The Deadspin 2020 NFL Previews, AFC East: Tom’s Gone. Who’s Got Next?


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Covid Response: No team has had more players opt out of the season than the Patriots. Stars like Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, and Marqise Lee are among the eight players choosing to stay home this year.

Outside The Lines: The Patriots drafted kicker Justin Rohrwasser in the fifth round of this year’s draft. After the draft, Rohrwasser was discovered to have a tattoo of a far-right group known as the “Three Percenters” on his arm. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Three Percenters are an “anti-government extremist group” that has grown in numbers since 2008. They are a militia who believe that their right to bear arms is under attack. Soon after folks discovered the logo on Rohrwasser’s arm, he removed the tattoo. On Saturday, Rohrwasser was cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp, but on Sunday he was added to the 16-player practice squad.

Oh, he’s here now?: The Patriots have a new QB1, and his name is Cam Newton. Cam was recently named starter and captain of this new-look team. So, without Brady, can you jump on the Pats bandwagon now? Absolutely not, says my colleague and Pats superfan Carron Phillips: “Hate us like you always have.” Yeah, well that shouldn’t be too hard.

Where’d he go?: The face of the franchise left Foxborough this summer, you may have heard of him. After 20 years in New England, Tom Brady will follow the lead of millions of Americans by retiring to Florida. Bradywill team up with former teammate Rob Gronkowski in Tampa Bay this season. Pats All-Pro kicker Stephen Gostkowski and outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy both left New England too.

Fans in the stands: Per the Massachusetts Reopening Advisory Board, New England will not be able to host fans until October, at the earliest. If Gillette Stadium is able to host fans for the remainder of the season, the Patriots expect around 20 percent capacity.

What to expect: The Patriots have won every AFC East division title since 2009, a streak that could end this year. This will be a different New England team than the one you are used to seeing, mostly because of one guy. No team can upgrade from quarterback after losing Brady, but Cam is not a bad attempt at it. Something about the combination of Newton and Bill Belichick makes me think this team can stay atop the division, much to the chagrin of all Pats haters. But with a number of starters opting out and a weak receiving corps, I don’t see Belichick coaching his way to another division title.

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