Another NFL season is upon us and that means it is time for predictions. After having no preseason in 2020, teams experienced their first shortened three-game preseason under the new CBA. The regular season opened last night when the defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers beat the Cowboys. Here are some Patriots-centric predictions for the season:
Mac Jones will win Rookie of the Year
As highlighted previously, Patriots fans should expect a good season from Jones. He will NOT play to the level of Tom Brady, which some fans may be unreasonably expecting, but he should have significant success and be a serious contender for Rookie of the Year. I think he can win the award.
Patriots will win at least 11 games
Given that I have Jones as a ROY candidate and the Patriots having a massively upgraded roster, they should be able to smash past their seven-win total of 2020. The path may be rocky at times, as it always is with a rookie quarterback, but I expect New England to be at least 4-2 in their division if not 5-1. Outside of division play, the Patriots have an uneven schedule; some very tough games and others that are against inferior opponents on paper. I would expect New England to go 3-1 against the NFC South and 2-2 against the AFC South, which would put them in the 9-10 win range. All they would have to do is find 2 wins in their remaining three games to reach at least 11.
Jonnu Smith will have a greater impact than Hunter Henry
Smith, the first of the tight ends the Patriots signed in free agency, was not the biggest name brought in at the position. That honor belongs to Hunter Henry. However, Smith is great at moving in open space and his one catch in the preseason, a 16-yard catch and run, showed off his strength and speed. New England will look to push the ball downfield and utilize play-action crossing routes, which Smith should excel at. Also, Henry has a significant injury history and any time missed will allow Smith to take up a greater percentage of the offense.
Matt Judon will have at least 8 sacks
Judon was the highest priced offseason acquisition and in limited preseason reps be gave Patriots fans a taste of why. His 3rd Down run stop on the first series against Washington or his forced fumble against the Eagles both gave a look at what Judon can bring to the table. The Patriots will likely move him around somewhat and although he will draw double teams, he will still be able to be an impact player beyond taking up two blockers. New England’s front seven is much better than it was in 2020 and Judon is one of the biggest reasons why.