For the first time since 2010, the New England Patriots won’t be in the AFC title game. Where is the successful franchise headed over the next few months?
An 8-0 start for the New England Patriots morphed into five losses in the final nine overall outings. That last setback was a 20-13 defeat at the hands of Mike Vrabel, Derrick Henry and the surging Tennessee Titans. And for the first time since 2015, the Patriots won’t be playing in the Super Bowl.
Speaking of 2015, this past season was reminiscent of that campaign four years ago. That year, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had the team off to a 10-0 start. But the club dropped four of its final six contests. A win over the Chiefs in the Divisional Playoffs was followed by a tough setback to the Broncos at Denver in the AFC title game.
Now the Patriots head into an offseason a little earlier than usual.
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So What’s Next?
There’s certainly an air of uncertainty surrounding this consistent franchise. Will Brady return for his 21st season in Foxborough? Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could be a head coach elsewhere in 2020.
And along with their veteran signal-caller, there’s a slew of other prominent potential unrestricted free agents in linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, special teams ace Matthew Slater and safety Devin McCourty. Guard Joe Thuney earned Second-Team All-Pro honors and could test free agency as well.
Biggest Offseason Concern?
The Patriots wound up allowing the fewest total yards and fewest points in the NFL while totaling a league-best 25 interceptions this season. But this unit’s strength was on the back end and their inability to slow down teams on the ground, especially during the second half of the year and in the playoffs was disconcerting.
The club does not have a second-round pick, dealt to Atlanta for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, so will the team try to address this issue in free agency? Veteran interior defender Danny Shelton is a potential free agent as well.
When it comes to the NFL, this century has belonged to the New England Patriots. Belichick was hired in 2000 and a year later was the first of 19 consecutive winning seasons. There have been nine Super Bowl appearances and six Lombardi Trophies.
It’s one of the great runs in American sports. And a year from now, there will or will not be a hint if we’ve really seen the end of an amazing stretch of success.