Patriots

Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

Patriots have the NFL's toughest schedule next season

With or without Tom Brady at quarterback, those traditional complaints about the Patriots having an easy schedule will likely die down a bit next season.

Yes, there's still the AFC East for the Pats to feast on, but based on their opponents' records in 2019, New England has the NFL's toughest schedule in 2020. 

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Patriots opponents had a .537 winning percentage in 2019. Dates and times will be released as usual in mid-April, but the opponents have been known for a while and they include the two Super Bowl teams (the champion Kansas City Chiefs on the road and the runner-up San Francisco 49ers at home) and five other games against teams that made the playoffs (the Buffalo Bills home and away, at the Seattle Seahawks, at the Houston Texans and home vs. the Baltimore Ravens).

The Pats are matched up with the AFC West and NFC West for non-division opponents, which throws some coast-to-coast trips in the mix. It also puts New England's AFC East rivals right up there with the toughest schedules, as well, with the Jets second, the Miami Dolphins third and the Bills the fifth-toughest. 

The team with the easiest schedule next season? It's the one that won the most regular-season games (14) last season and earned the AFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs: the Baltimore Ravens. Their opponents had a combined .437 winning percentage last season. 

NFL Rumors: Patriots held video conference with QB prospect James Morgan

NFL Rumors: Patriots held video conference with QB prospect James Morgan

The New England Patriots once again may be looking to add a quarterback who isn't near the top of many 2020 NFL Draft boards.

According to ESPN's Mike Reiss, the Patriots recently held a video conference with Florida International quarterback James Morgan. New England reportedly has been one of many teams eyeing the under-the-radar prospect.

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Reiss writes:

With only 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer on the depth chart, the Patriots almost certainly will add a rookie quarterback. The question is when.

They will cast a wide net, as usual. One example: League sources say Florida International quarterback James Morgan had a videoconference meeting with the team. Morgan, who grew up in Green Bay and naturally modeled his game after Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre, is an intriguing prospect who scouts say performed well in the East-West Shrine Game.

Morgan spent two years at Bowling Green State University and his next two at FIU. In 2019, he completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,585 yards, 14 touchdowns, and five interceptions. In his previous season, he set a school-record with 26 touchdown passes.

While the Patriots selecting Morgan wouldn't be the sexiest pick of the draft, it wouldn't be a huge surprise. After all, they have some experience drafting under-the-radar QBs in the later rounds. That strategy has worked out OK for Bill Belichick and Co. in the past.

For Phil Perry's latest mock and more information you need to know heading into the 2020 draft, check out the Next Pats Podcast below:

NFL Rumors: Tom Brady was 'Belichick'd out' after 20 years with Patriots

NFL Rumors: Tom Brady was 'Belichick'd out' after 20 years with Patriots

Since Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago, there's been plenty of speculation about why he made the stunning decision to end his New England Patriots tenure.

Perhaps it's as simple as Brady wanting a change of scenery after 20 years in Foxboro. Or maybe it was about the Patriots' lack of offensive firepower, which was evident throughout the 2020 campaign.

New England didn't exactly go all out to keep their six-time Super Bowl champion QB, either. As our own Tom E. Curran has noted, the Patriots made it clear to Brady over the last few years they weren't in it with him for the long-haul anymore.

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Another popular theory, however, is Brady had enough of Bill Belichick's strict coaching style. ESPN's Ian O'Connor added fuel to that fire Sunday in an article that documents the Buccaneers' pursuit of Brady in free agency. O'Connor notes Brady was "Belichick'd out" after 20 years and wanted to play for a player's coach like Bruce Arians.

Here's the full excerpt from O'Connor's piece:

Measured against Belichick, Arians is a stand-up comic with a funny-looking cap and a strange way of managing defeat. "Win or lose, we booze," is Arians' oft-stated philosophy. Though people close to Brady believe that he was looking for a little more humanity in his coaching ("Tom was Belichick'd out after 20 years," said one friend), and that Arians' let's-grab-a-couple-beers-and-sneak-in-nine-holes approach will be a welcome change, some league officials who know all parties wonder how Brady will adjust to a head coach who doesn't quite match Belichick's maniacal hours or attention to detail.

Arians' style is a complete 180 from Belichick's, so it's certainly going to be interesting to see how Brady fits in an entirely different environment. It'll either be a breath of fresh air for the 42-year-old QB, or he'll soon find out that the grass is always greener on the other side.

As for how Belichick and the Patriots will proceed without Brady, that remains to be seen. As of now, it looks like they'll roll with 2019 fourth-round draft pick Jarrett Stidham. They also have veteran Brian Hoyer in the QB room (again) and could look to add another young arm via the 2020 NFL Draft.