If Cam Newton can recapture 2018 form, Patriots should win the AFC East

If Cam Newton can recapture 2018 form, Patriots should win the AFC East

It wasn't all that long ago that Cam Newton was a good quarterback in the NFL. Very good, even.

Through the majority of the 2018 season, before a shoulder injury worsened and sapped his production, he was among the top passers in the league. 

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Consider some of these numbers...

Through Week 9 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — Newton ranked in the top five in Pro Football Focus' positively-graded throw rate. 

Through Week 9 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — he gave his receivers a chance to make plays, checking in with the eighth-lowest uncatchable pass rate, per PFF.
Through Week 9 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — PFF graded him as the 11th-best passer in football. 

Through Week 11 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — Newton had a 68.4 completion percentage. Had he stayed healthy enough to maintain that number, that would've placed him seventh in that category that season. 

Through Week 11 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — Newton had a quarterback rating of 102.7, which was seventh in the league at that time. 
Through Week 11 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — he also remained one of the premier run threats at the position, picking up 141 scramble yards on 21 scrambles (an average of 6.7 yards per non-designed rush), according to PFF. That was a slightly better average than the significantly-younger scrambling passer Dak Prescott (6.5 yards per scramble).

And that was with a right shoulder that needed surgical repairing in January following the season. His yards-per-attempt figure for the season ranked him 22nd, an indication he was not pushing the ball down the field all that often or that successfully. 

Here’s a good illustration of just how ineffective Newton was passing downfield that season. 

Newton’s shoulder should’ve been in good shape for 2019 but we hardly got a good look at him. He broke his foot in preseason, throwing off his mechanics and his arm action for the two games in which he played last season before being shut down. 

If he could play as a top-third-of-the-NFL quarterback for the majority of 2018 (with a deteriorating shoulder) then shouldn’t there exist the possibility (now that it’s been a year since the shoulder was repaired) he can recapture that form?

Understanding the price point at which Newton arrives to New England, it makes all kinds of sense to see if he can recapture that 2018 form. He doesn’t have to be an NFL MVP the way he was in 2015 in order to give the Patriots a chance. Bill Belichick still has one of the best defenses in football, and if his offensive line can stay healthy that should lead to a potent running attack. 

Add it all up, and they should be the favorites in the division, which DraftKings Sportsbook says is exactly what has happened

No surprise here, even if Newton is on a short-money deal and not exactly guaranteed to be the starter because of the uncertainty surrounding his health, but the Patriots now have better Super Bowl odds as well. 

All it would take for the Patriots to make good on those wagers would be for Newton to recapture whatever it was he had in 2018. That wasn’t all that long ago, remember. 


NFL Rumors: Patriots, RB Lamar Miller agree to one-year contract

NFL Rumors: Patriots, RB Lamar Miller agree to one-year contract

The New England Patriots added a veteran running back to their roster on Monday.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, ex-Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans RB Lamar Miller reached an agreement with the Patriots on a one-year contract.

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Miller, 29, missed the entire 2019 campaign after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason. In 2018 with Houston, he rushed for 973 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games and was named to the Pro Bowl.

Miller's most productive NFL season came in 2014 with Miami when he tallied 1,099 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

With Miller now in the fold, he joins a Patriots running back depth chart that also consists of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris. Michel underwent foot surgery in May and was placed on the PUP list earlier this month.

Fantasy football 2020: Projections for Tom Brady, other Bucs players

Fantasy football 2020: Projections for Tom Brady, other Bucs players

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski leaving the New England Patriots to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn't just send a shockwave through the NFL. It also altered the fantasy football landscape.

The fantasy values of both the Patriots and Bucs' skill players will be much different in 2020 following Brady and Gronk's departure from Foxboro. We've gone over what to expect from the go-to guys in New England's offense, so now it's time to go over Tampa's weapons.

The obvious benefactors -- at least one would think -- of Brady becoming a Buc are his primary wide receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. But will their numbers, along with Brady's, see a significant increase as expected, or should we pump the brakes on the hype?

And then there are the running back and tight end positions. Can Tampa's intriguing rookie running back take over the starting job? What can we really expect out of Gronk after a year off from football?

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Here are our projections for the Bucs' key offensive players with Brady and Gronk in the fold:

Tom Brady, QB
Projected Stats
: 4,300 yards, 29 TD, 9 INT
Projected Draft Round: 5-7

Brady is set up to be a really solid starting quarterback in fantasy football this year. That being said, those who expect Brady to put up elite numbers and draft him any higher than Round 5 are just asking to be disappointed. There are going to be some growing pains in Bruce Arians' offense. Sure, having his old pal Gronk around as a security blanket will help, but it's going to take time for the six-time Super Bowl champ to get comfortable down in Florida. There's little doubt Brady's numbers will be better in nearly every category now that he has some real weapons at his disposal, just make sure you don't reach when plenty of other QBs will do just fine in the middle rounds.

Ronald Jones II, RB
Projected Stats
: 650 yards, 4 TD
Projected Draft Round: 7-9

Jones was an OK flex play at points last season, but overall he simply hasn't been the running back Tampa Bay has hoped for these last few seasons. That led to the Bucs selecting Vanderbilt product Ke'Shawn Vaughn on Day 2 of this year's NFL Draft. Jones is the No. 1 guy heading into camp, though it doesn't look like that will be the case throughout the 2020 campaign. Wait until the mid-to-late rounds to take Jones, and maybe even consider passing entirely to take Vaughn if you're so inclined to take a Bucs RB.

Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB
Projected Stats
: 550 yards, 3 TD
Projected Draft Round: 8-10

Speaking of Vaughn, he could be a major difference-maker for the Bucs in Brady's offense this season. He rushed for 1,028 yards and nine touchdowns for Vandy last season and was pretty effective through the air too, tallying 270 yards and a TD. It's always tough to count on a rookie, but it's worth the risk and the ceiling definitely seems to be higher with Vaughn than it is for Jones. The addition of McCoy, however, makes Vaughn's fantasy outlook a bit murky.

LeSean McCoy, RB
Projected Stats
: 400 yards, 3 TD
Projected Draft Round: 8-10

It's impossible to now as of right now how the Bucs backfield is going to shape up in 2020. Although McCoy is a shell of what he once was, Bruce Arians definitely should find some sort of role for the 32-year-old veteran. The obvious question is whether that role will be more significant than Jones' or Vaughn's. If you're really that compelled to draft a Bucs running back, something I'd avoid entirely, it's a total toss-up and a matter of personal preference.

Mike Evans, WR
Projected Stats
: 75 receptions, 1,250 yards, 7 TD
Projected Draft Round: 2-3

There's no question the Brady-to-Evans connection is going to excite people heading into the new season. However, I'm somewhat skeptical about how their playing styles will mesh. Brady isn't one to take many risks, and Evans made a living out of catching Jameis Winston's ridiculous jump-balls downfield. It really is impossible to know how that'll work itself out, but nonetheless we're believers in Evans' elite talent and project him as a solid WR1 again in 2020.

Chris Godwin, WR
Projected Stats
: 90 receptions, 1,350 yards, 10 TD
Projected Draft Round: 2-3

Godwin was the breakout star of the 2019 fantasy football season as he put up absolutely ridiculous numbers with Jameis Winston under center. Now, the question is whether he can do it again with Brady. That may seem like a silly question, but again we have no clue what to expect from Brady in Arians' offense and how it will differ from what Godwin thrived in a year ago. Regardless, he definitely should be one of the first WRs off the board.

Rob Gronkowski, TE
Projected Stats
: 50 receptions, 700 yards, 5 TD
Projected Draft Round: 6-8

How do you make stat projections for a guy who took a year off from football to party in Miami and join the WWE? With injury concerns to boot, that makes drafting Gronk in fantasy football an extremely risky move. Obviously, with that high risk could come high reward as Tampa's offense has the potential to be one of the best in the entire NFL and Brady is going to look to Gronk early and often as a security blanket. Draft the former Pats tight end in the middle rounds, long after guys like Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz are off the board.

O.J. Howard, TE
Projected Stats: 25 receptions, 450 yards, 3 TD
Projected Draft Round: 8-10

The Bucs are going to run two-tight end sets in 2020, so don't think that Gronk's presence will limit Howard's production. In fact, it could even help it. Howard was a huge fantasy disappointment in 2019 and is out to prove he isn't a bust this year. There's also still a chance he gets traded to a TE-needy team and benefits from a change of scenery. Either way, you could do worse than Howard in the later rounds of your draft.