Cam Newton's decision to sign with the Evil Empire in the Northeast means the New England Patriots are once again a force to be reckoned with. Not that anyone was underestimating them before, but going from Jarrett Stidham to Newton as starting quarterback tends to increase a team's competitive prospects rather significantly.
Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe have been discussing the development over the last two days. On Monday, Bayless said Newton's presence means the Patriots' ceiling now resides at 9-7, rather than the 4-12 prediction he made before. On Tuesday, Bayless admitted he got a little excited (an extremely rare admission) and proclaimed it would be a minor miracle if the former MVP got New England to nine wins.
That seems kind of crazy, doesn't it? Newton's talent combined with Bill Belichick's coaching prowess and a defense that is still home to one of the best secondaries in the NFL appears on the surface like a recipe for a 10-win season at minimum. But as Bayless goes through the schedule, his declaration makes a bit more sense.
The Patriots will not be able to beat Kansas City or Baltimore. The 49ers are pretty much intact after their Super Bowl run, so that's another loss. Playing the Seahawks in Seattle is a tough matchup that is hard to declare an automatic win in any year, much less the first without Brady in a Patriots uniform. That's four losses off the bat. They'll probably split their two games with Buffalo, which brings us to five. It's not hard to envision the Patriots dropping one game of the four they have against the Jets and Dolphins. That leaves very little room for error if they want to prove Bayless wrong.
This segment really drives home just how difficult the Patriots will have it in 2020. All the New England fans celebrating the arrival of Newton as the inevitable extension of the team's never-ending reign (myself included) should temper their expectations a bit. The conference and divisional competition has never been better. Unless Newton and the team as a whole come out guns blazing, a division title isn't even guaranteed, much less a 12-win season and a top playoff seed.