With the Acquisition of QB Cam Newton are the New England Patriots Now Playoff Contenders Again?
On June 28th the New England Patriots made a splash in the free agent market signing the 2015 NFL MVP, QB Cam Newton to a one-year deal. To many around the sports world this was a no brainer. Obviously, the loss of the franchise’s greatest QB, Tom Brady, who signed with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers in the offseason, played a huge role in this. Without Tom Brady on the roster for the first time since 2000 and the QB depth chart previously consisting of Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer, the Patriots needed to do something. Cam Newton seems to be Bill Belicheck’s answer to the weak QB camp New England boasted before Newton’s one-year deal.
But does the signing of Cam Newton put the Patriots right back into playoff contention? I believe it does not and predict the New England Patriots will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Here is why I believe this and why people are overreacting to this deal:
The overreaction to this deal is real. Upon Newton’s signing with the Patriots, their season future odds have changed quite a bit (per Bovada, odds below). Before the Newton deal, the Patriots were at +2500 to win Super Bowl 55 and now after the signing, are currently sitting around +1600. Not only Super Bowl odds have changed however. To win the AFC odds went from +1200 to now +700. To win the AFC East +150 to +110 and finally to make the playoffs, which prior were set at -160 to now currently -230. Newton even carries 12-1 odds to win the 2020 NFL MVP award. Kind of crazy for an aging QB who in his last eight starts is 0-8 with a horrendous statline. In those eight straight losses, Cam threw for nine TDs, none rushing, ten INTs, and had four fumbles, two of which were lost.
Not to mention Newton has only one winning season in the NFL (2017, 11-5) since his career year in 2015 and has dealt with numerous injuries as of recent history. Newton has a laundry list of career injuries, but the most recent ones have to be the most worrisome. Since March of 2017, Newton has undergone two major surgeries on his throwing arm (shoulder specifically) and in 2019 he underwent Lisfranc surgery on his left foot. Cam has repeatedly shown he is a tough competitor, but who is to say he will ever return to his prime-form post these major surgeries.
Not only do I have major injury concerns when it comes to Cam Newton on the New England Patriots, but even more importantly the offensive weapons around him, or should I say the lack there of in Foxborough. According to PFF, the Patriots receiving corps in 2019-ranked 30th in the NFL, which only beat out the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins for the NFL’s worst spot. When a 34-year-old slot receiver in Julian Edelman is your most relaible and consistent target, who led the league in drops last season with 13, it presents quite a glaring issue. The Patriots do have quite the depth chart when it comes to the RB position and scheme to get them all involved, but they lack that workhorse back that has the ability to lead the offense down the field.
The defensive side of the ball is another major storyline during the offseason for the Patriots. After ranking number one in the NFL last season in points against (14.1/g) and giving up a franchise-low 225 points, the Pats lost many key pieces to that stellar defense this offseason. Their defense played a huge role in their 12-4 regular season record and even bolstered a NFL-best +21 turnover ratio. Sure reigning DPOY Stephon Gilmore is returning to Foxborough, but some key departures from that 2019 defense include LBs Kyle Van Noy and Jaime Collins Sr., DT Danny Shelton, and S Duron Harmon. Combined the first three players recorded 16.5 sacks and forced seven fumbles, while Harmon had two INTs and five passes defended. It is going to be hard to replace the production these four gave the Patriots in 2019.
So do I believe many are overboard for thinking the signing of Cam Newton automatically makes the Patriots playoff contenders again this year? Absolutely. This is not the Cam Newton of 2015, nor is it anywhere near the Tom Brady led Patriots teams of the past two decades. It will not be easy for Newton to come in and replace Brady in Foxborough. Expect a letdown season from the NFL’s most successful franchise over the past two decades.