The New England Patriots figure to be one of the betting favorites among NFL teams to improve their win total from last season.
Of course, head coach Bill Belichick’s side finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs, both of which were firsts for the organization since way back in 2008.
There were a number of factors that contributed to the Patriots’ shortcomings last campaign, but most of them were rectified this offseason, as they dominated the draft and enjoyed their biggest free agent spending spree in franchise history.
With that being said, we can’t help but wonder whether Rob Ninkovich was being too optimistic with his prediction for the Patriots’ win total in 2021.
During a Thursday appearance on “Get Up,” the ESPN analyst locked his former team in for 11 wins.
Rob Ninkovich has high expectations for the Patriots in 2021.
"“Well, with them spending about $200 million in free agency, I think that they’re going to have a successful year,” Ninkovich said. “I’m going with 11 wins. They’re going to be 11-6. They’re going to be right back in the mix for the division.“I think they might split between Miami and Buffalo. They’re going to have a couple rough games on the road, going out to LA. So, I’m going 11-6 for the Patriots.”"
A five-win turnaround would certainly be impressive, even for a team led by arguably the greatest NFL coach of all time. However, considering how many resources the Patriots committed to overhauling their roster this offseason, 11 wins is certainly a possibility.
With a revamped offensive line and almost an entirely new collection of pass catchers, the Patriots’ offense should improve drastically. Of course, the biggest caveat regarding their ceiling will be the play of Cam Newton, and, eventually, Mac Jones.
As long as the two QBs do what’s asked of them and keep turnovers at a minimum, we could be looking at an elite offense. That’s obviously easier said than done, but why shouldn’t fans expect better from Newton after his forgettable debut season?
As far as the defense is concerned, well, there’s no reason to think it shouldn’t return to best-in-the-league status in 2021. After all, New England finally added an elite edge rusher, bolstered its linebacking corps and has plenty of depth along the defensive line.
The group’s ceiling will likely hinge on what happens with Stephon Gilmore, who’s still holding out while seeking a new contract, but the latest buzz suggests the superstar cornerback wants to remain in Foxborough.
With all this in mind, no, Ninkovich isn’t setting the bar too high for the Patriots. While 11 wins might not be enough to reclaim the division crown (Buffalo finished 13-3 last year and only improved their roster this offseason), that total should be more than enough to propel the Pats back into the playoffs in 2021.