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New England Patriots

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 19: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second half of the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 35-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Last season’s bold predictions post was centered around uncertainty. With a roster in transition, limited training camp, and no preseason, there were so many unknowns heading into Week 1 in 2020.

This year the team has a more concrete foundation, leaving less to the imagination for 2021. Still, here’s one bold prediction for each side of the ball for the Patriots, followed by more projections (bold and otherwise) from other 98.5 The Sports Hub personalities.

  • The team leaders in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns will be three different players.

    Mac Jones did a great job of spreading the ball out this summer, a trend that will likely continue into the regular season. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see three different players lead the team in the three main receiving statistics.

    In terms of catches, Jakobi Meyers and Jonnu Smith both should be targeted heavily. Meyers had a great summer, and seems poised to pick up where he left off last year and fully embrace Julian Edelman’s old role as the slot receiver and volume target. However, Smith’s formational versatility and run after the catch ability make him an attractive candidate for a heavy dose of schemed targets such as screens and jet sweeps.

    Looking at potential yardage leaders, Jones will have two ‘deep threats’ to choose from. Nelson Agholor is the more conventional speedy receiver who can take the top off a defense, while Hunter Henry will challenge teams up the seam. Both have their question marks – drops for Agholor and health for Henry – but if either can work through it, they have 1,000 yard potential.

    When it comes to touchdowns, there are numerous candidates. Both tight ends are likely options, as is 6-foot-4 N’Keal Harry assuming he misses minimal time on IR. However, don’t sleep on running back James White. White used to dominate linebackers in the red zone, catching 24 touchdowns between 2015 and 2019. With a lack of depth among their pass catchers last year, teams were able to use safeties and even cornerbacks at times to cover White, offering him less mismatches. With the moves made this offseason, he should be back to facing linebackers again.

  • The Patriots will allow under 100 rushing yards per game on defense

    Twice in the last five years, the Patriots have allowed under 100 rushing yards per game (2016 and 2019). They should go for the trifecta this season.

    Last season, the Patriots had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, and one of their worst in the Bill Belichick era. They responded by spending the offseason investing heavily in their front seven, highlighted by the signings of Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, and Davon Godchaux and drafting Christian Barmore. There should be internal help as well, with the return of Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley being able to play a more natural role fitting his downhill style.

    Only five NFL teams allowed fewer than 100 yards rushing per game last season, so it’s not an easy feat to accomplish. But between the upgraded defense, projected run-heavy offense that should shorten games, and ideally more late-game leads than last year, it’s not an unobtainable mark for this team.

  • 98.5 The Sports Hub staff predictions

    Here’s what some other 98.5 The Sports Hub personalities are expecting to see from the Patriots this year.

  • Mike Felger, Felger & Mazz

    12-5. Lose AFC title game at Denver.

  • Tony Massarotti, Felger & Mazz

    Will they win it all? Probably not. Will they win the division? Possibly, but doubtful. But what they will do is make the playoffs and put a sign on the front door: BACK IN BUSINESS.

  • Jim Murray, Felger & Mazz

    Let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate. If you think this year’s Patriots team is going to the Super Bowl, let alone win the thing, you’re a delusional moron & I can’t take you seriously.

    That said!

    They’ll be better.

    I mean, how can’t they be what with all the money spent on free agents, and Cam Newton is no longer throwing footballs at his teammates feet. The division still mostly stinks, I believe Buffalo takes a step back, and they should be hosting (or at least playing in) Wild Card weekend. Just a quick word about Mac Jones and managing expectations for a rookie QB. Some people are predicting double digit wins, 20+ TDs and 15 or fewer INTs, a playoff victory. In the history of the NFL draft during the SB era only one QB has accomplished all three in his rookie season…

    Russell Wilson, 2012.

    Russell Wilson. 11-5 rec. 26 TD 10 INT WC win

    So you think Mac Jones is going to mirror that? Seems a bit lofty in my opinion. The kid will be fine to good, and he’s going to look like a dumb rookie at times. Deal with it.

    Anyway, the prediction! 10-7 and lose wild card weekend. Oh, and Matthew Judon is going to have a season like a young Javon Kearse.

  • Jimmy Stewart, Felger & Mazz

    Patriots 12-5, AFC Championship Game

    Mac Jones offensive rookie of the year: 24 TDs, 8 INTs 67% completion, top 15 in the NFL in passer rating.

    Mac’s No. 1 target will be Jakobi Meyers, who will catch 100+ passes.

    Patriots have a top 8 defense in the NFL.

  • Fred Toucher, Toucher & Rich

    N’Keal Harry will set the NFL record for touchdowns in a season.

  • Rich Shertenlieb, Toucher & Rich

    Patriots beat the Bucs on October 3rd. Tom Brady leaves the field before Bill Belichick can shake his hand. Patriots are bounced in Round 1 of the playoffs, but it doesn’t matter – Bill won his Super Bowl in Week 4.

  • Tim McKone

    The Patriots will go 12-5 this season thanks in large part to the performance of rookie of the year Mac Jones (I’m a believer!). New England will wind up winning the division as the Bills will take a surprising step back this year. The biggest surprise for fans will be that all of this done without Stephon Gilmore. The former defensive player of the year has played his last game for the Pats and with JC Jackson emerging as a number one corner Bill Belichick will send him packing in season. (FYI this all means that the Patriots will go 5-12, Mac will be a bust, Buffalo will rip off three straight super bowls, and Stephon will get a monster extension next week).

  • Sean Sylver

    First, let’s pause a moment while I pat myself on the back for correctly predicting the Patriots’ 7-9 record last season. There’s reason to believe this year will be better than the last, and it has little to do with the QB pick. The Mac Jones hoopla is out of control, which is why I’m going into his rookie campaign with zero expectations. While the other offensive upgrades make that unit passable, it’s the defense that will power this team into the playoffs. Put me down for 10-7 and a return to the postseason, if only for a weekend.

  • Joe Murray, Over/Under 98.5

    The Patriots will win 11 games. Mac Jones will be rookie of the year.

    Bold Prediction: Joejuan Williams will have 5 interceptions

  • Dan Lifshatz, Over/Under 98.5

    Pats go 9-8. Rookie Mac Jones plays well for the team but Pats just miss the playoffs.

  • Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

    The Patriots will win 11 games. How that fits in with the rest of the AFC is anyone’s guess. But my guess is that the Bills either win the tiebreaker at 11-6 or win 12 games to take the AFC East again. Pats host a wild card game and win it, but come up short against a better team/quarterback in the divisional round. Mac Jones will have a good rookie year in terms of managing games and protecting the ball, with the occasional big game through the air, but the defense – particularly the front-seven – will be the Patriots’ bread-and-butter. We’ll come out of the season saying the Patriots are back and headed in the right direction.

    BOLD prediction? Matt Judon is an All-Pro. Tough to predict first team with the talent at outside linebacker across the league. But Judon is a stud and will have a tremendous season as the Patriots’ best defensive playmaker, regardless.

  • Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

    The Patriots will have a better season than the Bills. Either with a better record or with a deeper playoff run. There’s a lot of hype around the Bills, and for good reason given their strides in recent seasons. But there’s been a preeeeeeeetty consistent theme throughout life: Where there’s hype for a Buffalo sports team, misery and a crushing blow to the center of the Earth (where Ville Leino and EJ Manuel hang out these days) usually follows. I would like all the credit if this is correct, but none of the blame if it’s wrong.

  • Mike 'Sarge' Riley, Wrestling Inside the Ropes

    Patriots put one foot in the water last year during unprecedented times and the results on the field showed. They made the off season additions and now with a Rookie quarterback starting under center for the first time since Drew Bledsoe has the interest level back.

    A new schedule format, it’s too bad the two byes are no longer in play. I’ll say Patriots 11-6 with an appearance in the AFC Championship game. Doesn’t mean they will win but they will be playing for the right to hoist the Lamar Hunt trophy the last Sunday of January.

  • Ryan Johnston, The Hockey Show

    My BOLD prediction is that the Patriots will win the AFC East. The combination of Mac Jones, the new talent at TE & WR, plus what I expect to be a pretty stout defense will put them in contention. The Bills will take a step back from the 13-3 record of last year and the Pats will get to host a playoff game at Gillette.

  • Marshall Hook

    10-7. The defense will be good for a half those wins, bad opponents for another chunk meaning Mac Jones really only needs to turn up for a couple. I believe he will get in synch with the receiving corps – even Agholor – midway through the season and the Pats will rip off some wins in true NE fashion to end the year. They’ll squeak into the playoffs but make a first round exit.