It's difficult, for a lot of reasons, to predict the performance of the New England Patriots in the 2020 NFL season.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every team's offseason, including the 2020 NFL Draft process, offseason workouts and rookie camp, among other things.
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From a football perspective, the Patriots have endured a ton of roster turnover at key positions this offseason, and no departure was more substantial than starting quarterback Tom Brady taking his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. Brady wasn't the only important Patriots player to leave, however. Key defensive veterans Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton and Duron Harmon all left via free agency or the trade market, creating a situation where several young players will need to step up on defense to fill those gaps.
The Patriots' spot in recent 2020 NFL Power Rankings has been all over the place, which further show how tough it is to get a feel for New England's upcoming campaign.
NBC Sports' Peter King isn't as high on the Patriots as other experts. He placed them 21st in his new power rankings. Here's part of King's analysis:
The reviews on the 133rd pick in the 2019 draft, Jarrett Stidham, are good, but the shadow of the 199th pick in 2000 will always be a long one for anyone who plays quarterback in New England. There is no book on Stidham, a tough kid who will not be afraid of the hot seat, but his goal is to keep New England in games and leave the Patriots with a decision to make on a quarterback in the 2021 draft. Whatever happens, America will be watching: Four of their final nine games will be in prime time. I think this season breaks the Patriots' 11-year stranglehold on the AFC East, but I'm pretty sure everyone in that building wants to rub our faces in such predictions, and that's a great motivator.
Oddsmakers still believe in the Patriots. DraftKings Sportsbook has New England at -177 odds to make the playoffs, in addition to being slightly behind the Bills in the AFC East title odds. The Patriots also have the fourth-best odds (+1200) to win the AFC in 2020.
The transition from Brady to Stidham (or whoever starts at QB in Week 1) will be challenging, no doubt, but the Patriots should still be a playoff contender next season. They have a roster loaded with talented veterans who bring tons of championship experience, as well as the best head coach in league history in Bill Belichick. And, as King alluded to, no team relishes bulletin board material like the Patriots, and they will bring plenty of it into the 2020 season.
NFL Power Rankings: Patriots in surprising spot in Peter King's latest list originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston