Written by Ben the Pen
WithoutCam Newton, New England probably would have been a .500 team at best. The offense had very few, if any, explosive weapons. The defense was very good last year led by the secondary, but they lost DT Danny Shelton, LB Jamie Collins, LB Kyle Van Noy and LB Elandon Roberts. Three of their top five linebackers left for free agency.
That left Jarrett Stidham as the heir apparent to Tom Brady. The company line in the offseason was that Stidham was the guy and the fact that they didn't even draft a quarterback, made it seem strange that they didn't look into the free agent market. Well, obviously they did as Newton agreed to an incentive-laden deal for one year with the Patriots according to reports. There were inklings early in June that the Patriots showed some interest in Newton and that Bill Belichick didn't rule out the possibility when he spoke with reporters on May 7, basically saying we like what we have but you never know what will happen down the road.
The real question is what Newton has left in the tank. New England is not loaded with offensive talent and Newton can't run like Lamar Jackson anymore or even Josh Allen, who has similar size. Newton hasn't played very well since his MVP year of 2015, when he threw for 3,837 yards with 35 TDs and 10 picks (59.8%) and a 99.4 quarterback rating. He did have a 94.2 quarterback rating in his last full season of 2018, throwing for 3,395 yards with 24 TDs and 13 picks. He ran for 488 yards, which is the second-lowest total of his career. At this point, with shoulder and knee injuries hopefully in the past and at 31, he's not likely to run over 500 yards if he plays 16 games.
Another issue for the Patriots is finding help for Newton. That's one of the reasons Brady left for Tampa Bay, who is just loaded with good receivers. Newton has 34-year old slot receiver Julian Edelman. Mohammed Sanu is an aging possession receiver and second-year receiver N'Keal Harry had a rough rookie season. The Patriots will try and get creative under Josh McDaniels and with Newton, they can do a few more things with him running (maybe some option), that they couldn't do with Brady.
Ultimately, Newton is going to take chances. He's never thrown for less than 10 interceptions and has a 59.6% career completion percentage. He's not "Superman" anymore and can't carry an offense. He also doesn't have a Greg Olsen as a tight end who can move the chains.
Are the Patriots better with Newton than without him? Of course, but should they be ranked ahead of Buffalo in most of the new odds that came out on Sunday night? They are +2000 to win the Super Bowl at PointsBet, while the Bills are +2500. They are +120 to win the AFC East for a 12th straight time, while Buffalo is +120. They are +700 to win the AFC, while the Bills are +900. The Chiefs and Ravens are both +275 from betus.com.
This now appears to be a two-horse race to win the AFC East, now that Newton is with the Patriots. New England should not run away with the division despite the addition of a 31-year old, former MVP at quarterback.