The Patriots are a broken team.
The anguish on Cam Newton's face at the end of their 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills said it all. A quarterback trying to uphold the two-decade-long standard there fumbled away a chance to extend the game, borrowing the shovel from Buffalo to pile more dirt on New England's own grave.
The New England Patriots are 2-5. They're 2-5 for the first time since 2000. They're sitting in third in the AFC East with little hope of making the playoffs. The Patriot Way has been unable to withstand a GOAT departure and league-high opt outs and regular first- and second-day draft misses.
New England's issues are myriad and cannot be pegged to one player alone. Yes, Newton fumbled the ball to ultimately lose the game, but the Pats had been relying too much on the leg of Nick Folk anyway. Entering their game against Buffalo, the Patriots had 19 possessions in the previous two games with two field goals and just one touchdown.
A bend-but-don't-break defense did its best to hold up, but what more can you ask from a defense without its best player (Stephon Gilmore) facing a team desperate to beat them for the first time in four years?
At some point this season Julian Edelman (knee) should return. That'll be after first-round bust N'Keal Harry comes back from his concussion. It'll be while Newton—or Jarrett Stidham—works on his chemistry with Jakobi Myers. And it'll be after Tuesday afternoon's trade deadline.
The Patriots could be sellers in the next 48 hours, but they're not just going to give players away. The NFL trade deadline has inspired more fireworks in recent years, but this is not the NBA or MLB. Players have value, draft picks are currency and no one has a good idea of what the salary cap will be in 2021. The Patriots likely won't have Gilmore on the roster in 2021 because they won't pay him, but they believe someone will be willing to both part with a first-round pick (or something equivalent) and pay him later.
Newton, meanwhile, let his team down again. One of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks the league has ever seen can't consistently get the job done with either his arm or legs. Newton's shoulder wouldn't allow him to throw to the right side of the field in the past three games, but he went 6-for-8 for 63 yards to the right side against Buffalo. Josh McDaniels was happy to ride Newton's legs into the red zone—first to get in position for a couple of end zone shots and finally to settle for an overtime-inducing field goal—and got neither.
And Bill Belichick, the greatest coach of all time, the man known for never making excuses… has made a habit recently of finding excuses. After the embarrassing loss to Denver two weeks ago, Belichick bemoaned the lack of practice time his team had following COVID-19 issues. This week he made dubious claims about cap issues restricting New England's roster-building abilities.
The Mighty Belichick now stands at 2-5 ready to make a deal with just about any team for just about any one of his players.
A layup award
End-of-the-year awards aren't handed out in the middle of the season, nor should they be. But Mike Tomlin is as obvious a pick for Coach of the Year as any of the league's top awards.
Tomlin, he of 13 non-losing seasons that is soon to be 14, has the league's last undefeated team. He has one of the best scoring offenses and scoring defenses in the NFL and continues to innovate. He has stopped the Titans' undefeated hopes and created a two-game distance between the Steelers and the Ravens in the division.
This award has gone to the likes of Matt Nagy and Jason Garrett in recent years. I know Tomlin would prefer another Lombardi to this piece of hardware, but a November and December that even lightly resemble the first half of the season should give the Pittsburgh coach the award easily.
My guy Buck Reising, a crack reporter and radio voice in Nashville, is coming around to the Titans making a trade for Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
The Pats will move Gilmore for the right price. I believe that price is a first-round pick or, as I alluded to above, something equivalent to that. So two second-round picks.
Will the Titans do it? Well, they are historically bad on third downs, heading into Week 9 allowing more than 60% of third down conversions. Tennessee needs to affect the quarterback more, and just getting in the backfield isn't enough. But having a lockdown corner like Gilmore will, in theory, get teams into more third-and-long situations and help the pass rush get to the quarterback faster.
The Titans could part with next year's (likely late) first-round pick to get Gilmore. They'd still have to give him a new contract, which is tricky in a 2021 season where the cap could be $175 million. Titans brass has had a good grasp on potential cap issues, though. Remember, they paid Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry during the pandemic, knowing good and well that hard decisions would have to be made come March 2021 anyway.
More Week 8 insider notes
- Credit Philip Rivers. I've been hard on him since the start of last season, but he put up a 123.5 passer rating against a hungry and opportunistic Lions defense. The Colts are tied with the Titans atop the AFC South with their two meetings still awaiting them.
- I called the Raiders contenders on CBS Sports HQ last week and I meant it. You can't trust them to be consistent, but so far they've beaten the Saints and Patrick Mahomes. Now the defense held Baker Mayfield to 122 yards passing and no touchdowns. Las Vegas still has a challenging slate ahead.
- The Jets are one half-season away from securing the No. 1 overall pick for the first time since 1996. I am convinced Trevor Lawrence will not return to college in 2021, but I am far from convinced he will be a Jet come next April. The young man has leverage and I don't think his group will be afraid to use it if necessary.