The New England Patriots struggled in 2020, a rarity for a franchise that has won six Super Bowls since 2001. The Patriots finished the season with a 7-9 record, and many attributes that to their changes at the quarterback position.
You know the story – Tom Brady left New England and won a Super Bowl with his new team, Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, Cam Newton came in and had an underwhelming season.
Yes, the quarterback is the most important position in sports, but the Patriots’ struggles went far deeper than who was throwing the football. For the Patriots to get back in the mix of the AFC East, they need to get back to their Bill Bellichick roots: a strong defense. Let’s have a look at our in-depth analysis of New England’s defense so you can start getting ready to make your bets against their NFL odds.
New England Patriots Defense – In-Depth Betting Analysis
New England’s 2020 Defense Was Not Good
The Patriots and strong defense have been synonymous for years, so it’s a bit surprising to take a look at defensive rankings for New England from last season.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded the Patriots as the 19th-overall defense. Football Outsider’s popular DVOA rankings were even lower on New England, ranking them 26th in the NFL.
PFF pegged the New England run defense as 22nd, their pass rush 22nd, and coverage the best, at 14th overall.
DVOA ranked New England’s pass defense 18th and put the Patriots run defense dead last in the NFL, 32nd in the league. The Patriots allowed the seventh-most rushing yards per game to opponent’s last season and will need to improve in 2021.
With teams easily asserting the run, things opened up for the rest of the offense, consistently putting the Patriots behind in games. The entire defensive line was a weakness. New England sacked opposing quarterbacks only 24 times in 2020, sixth-least in the entire NFL.
2020 Stat Leaders
Safety Adrian Phillips led the team in tackles in 2020, with 109. Linebacker Ja’wuan Bentley, despite missing three games, was second on the team in tackles with 90. Defensive end Chase Winovich led the team in sacks, with just 5.5.
With star cornerback Stephon Gilmore missing a handful of games on the year, JC Jackson stepped up as a playmaker in the defensive backfield. The third-year vet hauled in nine interceptions, second in the NFL.
2021 New Additions
The stats showed the New England defense needed to improve to be competitive in 2021, and clearly, the Patriots also acknowledged the need for improvements. The Patriots shelled out a lot of money in free agency on both ends of the ball, bringing in some notable defensive contributors.
New England stole Matthew Judon away from rival Baltimore, a star linebacker who should make an immediate difference in 2021. The Pats signed defensive back Jalen Mills, formerly from Philadelphia, who should take the place of retired safety Patrick Chung.
As mentioned above, the Patriots’ biggest weakness was along the defensive line, and they used two premium draft picks to address exactly that. New England traded up in the second round to select Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore, who many projected to go in the first round.
The Patriots then drafted defensive end Ronnie Perkins in the third round, investing heavily in a key area of the team. With what should be a better defense in 2021, the Patriots should get back to their former selves, stopping opposing offenses.