Finding a consensus opinion on the 2020 New England Patriots has proven to be difficult over the last few months.
One reason for that is, for the first time in two decades, we will soon see the Patriots without legendary quarterback Tom Brady, who left the franchise as a free agent in March.
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Brady was the team's starting quarterback since 2001, and he won six Super Bowl titles in his 20 years with the franchise. Brady didn't miss many games in his career. Although, when he missed almost all of the 2008 season with a knee injury, New England went 11-5 and nearly made the playoffs. In 2016, when Brady served a four-game suspension stemming from Deflategate, the Patriots went 3-1 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett leading the offense at quarterback.
Even though the Patriots have enjoyed some success without Brady in a small sample size, most experts aren't expecting another great season from New England in 2020.
NFL.com columnist Adam Schein is included in that. He recently broke down his nine bold predictions for the upcoming season, and the first one was titled, "Patriots will collapse to a top-five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft." Here's a portion of his explanation:
The problems that ultimately led to New England's undoing down the stretch last season still exist -- in fact, they're probably even more problematic. And the Patriots no longer have the G.O.A.T. to serve as the ultimate deodorant for what stinks. The receiving corps remains underwhelming. I like the long-term upside of the two tight ends New England drafted in the third round -- Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene -- but the roster lacks a proven NFL commodity at the position. The offensive line is average at best. Same with the backfield. Defensively, the Pats went from historic during the team's 8-0 start last season to leaky in the second half of the year. And the unit lost a number of key players, including Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins.
What record does Schein see the Patriots earning in 2020?
This season in Foxborough has 5-11 written all over it. If everything breaks right. I think the Jaguars, Patriots and Giants are the three worst teams in the NFL right now.
Even for a bold predictions piece, this is quite bold.
The Patriots simply have too much talent to finish 5-11.
The defense did struggle at times against better competition last season, but this unit is still loaded with talented veteran players, including the league's best secondary and the reigning AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner in cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
The offensive line was among the league's best in 2018, and it took a step back last season mostly because of injuries. Starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn missed a good chunk of the year with a foot injury, and starting center David Andrews missed the entire campaign due to blood clots. If healthy, this o-line should be among the 10 best in the league, especially if right guard Shaq Mason returns to his elite form after a down 2019 season.
The offense as a whole lacks a dominant playmaker, but few teams have more depth at running back than the Patriots. The receiving corps is a bit underrated, too, and this group should be plenty productive if Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and N'Keal Harry are healthy in 2020.
Quarterback is the biggest question mark. Jarrett Stidham impressed as a rookie last year during training camp, the preseason and regular season practices. His teammates and former coaches have been singing his praises throughout the offseason, too. That said, he's only thrown four career regular season passes, so the 2019 fourth-round draft pick very much is still an unknown. Stidham has never started an NFL game, and the pressure that comes with being the guy to replace a legend like Brady is going to be challenging.
Will the Patriots extend their streak of winning 10-plus games in 2020? You could make a strong case for why that run will end. You also could argue New England's 11-year postseason appearance streak will end. But to predict the Patriots will finish 5-11 and/or be one of the league's worst teams is just a little too bold (even for bold predictions) when you look at the talent on the roster and the quality of the coaching staff.