Season in Review – New England Patriots

By Andy Goddard (@godsy1985)

The next instalment of our season review articles takes a look at last years world champions, the New England Patriots. Is a 12-4 regular season record really the end of the dynasty?


Entering the season


Going into the 2019 season, the Patriots were once again one of the favourites to lift the Lombardi Trophy in Miami but there were also a lot of question marks against the team. The major concern appeared to be at the wide receiver position, which was very thin, but did still include the reigning Super Bowl MVP in Julian Edelman and the troubled yet talented, Josh Gordon. The other obvious concern was the loss of Rob Gronkowski. ‘Gronk’ had announced his retirement in March 2019 leaving the Pats with an ageing Ben Watson and two unproven players in Ryan Izzo and, the recently acquired, Matt LaCosse.

Preparations for the new season took another hit on 26th August 2019 when it was announced that centre David Andrews had been diagnosed with pulmonary embolism which would eventually result in him being placed on season ending injury reserve (IR) at the end of August 2019. The Patriots 1st round draft pick, N’Keal Harry, also then found himself on IR in September due to an ankle injury.

Before a play had even been called, the Patriots were struggling on offense but the defence had held the high scoring LA Rams to just three points in Super Bowl 53 so there was still optimism that with Brady and Belichick, another trip to the big game was possible.

The AFC East has been looked upon as a little bit of a joke for quite a while now. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins were both in transition periods and the only challenge for New England looked to be the Buffalo Bills. However, heading into the 2019 season, the Patriots were still expected to win the AFC East and head into the playoffs once more.


During the season


The Patriots started the season with what was regarded as a very weak schedule. The Pats opened the season 8-0 and there was talk from some people in the media that this team could go undefeated. Blow out wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets (twice) and the Washington Redskins did not tell the whole story as the second half of their schedule would show.

On September 7th, the Patriots signed Antonio Brown to a one year contract. Suddenly a weak wide receiver unit was now looking very promising with Brown, Gordon and Edelman all lining up alongside Tom Brady. Unfortunately, this lasted just one game (at Miami) before Brown was eventually cut on 20th September due to an ongoing court case and further allegations made against the wide receiver.

David Santiago/AP

Regardless of the Antonio Brown issue, the Patriots were winning, and winning comprehensively. Their defence’s play was historically dominant and was the catalyst for the 8-0 record. Scoring touchdowns on defence and special teams at an astonishing rate covered over the cracks on offense. The Patriots ‘ran over’ teams on their way to winning Super Bowl 53, but this team had to rely more and more on Tom Brady as the running game was non-existent. This may seem strange, having to rely on arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game but Brady was 42 when the season began and (finally) showing signs of his age. To make matters worse, his wide receivers were also struggling. They couldn’t get open, and on the occasions they did, the number of dropped catches was very alarming. The once reliable Julian Edelman, lead the league in dropped catches (9) and Brady no longer had his big tight end, ‘Gronk’. In October, Josh Gordon found himself on IR before being before released and claimed by the Seattle Seahawks. Although Mohamed Sanu was traded to the Patriots on 22nd October, he also struggled and finished the season with just 207 yards.

A week 9 trip to Baltimore brought the Patriots first defeat of the season and although they won the next two games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys it was once again the defence that were the main cause, holding the Eagles and Cowboys to 10 and 9 points respectively.

Notoriously, the Patriots thrive in December and begin to play their best football. The 2019 season was the complete opposite of this as they fell to consecutive defeats against the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs. New England’s offense had looked a little better against the Chiefs but one really bad piece of officiating took points off the board when N’Keal Harry was wrongly adjudge to have stepped out when he had scored a touchdown. They would eventually lose 16-23.

Nancy Lane/ BH

Heading into week 16, the Patriots needed to beat the Buffalo Bills to secure another AFC East title. A 24-17 win meant that not only did they win the AFC East but a victory in their final game, at home to the (4-11) Miami Dolphins, would secure the number 2 seed in the AFC and clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. In week 17, things appeared to be going to plan as Tom Brady drove his Patriots down the field late on to take a 24-20 lead but ‘Fitzmagic’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) had other ideas as the Dolphins scored with seconds remaining to win the game 27-24. That defeat, coupled with a win by the Kansas City Chiefs, meant that the Patriots would finish as the third seed and have to play in the wild game for the first time in since 2009!

The Patriots hosted the Tennessee Titans in the wild card game. With the Titans leading 14-13 at the half, the Patriots would fail to score another point in the 2019 season as the Titans ran out 20-13 winners and advanced to the divisional round.


Offseason outlook


The big question going into the off season revolves around quarterback Tom Brady, who will be an unrestricted free agent. It’s crazy to think of Brady in another uniform but there is a real possibility this happens. It was well reported that Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, wanted to keep Jimmy Garoppolo before he was eventually traded to San Francisco so we could see a new quarterback under centre for the Patriots. Of course, Brady could very well return for another season but one thing appears certain, Brady does not want to retire just yet.

Adam Hunger /AP

If Brady was to move on, do the Patriots go with back up Jarrett Stidham, draft their new man, or make a trade? I would be very surprised to see Brady sign with someone else and believe that Robert Kraft (New England Patriots Owner) will do everything in his power to keep his QB around and make him a Patriot for life.

In 2019, the defense looked solid against the pass with Stephon Gilmore being the stand out performer and winning Defensive MVP, but they need to improve against the run. This was highlighted in the wild card game against the Titans.

The Patriots also have a long list of players who will hit free agency. Some big name players including Devin McCourty, the impressive Kyle Van Noy, Matthew Slater, Jamie Collins, Joe Thuney and Danny Shelton will be available. Not all of these players will be Patriots next season. Kyle Van Noy and Joe Thuney will get paid big money by another team so will need replacing and the offense still needs improvement at the skill positions. The loss of Gronkowski was huge, not only in the passing game but he also excelled as a blocker. New England has $49 million in cap space and this will probably grow with contracts being restructured.

Heading into the 2020 season, the Patriots need at least 2 wide receivers, a tight end and maybe a quarterback! Added to those positions there is also a need at guard and the linebacker position if Thuney and Van Noy do not sign new deals. This could be the biggest offseason for the Patriots in a long time!


Summary


At the top of the article we asked, ‘is a 12-4 regular season record really the end of the dynasty?’ And for me, the answer is a resounding no! The Patriots actually improved on last seasons regular season record and although their season ended early, they still went 12-4! In fact, there are only a handful of teams that wouldn’t be very happy with that record. There is no arguing, It was a disappointing season but that just highlights the success that the Patriots have had over the past two decades. One teams failure would be seen as a huge success by many other teams in the league. Whilst Belichick is still the head coach, they will always have a chance.

If Tom Brady returns and Belichick can get the right people around him, they will be challenging again next season. The AFC East will be more competitive next year with the Buffalo Bills being the biggest challengers and the Miami Dolphins improving.

Much was made of Brady and the Patriots passing offense, but if you look at the stats, if wasn’t too bad. They finished the season 7th in passing yards per game (253.6 yards) and were also in the top 5 for total number of drops (23). To the dismay of many, I don’t see New England fading away just yet but improvement is needed.


Fun Fact: Heading into week 9 the Patriots were 8-0 but if their offense hadn’t scored a single point, they still would have been 4-2-2!

The cliff that Tom Brady has supposedly fallen off…Where is it Max Kellerman?

by Andy Goddard

Another season has past and yet another Lombardi trophy has been taken back to New
England. When the 2019 season starts Tom Brady will be 42 years old, with the Patriots
quarterback stating that he wants to play until he is 45 leading to that all-time favourite question, will the infamous ‘fall from the cliff’ finally happen?

Max Kellerman thought it would happen three years ago and he doesn’t appear to be backing down. It was July 2016 when Kellerman, whilst appearing as the co-host on ESPN’s First Take, said of Brady, ‘He’s going to fall off a cliff. Tom Brady is going to be a bum in short order’.

https://twitter.com/MyShinyTweets/status/1144279600819789824

 

How do you motivate a man that has won it all numerous times and achieved everything? Well, Kellerman gave Brady and the Patriots all the motivation they needed and Tom Terrific is still using it today.

During an off season workout in June 2019, Brady posted a picture on his Instagram story showing at 41 years old, he is still throwing the ball at 61mph! Included on this post were the words, ‘He’s gonna fall off a cliff’ with a laughing emoji.

 

A direct reference back to Kellerman who seems to predict that every year Brady will begin to show his age. I suppose he has to be right eventually! Doesn’t he?

When you look at this stat compared to other quarterbacks, it is even more impressive. For reference, Josh Allen holds the NFL scouting combine record at 62mph. Check out every QB’s combine throw velocity dince 2008 here:

https://www.ourlads.com/story/default/Quarterback-Ball-Velocity-at-NFL-Combine-2008-2017/10243/dh/

Now without knowing the context of the throw it is hard to really judge just how good this stat is. After all Patrick Mahomes, whilst in his early 20’s, also hit 62mph on a visit to the NFL Network in 2017 but the throw was well off target.

But, whatever the outcome of the throw was, the instagram post shows more to Brady’s mindset than the skill and power attached to the throw. Brady is still holding a
grudge and using whatever he can to motivate him to compete. Brady was once asked, which Super Bowl ring is your favourite? His reply, ‘the next one!’

Brady has been driven to prove people wrong since draft day. Drafted at 199 overall in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. Every team, including the Patriots, passed on him numerous times. In fact, six quarterbacks where taken before Brady and some never played a single snap in the NFL.

Brady finds motivation in everything and everyone. Since Kellerman made the ‘cliff’ comments in 2016, the six time Super Bowl champions stats have been impressive, even by Brady’s standards. In fact the GOAT  seems to be maturing like a fine wine and just keeps getting better with age.

Tom Brady’s regular season stats by age:
In his 20’s: 96 games, 70 wins 24 losses, 61.9 comp%, 21,564 yards, 147 TD’s, 78 INT.
In his 30’s: 141 games, 113 wins 28 losses, 64.9 comp%, 40,018 yds, 309 TD’s, 74 INT.
In his 40’s: 32 games, 24 wins 8 losses, 66 comp%, 8,932 yards, 61 TD’s, 19 INT.

However, Kellerman’s distain of Brady is well known. In January 2019, before the start of
the playoffs, Kellerman took another swipe at Brady by declaring that, ‘I’d rather have all
other QB’s in the AFC not named Tom Brady in these playoffs right now’

Who went on to win the Super Bowl? A certain Tom Brady!

After beating the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game in January 2019, Kellerman stated that, ‘Brady was lucky’. He also went on to say, ‘is Brady the best
quarterback in the NFL? He wasn’t even the best quarterback in the game’

This came after the Patriots had gone into Kansas City as the underdogs and won the game 37-31. An overtime drive, led by Brady, was finished off with a Rex Burkhead touchdown run. During this drive, Brady converted three 3rd and long plays to keep the drive alive and ultimately take his team back to the Super Bowl for a third straight year.

Since Brady’s post, Kellerman has hit back, this time claiming that Brady is nothing more
than a game manager. The ESPN commentator believes that the brilliance of coach Bill
Belichick and the quarterback friendly rules have masked Brady’s regression.

Whilst there is no doubt that Brady may have slowed down from the
days when he had a receiving core that included the great Randy Moss and he threw for
50 touchdowns in a season, Brady is still winning. The fact that the New England Patriots
have been to three Super Bowls in a row and seem to be participating in the AFC
Championship Game every year shows that he hasn’t quite become Blake Bortles!
It would appear however that Max Kellerman seems to be slightly confused. On January
20th 2019, in a broadcast of ESPN’s First Take, he agreed with a statement made by
Patriots owner Robert Kraft that Brady was definitely the greatest player of all time!

Is Kellerman a secret Patriots fan and just looking to provide that extra motivation for Brady and co? He did, however, lean on the fact that Brady has benefitted from playing under Bill Belichick. The argument between Brady and Belichick, and would one have been as successful without the other, is another great discussion.

BRADY
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Brady is still performing at an exceptionally high level, still winning games and could have one of the best receiving groups in the NFL next season (in my opinion, and, if Josh Gordon returns) alongside a dominant run game. Is it a loathing of Brady and the Patriots or is Kellerman just unable to admit that maybe he was wrong in
2016?

Either way, Brady can thank Kellerman for providing that extra motivation that
drives him on every year. With the latest soundbites from Kellerman, the whole of the NFL better be wary of Brady and his Patriots yet again as the edge of the cliff still appears to be far in the distance!

Jury’s Out on Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Lawrence vs Rob

Lawrence’s Take

Just because you have the potential to get significant snaps in a position that was occupied by a future Hall of Famer does not necessarily equal success.

On April 10 2019, Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ASJ) signed a one-year deal with the Patriots which included a mega-bucks $50,000 signing bonus. In nine seasons Rob Gronkowski, who recently announced his retirement from the Patriots, earned over $53m in nine seasons. ASJ has earned a fifth of that in five years, and his one-year deal is costing the Pats the same as complete no-name tight-ends including Scott Simonson (Giants), Neal Sterling (Jets) and Logan Paulsen (Falcons).

ASJ was a 2014 second round (38th overall) draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which was actually four spots above Gronk who went 42nd in 2010 draft.

As a rookie ASJ had little impact on the effectiveness of the 2014 Buccs, who went 2-14 under Josh McCown and Mike Glennon, managing 21 catches in 9 games, gaining 221 yards and two scores (both occurring in losses). ASJ lasted 11 games in his first NFL season, averaging 5.82 yards per target in the process.

Photo Credit: Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

In year two, ASJ matched exactly his catch output, but his YPC rose significantly from 10.5 to 16.1 per catch. This time ASJ was less durable, staying on the field for just 7 games. His four scores also came in four defeats.

Finally, in week one of his third season (2016), ASJ scored a touchdown in a victory (against the Falcons from a Jameis Winston pass). This was not that fortuitous as Tampa abruptly ditched ASJ after two games when it was revealed he was arrested for driving under the influence.

He was hastily picked up by the New York Jets through the waiver wire and started in the Big Apple in Week 5. He played 7 games for the Jets in 2016, including two losses to the Patriots, catching 2-26 combined in the games.

ASJ went on to have his best season, both statistically and health wise, in 2017, despite missing the first two games through suspension, snagging 50 receptions in 13 games including a season high 8 grabs in another loss to the Patriots.

The Jets then became the second team to ditch him, and he was picked up in March 2018 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was given a two-year $10m deal and anointed the starter, but again failed to make a significant impact.

Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

ASJ played just 5 games, the lowest in his career, gaining a paltry 90 yards on 11 catches. His only 2018 touchdown was in a win against of all teams ….the Patriots. He went on injured reserve in October last year with a core muscle injury.

To summarise ASJ has been a bust. Five seasons has resulted in 43 games played from a possible 80, 116 catches, 1,160 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero playoff appearances.

He has been on the winning side in just 33% of the games he has played.

Games with over 100 receiving yards = 1

Games with 6+ catches = 3 (all 2017 with Jets)

Games with 8+ catches = 1

To Summarise

The Patriots are going to miss Gronk in a big way, but they have been effective without him, Bill and Tom find a way.

The Patriots do enjoy the challenge of turning base metal into gold, but this is one alchemy project that will be full of frustration and ultimately end in failure.

*

Rob’s Take

I get it. ASJ has not had the greatest of starts to his NFL career since that high investment pick from the Bucs in 2014. However, it’s been well documented that the bear like figure out of Washington has had a difficult time off the field with alcohol related problems.

After the DUI in 2016 which subsequently led to his dismissal from Tampa, ASJ has been on the straight and narrow since completing a stint in rehab. That fantastic personal turnaround was plain to see on the field too as he completed his most successful season to date in 2017 with the New York Jets.

Lawrence has already pointed out that his 6+ reception games all came in that year, as did his career high in targets (74) and yards (357). Although those statistics won’t blow anyone away, don’t forget that was with the uninspiring Josh McCown led 5-11 Jets.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Talking of Quarterbacks, let’s re-visit those who ASJ has had to put up with so far in his career. Josh McCown (again) with Mike Glennon in his rookie year and you’ll likely remember the hapless start that Jameis Winston had to his career for the following season and a half. Then it was back to McCown as previously mentioned in New York before finally being treated to the mess in Jacksonville under that “superstar” Blake Bortles which ended in the season ending core muscle injury. No, it’s not been nice for ASJ thus far in his career.

But now, finally, he strikes gold. Heading to the New England Patriots with a first ballot Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest QB of all time throwing him the ball, with no immediate threat within his position and somehow people don’t think his production will rise? Crazy.

Let’s start with the production. With the pass catchers that have left the Pats this off-season means there are around 150 receptions up for grabs if you go by last seasons’ stats. Around 50 of these are from the tight end position (Rob Gronkowski in 13 games, Jacob Hollister and Dwayne Allen).

I expect exciting talent N’Keal Harry will demand around half of those 150 unaccounted for receptions out wide with a minimal contribution, if any at all, from the other new receivers Demaryius Thomas, Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman.

I haven’t mentioned Ben Watson yet, I know, and for good reasons too. Firstly, he’s 38. Secondly, he’s suspended for the first 4 games of the season. Why? Because he had to take banned substances to help fix his broken body. Are you kidding me? For those of you that think Watson is going to bowl into Gillette Stadium and be Terrific Tom’s red zone man, do me a favor, forget it.

Am I saying ASJ will be the next Gronk and put up Gronkonian numbers? No. Am I saying there is plenty of upside there for him to be relevant in that offense, and relevant on your fantasy rosters? Definitely.

I currently have him slated down for just over 50 receptions and around 530 yards. But it’s the TD column where things get interesting. 12 TD’s from last years’ crop are up for grabs and are crying out for a big, bullying target to come claim at least some of them like whats has become the norm in Foxborough in recent history. Knowing the chemistry Brady had with Gronk, particularly in the end-zone, I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that ASJ can claim at least 6 of those.

At 6’5, 263 lbs (which, coincidentally is just 2 lbs lighter and 1 inch shorter than Gronk), ASJ fits the role of red zone target to a tee. With those 12 touchdowns from 2018 now unclaimed, ‘Hercules’ (yes, that’s his nickname) could well be that guy.

I’ve not even mentioned yet why I am all aboard this mini hype train either. It’s his ADP. He isn’t being drafted. He’s completely free. You can quite happily select your D/ST and Kicker before you need to pick ASJ up with your last pick as your TE2.

To Summaries

In a landscape where anyone not named Kelce, Ertz or Kittle can find themselves in the next tier of fantasy tight ends, what have you got to lose? Absolutely nothing. If he stinks and i’m completely wrong, you can throw him back to the waivers and pick up another flyer, BUT… if he hits and I am right, you have the ceiling of Rob Gronkowski and you won’t have sacrificed a single thing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a fact.

by Lawrence Vos – @NFLFANINENGLAND and Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

*We want to hear your views on this matter! Are you a ASJ believer, or is this just another place for him to go be Mr. Average. We have a poll up on our twitter handle @F10YFantasy, please go vote and leave your reasoning in the comments!*