyer Milloy release; Adam Vinatieri signing with the Colts; Spygate and the almost-perfect season; Tom Brady, age 31, tearing his ACL and MCL; the 2009 exodus (Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Josh McDaniels, Scott Pioli); the two seasons of New York Jets contention (feel free to place laughing emojis and memes here); Deflategate; the drafting, anointing, and eventual trade of Jimmy Garoppolo; the Super Bowl disappearance of Malcolm Butler; and Brady, age 41, pleading the Fifth when asked if Belichick and Robert Kraft appreciate him enough.

And so here we are, at yet another tension point on this two-decades-long ride. Brady, who will be 43 next month, is gone. Cam Newton, a dozen years younger, is here.

You tell me: Is the dynasty finally over now?

Teams aren’t supposed to be able to survive this. Brady, the best quarterback to ever play, took a lot of championship hard drive with him to Florida. The Brady-to-Newton transfer seems like the work of a rookie scriptwriter: The quarterback who has passed for more touchdowns than anyone (regular season and playoffs) is replaced by the quarterback who has rushed for more touchdowns than anyone at the position… and he’s on New England’s books for fewer dollars than Brian Hoyer.

I don’t know if Newton will be able to overcome his shoulder and foot injuries. But what should be obvious to anyone watching is that Belichick doesn’t have any “bridge year” in him. We’ll all have to keep waiting for his dynasty concession speech. It’s never going to happen.

Really, we all should have seen this one coming. Player restoration is something Belichick is always trying to do. Especially at bargain prices. He’s done it at almost every position except for quarterback, and that’s because this was his first opportunity to do it there in 20 years.

If you use Belichick’s history as a guide, you should also be expecting something else when the preseason begins. Change. Newton is not going to be asked to run the same offense as Brady. In fact, I won’t be surprised if the Patriots’ attack looks, at times, like the Patriots of the late 1970s. That is, a team whose identity is tied to a fierce running game, including the quarterback.

This is where the combination of Belichick’s experience and willingness to adapt makes his year-to-year team vision so interesting and impossible to duplicate.

I’m not just talking about schemes, but players, too. For those who wonder if he and Newton can coexist, just consider the two best players he’s coached, Lawrence Taylor and Brady. Now think about all the different personalities, styles, and societal changes he’s seen between 1981 — when LT was a rookie — and now.

Show me a great coach and I’ll show you a great teacher. Show me a great teacher and I’ll show you someone who knows how to reach the so-called unreachable.

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Frankly, I think Belichick loves what’s happened this spring. The Bills have been installed as division favorites, and Patriots departures — Brady and several others — have forced Belichick and his staff to reimagine what they’re doing. Keep in mind, that’s like asking Bruno Mars to perform. You know, that’s just what he does.

What’s so odd about this situation is that no part of it is supposed to be positive. How is it possible for Brady to leave and yet people still hesitate when you ask, “Is the dynasty over?” Then again, it shouldn’t be possible to win 78 percent of your games (162-46) during the same period in which the NFL has docked two first-round picks and a fourth. Another third-rounder will vanish in 2021.

It’s totally fair to suggest that none of the annual success can continue without Brady. He’s much older than Newton, yes, but has proven to be more durable in his 40s than Newton in his late 20s/early 30s. He’s won 10 times as many playoff games. You can’t just go from Brady to Newton and expect everything to be fine, can you?

You’re not being unreasonable if you say that Brady-for-Newton is the exchange that will finally bring the whole empire down. Or maybe it’s simply time for the league to belong to Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson now. At some point, the long run of double-digit wins has to end. The last time the Patriots didn’t do that in a season, Newton was 13 years old.

Go ahead and answer. Is it over now? Don’t worry about being wrong. You’ll never break my record.

 

Patriots fans will enjoy Cam Newton's Instagram video of workout with Mohamed Sanu

Patriots fans will enjoy Cam Newton's Instagram video of workout with Mohamed Sanu

Cam Newton is already hard at work preparing for the 2020 NFL season.

Newton and the New England Patriots reportedly have agreed to a one-year contract that could be worth as much as $7.5 million with incentives.

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The 31-year-old quarterback was on the free agent market for several months after being released by the Carolina Panthers in March. The whole league passed on him until the Patriots finally took the chance on signing him. Therefore, we should expect a highly motivated Newton entering the 2020 season. Not only does he want to prove his doubters wrong, a strong 2020 campaign would also give him a better chance to land a more lucrative contract next offseason.

Motivation was among the themes of Newton's latest Instagram video, which includes footage from his recent workout with Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu in Los Angeles. 

Check it out in the post below (WARNING: the video contains some NSFW language).

Newton is not guaranteed to win the starting quarterback job for the Patriots. He should receive tough competition from 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham, who impressed in last year's training camp and preseason.

It's still hard to bet against Newton, though. The former league MVP is clearly determined to show he's still one of the top 12 or 15 quarterbacks in pro football and get his career back on track.