The New England Patriots have had six players opt out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports, and oddsmakers have responded accordingly.
The list of Patriots players who've reportedly opted out includes linebacker Dont'a Hightower, guard Najee Toran, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Dan Vitale, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and safety Patrick Chung. Players from many other teams also have decided to opt out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.
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These opt outs have hit the Patriots defense especially hard. The defense was supposed to be a strength of this season's team after an impressive showing in 2019, but the losses of Hightower and Chung will be very difficult to overcome. Hightower's absence is particularly tough because of his versatility, leadership and ability to make huge plays in the clutch.
New England's defense led the league in total defense, scoring defense, turnover margin and opposing QB rating last season. It also ranked second in passing defense and turnovers. Hightower and Chung opting out, combined with the departures of Kyle Van Noy, Duron Harmon, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton earlier in the offseason, will put a lot of pressure on the younger players on the Patriots defense to step up and help fill the void next season.
The Patriots were the betting favorites to win the AFC East after they signed quarterback Cam Newton a month ago, but that's no longer the case following Tuesday's news. The Buffalo Bills are now slight favorites to claim the division crown with +120 odds, while the Pats are close behind at +130 odds. The Patriots' odds to win Super Bowl LV were +1700 after Newton's signing, and now they're at +2200. New England's odds to reach the playoffs also decreased a little bit.
Here are the latest betting odds involving the Patriots, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.
To win Super Bowl: +2200
To win AFC: +1100
To win AFC East: +130
To make NFL playoffs: Yes -182, No +149
Over/under win total: Over 8.5 -143, Under 8.5 +118