The biggest story of this past NFL offseason – other than coronavirus changes – was the decision of quarterback Tom Brady, the six-time Super Bowl champion and three-time NFL MVP, leaving the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Patriots Season Without Tom Brady | 2020 NFL Expert Analysis
While Brady’s Bucs should make the playoffs and in theory have a shot at playing in Super Bowl 55, which is being held in Tampa in early February, the Patriots are likely to see several incredible streaks end as they enter Week 13 at 5-6.
The Pats’ 19 consecutive winning seasons is the longest such streak since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. It trails only the Dallas Cowboys, who had 20 straight winning seasons from 1966 through 1985, for the all-time record. New England has won at least 10 games for 17 consecutive seasons. The 2019 Pats set that record, moving past San Francisco (16) for the most consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins.
New England has won the AFC East – and thus made the playoffs – every year since 2009 but that’s clearly going to end with Buffalo at 8-3 and with a three-game lead. New England probably won’t even finish second with the Miami Dolphins at 7-4.
With Cam Newton often struggling at quarterback, the Patriots have been outscored 56-21 in the first quarter this season, and Bill Belichick was asked what he might be able to work on in practice to improve it: “Honestly, if I had the answer, I would have done it 10 weeks ago.”
The only first-quarter points so far for New England: A Devin McCourty pick-six in Week 2, a Cam Newton touchdown run in Week 9 and a Damien Harris touchdown run in Week 11. The Patriots’ first-quarter scoring average of 1.9 points per game ranks dead last in the league, a full point behind the 31st-place Chicago Bears (2.9). The Miami Dolphins rank first with 8.2 points per first quarter.
A lack of weapons has been glaring all season, while the team carries one of the worst offensive units in the league. New England is No. 22 in yards per game (347) and they rank No. 27 in points per game (20.8). Damiere Byrd is the leading receiver (502 yards, 1 TD), Damien Harris is the leading back (561 yards, 2 TDs) and Ryan Izzo is the leading tight end (193 yards). Not exactly a scary trio, although Harris isn’t bad.
New England did beat Arizona last week 20-17 to keep its slim Wild-Card hopes alive, but Newton had one of the worst passing performances in franchise history — 9-of-18 for 84 yards, with two picks. His second interception, which came with five minutes left on the game, nearly cost the Patriots a win. But Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a field goal attempt on the Arizona drive that followed Newton’s interception.
Newton’s biggest play came with his legs when he ran 14 yards on third-and-13 on the game-winning drive. Belichick has no plans of yet to look at second-year QB Jarrett Stidham. In his NFL regular-season career, Stidham has completed just 48.1 percent of his 23 pass attempts over five games for 138 yards and also threw just one touchdown compared to four interceptions.
“We’ve won three of our last four games,” the coach said of sticking with Newton. “Hopefully we can continue to play good football on offense, defense and special teams and have a chance of being competitive this week and moving forward.”
New England can’t afford a loss this week at a struggling Chargers team with the game currently a pick’em at Mybookie. The Patriots and Chargers will meet for the first time since the 2018 AFC Divisional Playoff on Jan. 13, 2019, at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots earned a 41-28 victory that sent them to their eighth straight AFC Championship Game.
In addition, it will be the Patriots first road game against the Chargers in Los Angeles since Oct. 8, 1960, when the Chargers entered the American Football League as the Los Angeles Chargers for one year before moving to San Diego in 1961. New England leads the regular season series by a 22-14-2 margin. The teams have met four times in the postseason with the Patriots holding a 3-1 edge.
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