For the past two decades, NFL fans have seen the Patriots make deep playoff runs and compete in the Super Bowl — nine times since 2001. Under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the Patriots have become one of the greatest dynasties in U.S. sports history. However, their dynasty may be over.
For the first time since the 2009 season, New England didn’t make it out of the wild-card round. Here are three reasons why the Patriots’ dynasty is over.
Tom Brady is getting older — and leaving New England?
One major problem the Patriots face is Brady’s production or lack thereof. The 42-year-old threw just 24 touchdowns this season, his fewest since 2006. Then there’s the fact that Brady is a free agent this offseason. In the past, there wouldn’t be a question about his future, but there is this time around.
Brady has hinted at possibly retiring. Many journalists and fans speculate that he could sign with another team. If Brady does leave the Patriots, they don’t have a solid backup behind him, especially since trading Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers a few years ago. The other Patriots QBs are Jarrett Stidham and Cody Kessler, both unproven in the league.
Even though he’s not what he used to be, Brady would still the best quarterback on the roster if he re-signs. If No. 12 leaves, the Patriots would have to sign a veteran free-agent quarterback to have any chance of filling his void.
The Patriots’ lack of offensive playmakers
The Patriots’ defense carried the team for much of this season, as the offense struggled to put up points. And New England felt Rob Gronkowski’s absence in the wake of his retirement last offseason. Other than Julian Edelman, the team’s receiving corps faces several question marks.
Antonio Brown’s signing didn’t work out, and Mohamed Sanu didn’t live up to the Patriots’ expectations after trading for him. The running attack isn’t much better, with Sony Michel and James White leading the running game. Whether Brady stays or goes, New England needs to improve its offense.
Other NFL teams are getting better
Something else that should concern the Patriots: Other AFC teams are improving rapidly. Other than the Chiefs and Ravens — with two of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks in Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, respectively — the Patriots face an improved team in their own division.
The Bills finished just two games behind the Patriots. They have a strong defense and could be even better in 2020 if they can add some help on offense and if Josh Allen improves a bit at quarterback.
The Patriots also have to worry about this season’s other playoff teams in the AFC, the Texans and Titans. The Steelers should be better next season if Ben Roethlisberger returns from his injury and they don’t have to rely on backup quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges.
With the Bengals holding the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, and LSU QB Joe Burrow the projected top pick, they could also be an improved team in the AFC in the coming years. Then, there are the top AFC teams, like the Seahawks and 49ers.
Patriots fans may have to mourn the end of New England’s dynasty. But other NFL fans are surely enjoying the success elsewhere.
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