The Patriots had a season to forget in 2020 in their first campaign in the post-Tom Brady era — TB12 was on the roster from 1999 through 2019. The Patriots went from having one of the best quarterbacks in the league to one of the worst in Cam Newton. The Patriots were also put in an extremely tough position before the season even started when an NFL-high eight players opted out because of COVID-19 concerns. New England failed to win the AFC East for the first time since 2008, which was the last time it played without Brady after he tore his ACL in the season opener. The Patriots also missed the playoffs (+140) for the first time since 2008 after finishing with a 7-9 record (7-9 ATS) last season. New England won five fewer games in 2020, which means it fell one winning season short of matching Dallas’ NFL-best 20-year stretch with a winning record from 1966-1985.
The Patriots’ top-ranked defense from 2019 dropped off a bit, but they still allowed the seventh-fewest points per game (22.1). Their offense scored the sixth-fewest points per game (20.4) so it’s no surprise they finished 11-5 toward unders last season. New England finished 3-4 in one-score contests and 1-3 in games decided by three scores or more, and it had the league’s 14th-worst point differential (-27).
New England’s 2021 win total (9.5) fell by one win after a disappointing first season without Brady at quarterback. The Patriots fell below their 2020 win total by 3.5 victories and they officially finished below their total with their sixth loss of the season to the Texans in Week 11. Entering this season, I have the Patriots power rated as the 17th-best team in the NFL (+3500 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the 10th-best team in the AFC (+1600 to win the conference), and as the third-best team in the AFC East (+350).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|2||@New York Jets||-3||1|
|3||New Orleans Saints||+1||1|
|4||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+3.5||8:20|
|7||New York Jets||-6||1|
|8||@Los Angeles Chargers||+2.5||4:05|
|11||@Atlanta Falcons||+1.5||8:20 (Thurs)|
|13||@Buffalo Bills||+7||8:15 (Mon)|
The Patriots didn’t get many favors from the schedule-makers, and they’ll need to make hay early with five matchups against teams lined at 7.5 wins or worse (Jets x2, Texans, Panthers, and Falcons) in the first 11 weeks of the season. They also get five home games in the first seven weeks of the season, and their four toughest matchups in that span (Dolphins, Saints, Bucs, Cowboys) will be played at Foxborough. New England is one of seven teams to face a rookie head coach on Thursday Night Football, but it will also be a short-week road game against the Falcons and Arthur Smith in Week 11.
The Patriots will face the 16th-toughest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football). They also have a league-high three games against opponents coming off bye weeks when they host the Jets in Week 7 before traveling to face the Chargers in Week 8 and the Colts in Week 15. Neither New England nor Indianapolis will get an advantage in its Week 15 matchup since both teams will be coming off its bye week. At least New England’s Week 14 bye will break up its toughest stretch of games in Weeks 12-16 when they take on the Titans, Bills (x2), and Colts, who are each lined at 9+ wins.
Key Off-season Moves
|Nelson Agholor (WR)||Mac Jones (QB)||Rex Burkhead (RB, Hou)|
|Kendrick Bourne (WR)||Christian Barmore (DT)||Damiere Byrd (WR, Chi)|
|Hunter Henry (TE)||Ronnie Perkins (DE)||Ryan Izzo (TE, Hou)|
|Jonnu Smith (TE)||Rhamondre Stevenson (RB)||Marcus Cannon (OT, Hou)|
|Trent Brown (OT)||Joe Thuney (OG, KC)|
|Ted Karras (C)||Adam Butler (DT, Mia)|
|Davon Godchaux (DT)||Jason McCourty (DB, Mia)|
|Henry Anderson (DT)||Patrick Chung (S, retired)|
|Matt Judon (LB)||Terrence Brooks (FS, Hou)|
|Kyle Van Noy (LB)||Julian Edelman (WR, retired)|
|Jalen Mills (CB)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||9.5 (+110/-130)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 9 (-143) in late March to 9.5 (+110)
Super Bowl: +3000 in early February to +3500
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Patriots had one of the league’s worst receiving corps last year but they totally revamped their passing attack this off-season by signing Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, and Kendrick Bourne. They followed up a busy free agency period by drafting Alabama QB Mac Jones at No. 15 to be the eventual predecessor to Cam Newton, whom they somewhat surprisingly brought back after an ugly 2020 campaign. Cam has been getting some positive buzz this off-season after a turbulent first season with the Patriots as he rebuilds his throwing motion. An optimist would grade his 2020 season on a curve because of his poor receiving corps and his COVID-19 diagnosis.
The Patriots entered last season behind the eight-ball with a league-high eight opt-outs due to COVID-19 concerns. New England will get LB Dont’a Hightower back this season after he opted out last season, and the Patriots could have one of the league’s better defensive units after signing OLB Matt Judon, CB Jalen Mills, and DT Davon Godchaux in free agency. The defense held it together last season despite their offense consistently putting them in bad spots, which is something that never happened with Tom Brady at quarterback.
The Patriots still have one of the league’s best coaches in Bill Belichick who is, no doubt, motivated after finishing under double-digit wins for the first time since 2002. He’s also watched Brady hoist his first Lombardi Trophy without him, which spurred the usually thrifty Patriots into extravagant spenders this off-season ($12 million per year for Agholor, WTF!). New England muscled out a seven-win campaign despite finishing sixth-worst in points per game and yards per game.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Patriots figure to be right back in the mix of things in the AFC if they can get adequate quarterback play, but that certainly isn’t a given based on Cam’s declining play and with a rookie behind him. Cam threw for just eight touchdowns last season in 15 starts while averaging a miserable 177.1 passing yards per game. OC Josh McDaniels was actively hiding Cam and this Patriots’ passing attack at points last season, and Jarrett Stidham relieved Newton in three losses last season when the Patriots couldn’t reach double-digit points. Meanwhile, Jones comes to the league with just 17 starts under his belt while playing behind an elite O-line with one of the best receiving corps in college football history.
There’s no denying that Belichick is one of the best, if not the best, to ever roam the NFL sidelines as a head coach, but his track record without Brady is shaky to say the least. His win total record now sits at 2-6 in his eight seasons without Brady as his starting quarterback, which pales in comparison to his 14-2-2 record in 18 seasons with Brady at quarterback. The Patriots will have higher win totals and higher expectations with Belichick on the sidelines, but it’s still the players who have to live up to those lofty goals and they fell well short without Brady last season.
Notable Player Props
Hunter Henry: receiving yards (560.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (545)
Best-Case Scenario: Henry and Jonnu Smith are able to coexist at tight end and Mac Jones gets onto the field early enough to elevate this passing attack from its lowly status from 2020.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Henry plays second fiddle to Smith in the offense and Cam Newton starts for longer than expected and he holds the passing game back a bit.
Damien Harris: rushing yards (845.5), most rushing yards (+6500), OPOY (+5000)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (880)
- Best-Case Scenario: After averaging 5.0 YPC in his first real NFL action in 2020, Harris leaves no doubt that he’s New England’s top runner with his first 1000-yard rushing season.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Harris leads the backfield in carries but it doesn’t mean much with Sony Michel and Rhamondre Stevenson getting their fair share of carries each week.
New England Patriots to win Super Bowl LVI (+5000, William Hill, posted on Feb. 8). Risk .5 units to win 25 units — I gave out the Patriots to win the Super Bowl at long odds in early February because I figured Bill Belichick would aggressively improve their roster after 2020. I didn’t quite see them going hog wild like they did this off-season when they added Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor, Trent Brown, Matthew Judon, and Jalen Mills among others. The Patriots will also get Dont’a defensive units. I’d feel a lot better about this wager if they’d brought in another veteran QB instead of re-signing Cam Newton, but at least they drafted Mac Jones to be the eventual heir to the position. The quarterback position will likely hold the Patriots back from making noise in the playoffs this season but this roster is strong enough to make a deep run if Cam and/or Mac can exceed expectations.
New England Patriots over nine wins (-140, FanDuel) — See above.