The New England Patriots’ 2020-2021 Season Predictions

Despite What Most of the Football World Thinks, the Patriots Will Come Back Strong

Alexander Bingham, Contributing Writer

The 2019 NFL season was a disappointment for Patriots fans. The reigning Super Bowl champions were knocked out of championship contention through brutal back to back home losses. The Patriots lost possession of a first-round bye to the five-win division rival, Miami Dolphins, before getting knocked out of the playoffs by the sixth-seeded Tennessee Titans. The season also marked the first time the Patriots had not reached the Conference Championship since 2010. 

A prominent trend for the Patriots in 2019 was the lack of offensive production as the team finished fifteenth in the league (out of 32) in offensive yards gained. The offensive ineptitude especially hurt the team in the wild-card loss to the Titans, as despite receiving excellent field position because of their defense, the Patriots were unable to capitalize, only scoring thirteen points while turning the ball over twice. 

Only worsening the state of the franchise, Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, signed a lucrative contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Additionally, to add insult to injury, beloved tight end Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement and forced a trade to Tampa Bay to play alongside Brady. Despite the bleak narrative cast about the Patriots, fans should be optimistic for the 2020 NFL season, as the Patriots have addressed several key holes over the offseason; they will play with a more coherent offense, and the team will continue to boast an elite defense. 

First, the tight end position was a glaring weakness for the Patriots last year as the team did not find an adequate replacement for the retired Gronkowski. Instead, the franchise opted to rely on the lesser Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, and Ryan Izzo who collectively gained a measly 418 receiving yards in 2019. The lack of a receiving threat at that position allowed defenses to focus more on the team’s other receivers contributing to a lack of offensive efficiency as the Patriots finished 24th in the league for completion percentage. To solve the tight end issue, Patriots General Manager and Head Coach, Bill Belichick, selected Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. Asiasi is a very talented and athletic receiving tight end out of UCLA who should immediately boost the passing game. Some analysts have questioned the decision but according to NBC Sports Boston, NFL executives say that the Patriots, “hit a grand slam” in drafting Asiasi. The versatile and hard-working Keene should provide improvement to both the much-needed blocking and passing game in 2020. 

The Patriots have addressed several key holes over the offseason; they will play with a more coherent offense, and the team will continue to boast an elite defense. 

Last season, the Patriots were also hit hard by injuries at the offensive line and fullback positions. The team was without star full back James Develin, who was sidelined with a neck injury that eventually forced him to retire. The injury to Develin forced linebacker Elandon Roberts to cover an extra position as the team’s fullback. Over the offseason, Belichick signed veteran Dan Vitale to fill Develin’s shoes and solidify the position. Additionally, starting center David Andrews missed all of 2019 with blood clots in his lungs and starting left tackle Isiah Wynn was sidelined for eight weeks due to a case of turf toe. The Wynn injury limited the team to start Marshall Newhouse, who allowed a horrendous six sacks during his tenure. 

The numerous injuries along with the lack of talent at the tight end position hurt the team’s overall run blocking. The lack of run blocking negatively impacted the team’s running backs as the Patriots placed 25th in the league in yards per carry with 3.8.

Another issue in 2019 was that the Patriots played with an offense that lacked chemistry between Brady and many of the team’s receivers. Now that Brady is gone those receivers should flourish. Brady notoriously has very high demands of his teammates, making the offense under Brady difficult for younger players to learn. The Patriots planned heavily for star receivers Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon to have central roles in the offense, but both were released due to off the field issues. 

In an attempt to gain a veteran presence among the receiving corps, the Patriots traded for Mohammed Sanu from the Falcons midway through the season. In Sanu’s first game after being traded he hauled in an impressive 10 receptions for 81 yards before he suffered an ankle injury that derailed his year. After Sanu’s injury, Brady was forced to rely heavily on rookie receivers N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers. Despite their best efforts, the rookies failed to build a strong rapport with Brady leading to many miscommunications on the field. 

Now that Brady has left in free agency, second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham is slated as the starter. Harry and Meyers look to be the main beneficiaries of Brady’s departure as Meyers showed great chemistry with Stidham in the 2019 preseason, during which Harry was roommates with Stidham at training camp. Patriots fans should expect the trio to take huge leaps as they enter their second year on the team with strong chemistry between them.

Finally, the Patriots defense shows no signs of falling from its elite status. The team had a dominant 2019 season, leading the league in both yards and points allowed. Despite some personnel turnover, the defense led by reigning defensive player of the year, Stephon Gilmore, is still mostly intact. To further solidify an already outstanding unit, the Patriots selected the athletic and versatile safety, Kyle Dugger, out of Lenoir-Rhyne in the second round of the recent Draft. Dugger should add an interesting dimension to an already amazing defense with his athleticism and ability to play at many spots on the field.

The rest of the football world has written off the Patriots, some saying the team won’t even make the playoffs or that they ought to tank. The doubters will soon have to watch in agony as the Patriots hoist their seventh Lombardi trophy of the century, when the team led by a young offensive core and elite defense will shock the league yet again.