How Cam Newton has reinvigorated the Patriots’ offense; can they sustain early success?

  • Founder and Editor-in-chief of Footballoutsiders.com
  • NFL analyst for ESPN Insider

It was hard to know what to expect from the New England Patriots going into the 2020 season. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Patriots would take the field without Tom Brady. New quarterback Cam Newton was a question, hobbled by injuries for the second half of 2018 and a couple of bad games in 2019. The Patriots’ offense had already dipped a year ago, with Brady struggling to connect with a depleted receiver corps.

The hope was that the Patriots could put an offense on the field that would at least match last year’s disappointing unit. A return to the offensive levels of recent Brady seasons seemed unlikely.

And yet, a return to offensive levels of recent Brady seasons is what we’ve gotten so far. The Patriots’ offense of 2020 has been as efficient as any of the team’s best offenses of recent years, just in some very different ways.

For 15 years straight, the Patriots ended the year ranked seventh or higher in offense, according to the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. Last year, they dropped to 11th and they were just 16th in our rating, which gives more weight to the end of the season. But now the Patriots are back, ranking fourth in offensive DVOA through Week 3. They have been 26.9% more efficient than the average NFL offense in 2020. Only the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are ahead of the Patriots, with the Kansas City Chiefs rounding out the top five.

How have they done it? And can they sustain this early success all season?

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