Tom Brady elected not to remain with the New England Patriots and moved south to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His move impacted a whole host of players as many of them consider New England an option if they wish to start regularly. In addition to this, tight end Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement to join the veteran quarterback at the Raymond James Stadium.
Another thing this shocker has caused is a change in pre-season predictions. For the first time in a while, New England Patriots do not head into the NFL season as the top dogs in the AFC East.
While we spoke about the Tom Brady effect resulting in Tampa Bay Buccaneers getting a joint season-high and club record 5 primetime games, the fall of New England in pre-season predictions too can be termed as a Tom Brady effect.
As per a Yahoo Sports piece, Buffalo Bills are the favorites in the division. They are closely followed by the New York Jets. These teams are given a higher chance due to their offseason deals where they strengthened their sides.
The 6x Super Bowl Champions head into a season for the first time since 1999 without Tom Brady on their books. In that year the team had never tasted Super Bowl glory. Their best finish was the AFC Championship wins in 1985 and 1996.
Quarterbacks are regarded as the key components of a team’s success. Coach Bill Belichick backed his 6th round draft pick which worked wonders for the team. Now he sees potential in sophomore quarterback Jarrett Stidham. However, there is no buzz around him with no calls for him being there to replace the aging Brady last season.
The Patriots are woefully short on experience at present. In addition to Stidham, they have journeyman Brian Hoyer and undrafted Brian Lewerke and J’Mar Smith on their books. Hoyer has a Super Bowl ring but was released to let Stidham take the backup role last season. Noticeably the team did not draft a single quarterback too.
New England has missed out on the Division Championship just once since 2003. The drought came in 2008 when Tom Brady suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
Can New England Patriots prove these pre-season predictions wrong? Or is it curtains on their near two-decade stay in the spotlight?