Indeed, Belichick and the Patriots “have a long way to go” — the team produced just seven wins last season and missed the postseason for the first time since 2008. But many believe this year’s squad, specifically the defense, should be much better, thanks to some key offseason acquisitions that should help the Patriots contend for the top spot in the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.
But as Belichick explained — and yes, it has been reported over the past few days (and weeks) — some members of the Patriots won’t be on the field tomorrow when camp begins at 9:45 a.m. And one of those players is cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was nowhere to be found during the team’s mandatory minicamp.
New England will compete three times next month, including once at home when they open their preseason slate against the Washington FootballTeam on Thursday, August 12 with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Like many, I am excited to see how some of the team’s offseason signings mesh with members of last year’s squad, including quarterback Cam Newton, who will enter the team’s 2021 training camp on Wednesday, July 28 as the favorite to be spotted under center in week one against the Miami Dolphins.
Newton did not have a great 2020 season — I think many know that or are aware of how he performed last fall. But coach Bill Belichick has acquired some solid pieces for the offense over the past few months, including tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Both players should certainly help Newton, as well as the offense, perform even better than they did last season — New England won just seven games in 2020 but had a chance to squeak out a few more victories had things gone their way down the stretch, especially against the Buffalo Bills in New York.
Like Newton, Jones competed in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) — Jones played at Alabama while Newton competed at Auburn — and should be ready to take the reigns from the league’s most valuable player in 2015.
Jones led the Crimson Tide to a national championship in January — Alabama rolled past Ohio State, 52-24, in the College Football Playoff National Championship contest, which was held in Miami Gardens, Florida — and recorded career-highs in completions (311), passing yards (4,500), and touchdowns (41). And despite seeing limited action in 2018 and 2019, Jones should be able to translate his junior season’s success to the NFL this summer and fall.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Stidham has competed in eight games since becoming a member of the Patriots organization, including five contests last season. The former Auburn signal-caller completed 22 of 44 passes for a career and season-high 250 yards and two touchdowns. He did, however, throw three interceptions compared to one in 2019.
Numerous talking heads, along with various analysts believe Mac Jones could be the starter in the opening week, but it will all depend on how he handles himself during in-game situations. As Patriots.com’s Mike Dussault explains, “Every throw of 11-on-11 work will be dissected ad nauseam, but the bottom line is whether or not Jones or Stidham do enough to dethrone Newton, and can Newton hold them off by taking significant strides in his second year in the offense.”
For now, my bet is Cam Newton will be the starter in the opening week, but I do think Patriots fans will see Mac Jones under center at some point this fall — maybe against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week four? I am not sure if week four is when Jones will be thrusted into the lineup, but we’ll certainly learn more about his readiness when the Patriots scrimmage the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles later this summer. Those inter-squad practices will help us identify which quarterback(s) is ready to lead the hometown team to hopefully a postseason appearance next January.
Yes, we’re back – we missed you, but we’re excited to kickstart your mornings (and sometimes early afternoons, too) with some news and links from the sports and tech world.
As usual, we hope this post finds everyone doing well, staying safe, and holding the line – we’re almost there, we promise!
Alright, let’s get after it with today’s Daily Noontime – have a great day, everyone!
Enjoy a brand new Noontime Sports Podcast featuring Seth Cantor and Kevin Tuve. Seth and Kevin, who work for the New York Boulders baseball team in the Frontier League, share some early thoughts on how both the team (and players, coaches, and front office staff) are preparing for a return to play later this spring and summer.
It’s hard to believe this is the final Sunday of January where football will be played – yes, you will be missed – but since we have a few minutes before kickoff, allow me to share a few thoughts for the upcoming week.
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Have a great week, everyone, and enjoy today’s football games!
Thought No. 2: I really like Josh Allen. And like I have said on previous ‘Football Friday’ podcasts, I believe he is the best quarterback that was selected in the 2018 National Football League (NFL) Draft. But today, I just don’t think he will be able to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. I could see Allen and the Buffalo Bills back in this same spot next January, but today, the Chiefs will prevail. But these Bills are not going away anytime soon. They will get even better this offseason.
Thought No. 3:Friday’s news of NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) going off the air later this year was startling, but I think this plan from the three-letter network will workout just fine. Yes, this is probably a sign that NBC will put more of its sports content like hockey and car racing behind its paywall (Peacock), but it will also mean more people will tune into games and events on USA Network. NBC will be fine – don’t worry, they’re not going anywhere – but the streaming war will certainly continue if National Hockey League (NHL) or NASCAC fans have to subscribe to Peacock to watch their favorite teams and competitors.
Thought No. 5: It was nice to see three New England D-III basketball games take place yesterday – fans were treated to a pair of exciting contests between Keene State and Rhode Island College (both men’s and women’s basketball). I am rooting for these teams, along with the rest of the Little East Conference (LEC) to succeed, but I am sure everyone knows it will take an entire league effort to keep everyone safe, both this week and next month, so games can be played.
Thought No. 6: The National Women’s Hockey League‘s (NWHL) began its two-week sprint to the Isobel Cup yesterday with fans being able to watch contests on their Twitch channel. I watched some of the first game – I enjoyed it, and give the league credit with not just offering a streaming service to watch every game, but also finding other creative ways to stay connected with its fans as games are taking place in a bubble environment. Additionally, I loved the tweets from yesterday’s Boston Pride contest. Kudos to the Pride’s social media team – keep up the great work with keeping myself and others in the loop with all the action as I love what you’re tweeting!
The National Football League‘s (NFL) Conference Championships are set to kickoff tomorrow with the Green Bay Packers hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed by the Kansas City Chiefs entertaining the Buffalo Bills.
Last week, we attempted to go four-for-four – sadly, we picked only three of four games correct, which is not bad, but I guess I should not overlook the Bills this week, right?
Any who, let’s dish out some picks for tomorrow’s games – let the countdown for the conference finals begin!
Listen to this week’s Football Friday Podcast featuring Andrew Pezzelli and Zach Weiss on Apple Podcast and Spotify!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers (Sunday, January 24 at 3:05 p.m.): Sunday will mark the first time Tom Brady will be competing in the NFC Championship after appearing in the AFC title game 13 times as a member of the New England Patriots. Brady and the Buccaneers have enjoyed a magical ride this postseason and will arrive in Green Bay with a great deal of momentum. But can the Buccaneers defense slow down Aaron Rodgers and the offense, which has won 10 of their last 12 contests? I would presume they can – it is not a given, of course, but they did earlier this season. Additionally, can the Green Bay defense slow down Brady and the Buccaneers offense? Maybe? Either way, this has the making of an exciting match-up, but in the end, the Buccaneers – yes, the Buccaneers! – will prevail. PREDICTION: Tampa Bay 28, Green Bay 27
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, January 24 at 6:40 p.m.): The Chiefs are making their third-straight appearance in the AFC Championship game after scoring a hard-fought 22-17 win last week against the Cleveland Browns. Patrick Mahomes is supposed to be under center for the Chiefs tomorrow after sustaining a concussion on Sunday. And as long as Mahomes is on the field then I think it is hard to pick against Kansas City. Buffalo has been a great story this season – I really like Josh Allen – but sadly, their exciting run toward the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1993 will conclude at Arrowhead Stadium with a heartbreaking defeat. Sorry, Bills Mafia! PREDICTION: Kansas City 31, Buffalo 21