Will Patriots suffer similar fate as Broncos have post-Peyton Manning?

Will Patriots suffer similar fate as Broncos have post-Peyton Manning?

Editor’s note: In the coming weeks our Patriots insiders will be speaking with beat writers from around the NFL to get an outside view on what the future holds for the Patriots. Today’s team: The Denver Broncos with Ryan O'Halloran of the Denver Post.

The Denver Broncos took a chance on an aging Peyton Manning before the 2012 season and it paid huge dividends.

Manning played the final four seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Broncos, and Denver made the playoffs each year, highlighted by two Super Bowl appearances.

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The legendary quarterback retired after winning Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season, and the Broncos have yet to fully recover. Denver has failed to reach the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, and oddsmakers don't expect the Broncos to end that postseason appearance drought in 2020.

The New England Patriots soon could be in a similar situation.

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady recently left the Patriots in free agency after playing the first 20 years of his career and winning six Super Bowl titles with the franchise. Like the Broncos after Manning's exit, the Patriots likely will turn to a young quarterback to lead the offense.

Will the Patriots suffer the same fate as the Broncos have post-Manning and struggle to make the playoffs?

"Maybe there's that initial little backtrack, which is understandable," O'Halloran told our Patriots insider Phil Perry. "But I think the Patriots are probably constructed better than the Broncos at that point with the continuity of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, and Jarrett Stidham at least having been there for a year, if he ends up being the starter, or Brian Hoyer being a veteran.

"The Broncos, I think the real thing for them was Gary Kubiak retired a year after Manning retired, for health reasons, and that started a cycle they're still trying to get out of, having missed the playoffs four straight years."

The quarterback of the present, and potentially the future, for the Broncos is Drew Lock. He had a very good finish to his rookie season in 2019, and after the Broncos drafted two of the best wide receivers in the 2020 class in Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Penn State's KJ Hamler, expectations for Denver's offense are high entering 2020.

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"(Lock) deserves to be the guy, and he is the guy, for this year," O'Halloran said. "All bets are off, I think, because it's a second-round contract. If he struggles, then you go back to the drawing board. He went 4-1 as a starter down the stretch last season, granted it was the equivalent of NFL garbage time, but he showed mobility, he showed a willingness to throw into traffic, and throw guys open and make plays on the run.

"I think what you saw, especially, was guys rallied around him, saying, hey, this could be their quarterback for the next couple years, and definitely in 2020. So, I think he gave a lot of reason for optimism, while also saying, OK, he has to learn a new offense from (offensive coordinator) Pat Shurmur, he has a new quarterbacks coach in Mike Shula, and a lot of new players he has to learn without the benefit of an offseason program."

Lock will get an early challenge from the Patriots defense in 2020. Denver is scheduled to visit Gillette Stadium in Week 5. Fortunately for the Broncos, they play on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 4, so they'll have a few extra days to prepare for their matchup with the Patriots.

Is Antonio Brown still angling for Patriots return despite Tom Brady's exit?

Is Antonio Brown still angling for Patriots return despite Tom Brady's exit?

Wherever Tom Brady goes, Antonio Brown will try to follow. That was the expectation, anyway.

But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly aren't interested in signing the free agent wide receiver, who is under NFL investigation for multiple allegations of sexual assault and misconduct and has yet to be cleared to play in 2020.

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So, might Brown try to return to the team he last played for instead? The wideout raised a few eyebrows Wednesday by posting an Instagram photo of himself in a New England Patriots uniform with an alarm emoji as the caption.

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Either Brown is in a nostalgic mood, or he's sending a signal to the Patriots that he wants to return to New England.

Patriots running back Brandon Bolden replied to Brown's post with three 😤 (snorting) emojis, so perhaps he wouldn't mind this development.

While Brady is long gone, Brown may be intrigued by teaming up with new Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, who's aiming to return to Pro Bowl form in 2020 after an injury-shortened 2019 season.

Brown's post also could be another attempt to keep his name in the NFL conversation, as the 31-year-old has done throughout the offseason by posting workout videos and photos and film clips of his past accomplishments.

It seems unlikely the Patriots would re-sign Brown considering he lasted less than two weeks with the team last September, but we suppose you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.

Randy Moss claims he'd catch this many TDs in his prime with Patrick Mahomes

Randy Moss claims he'd catch this many TDs in his prime with Patrick Mahomes

Randy Moss and Tom Brady were a record-setting connection for the New England Patriots during the 2007 season. But would Moss in his prime catch more touchdown passes from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes than the 23 he hauled in from Brady in that nearly perfect campaign?

Moss thinks so.

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The Hall of Fame wide receiver recently was asked how many receiving touchdowns he'd score in one season if Mahomes was his quarterback. You might be surprised by his answer.

“In my prime with Patrick Mahomes, being able to buy time? I’m saying 30,” Moss said on ESPN morning show "Get Up!" earlier this week. “I’m saying 30 touchdowns to set the mark and really set it at a high level, and I’m not joking by saying that."

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Moss in his prime with a quarterback as talented as Mahomes would've been amazing to watch, but let's not forget about what him and Brady accomplished in 2007. 

Brady set a single-season record with 50 touchdown passes, while Moss broke San Francisco 49ers legend Jerry Rice's receiving TD record with 23 scores. Brady and Moss each needed two TDs apiece entering the regular season finale versus the New York Giants, and a late deep pass down the right sideline for Moss ultimately sealed the records for both players.

Mahomes is one of three players, along with Brady and Peyton Manning, to throw 50 or more touchdown passes in one season. Manning holds the record with 55 set in 2013. The Chiefs quarterback tossed 50 scores in 2018 and was named league MVP. He does a pretty good job spreading his touchdowns around to several different players. Tyreek Hill was Kansas City's leader in receiving touchdowns with 12 in 2018. Tight end Travis Kelce (10 TDs) was the only other player with more than seven. 

Chiefs fans should see plenty more touchdowns from Mahomes after the reigning Super Bowl MVP reportedly agreed to a 10-year contract extension that is the richest in pro sports history.