What would the Patriots’ record be this season if Tom Brady was still around in Cam Newton’s place?
The New England Patriots find themselves in an unfamiliar position right now. Normally at this point in the season, they’d be competing for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
This campaign, however, they currently sit at 6-6 and are two games back of the seventh and final playoff spot in the conference with three incredibly tough games — against the Rams, Dolphins and Bills — remaining on their schedule. Barring a collapse from one or two of the other contenders, the Patriots will have to run the table to have a shot at qualifying.
Now, have they had to overcome unfavorable circumstances like free agency departures and player opt outs? No doubt, but it’s still been befuddling to watch them come up short in close games as much as they have in 2020.
It goes without saying that inconsistent quarterback play has played a role in their struggles, and that got us thinking: What would the Patriots’ record be with Tom Brady? 2020 Tom Brady, not his idealized form.
Cam Newton admitting last week that he’s still learning the offense proved that no quarterback was fully capable of replacing Brady this year, but let’s not forget that the Patriots opted against making any upgrades at skill positions in the offseason and the offense was objectively stagnant with him under center in 2019.
With that being said, however, the 43-year-old quarterback is arguably the most clutch quarterback of all time, and he probably comes through in potentially three of the Patriots’ defeats this season.
We’ll consider the losses to the Chiefs and 49ers as washes since the Pats were out-classed in both matchups and Newton didn’t even appear in the former. The Week 2 loss against Seattle should also be invalid because the Patriots wouldn’t have even been in that game if not for Newton and his 397-yard day.
With that being said, however, we have to think that Brady comes through in the defeats to Denver, Buffalo and maybe Houston. Newton was brutal vs the Broncos in his first game back from a bout with COVID-19, and there’s simply no way the six-time champ lets that one slip.
As for the Bills loss, Newton’s back-breaking fourth quarter fumble ultimately proved to be the difference in that one. Buffalo was literally begging to lose and it really looked as though (before the fumble) that he was going to get it done. For argument’s sake, let’s just assume that Brady doesn’t turn the ball over and throws the go-ahead touchdown.
The defense was largely at fault for the Texans defeat. Because of that — and Newton playing one of his best games of the season — we’ll consider that a toss-up. At the end of the day, the Patriots would probably be looking at a 7-5 record or (at best) an 8-4 mark if Brady didn’t choose to test free agency last offseason.
It’s not a significant improvement, but the Patriots’ playoff chances would certainly look more promising.