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Until this weekend, New England looked like a classic trap team based on name value alone. Tom Brady is gone, the defense is rebuilding, and yet the market still expected success similar to previous years. The math simply didn't add up.
Then, in classic Patriots fashion, they snagged 2015 MVP Cam Newton off the scrap heap, and he'll fight for the starting quarterback job on a cheap one-year deal. The move hasn't pushed New England's win total off nine wins, but the over is drawing serious action based on the upside of a healthy Newton.
Here are New England's win-total odds and the case for each side:
When a team has won 10-plus games for 17 consecutive seasons, it's easy to anticipate another double-digit victory campaign. And there are enough reasons to expect that in 2020.
Start with the team's defense, which was among the best in NFL history through the first half of last year, finishing at an elite level in pass-defense metrics. The club's secondary stays largely intact this year, with All-World cornerback Stephon Gilmore and rising star J.C. Jackson leading the way.
Whether the Patriots' offense can complement the defense well enough has been one of the most significant questions this offseason. Then they signed Newton, who possesses the talent - if healthy - to produce like a top quarterback. The former Panther averaged 4,070 passing yards and 31.3 touchdowns over the four seasons before an injury-riddled 2019 campaign, which was the first time in nine years he failed to start at least 14 games.
And, of course, you can't discount the presence of Bill Belichick, the mastermind behind New England's dominant defense and the clear driving force of this team with Brady gone. If you handed him the Jaguars' roster this year, could he win nine games? Do you really want to bet against that with the Patriots' roster?
Past success is enticing, but on paper, there still isn't enough for this Patriots team to match its recent performances.
Defensively, the secondary is back, but the front seven was gutted during free agency, and the Patriots now need to replace linebackers Jamie Collins Sr. and Kyle Van Noy - two pivotal pieces on a versatile pass defense that repeatedly stifled opponents.
On offense, there are still massive questions about Newton's health, and that issue didn't just start with his Week 2 injury last year. But let's assume he's ready to go. Is he enough? The Patriots lack impact skill-position talent outside of 34-year-old Julian Edelman, and the offensive line is sure to take a hit following the departure of longtime coaching guru Dante Scarnecchia.
For years, New England has feasted on a hapless division, but that doesn't figure to happen again in 2020. The Bills will field one of the league's most talented rosters if Josh Allen can put things together, while the Jets and Dolphins are both miles ahead of where they were last year.
We've been down on the Patriots all offseason, which makes sense after they lost a Hall of Fame quarterback, half their impact defenders, and key members of the team's coaching staff. They won 12 games last year while playing one of the easiest schedules in recent memory, so regression is inevitable with a far inferior roster.
Can Newton change things? Sure. But that's assuming he's healthy, and you're paying for that assumption with a heavy price on the over. At +130, there's never been more value betting the under on this Patriots squad.
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.