Tom Brady's Buccaneers or Bill Belichick's Patriots? Who is more likely to take 2020 by storm?
Watch NFL Sunday, with Dolphins @ Patriots and Bucs @ Saints - live on Sky Sports NFL from 5pm on Sunday
By James Simpson - @JS_Football
Last Updated: 13/09/20 5:00pm
It was the biggest player-related story of the offseason.
Tom Brady, after 20 seasons and six Super Bowls in New England, departed this summer. He will start this season as the new face of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Meanwhile, the head coach who was by his side, Bill Belichick, remains a Patriot and will look to continue the dynasty.
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The question is: which team will have the most success? Does Brady bring instant contender potential to the Buccaneers? Can Belichick prove his 'next man up' attitude works even when losing a Hall of Famer in the most important position in football?
With both in action live on Sky Sports NFL in Week One - Sunday from 5pm - here we take a look at how these two franchises compare going into the 2020 season...
While he's no BB, 'BA', Bruce Arians, has a positive .589 coaching record (56-39-1). He's a two-time NFL Coach of the Year (2012 and 2014), has a pair of Super Bowl wins as an assistant with Pittsburgh Steelers, and he sure knows how to get the best from his quarterbacks. His phrase "no risk it, no biscuit" sums up an aggressive philosophy.
In his second season as head coach, Arians brings back all three coordinators - Byron Leftwich (offence), Todd Bowles (defence) and Keith Armstrong (special teams). While Bowles struggled as the top man with the New York Jets, he has boasted some fantastic defences under Arians in Arizona.
There are slight tweaks in New England, but the core remains the same. Belichick, who holds record after record and will arguably go down as the greatest coach of all-time, returns and still boasts long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. It will be amazing to see them scheme an offence for an athletic, mobile quarterback for the first time, with former league MVP Cam Newton the new man at the position.
After learning behind previous special teams coordinator Joe Judge - who departed for the Giants this summer - Cameron Achord takes over, while with no official defensive coordinator, Steve Belichick (outside linebackers) and Jerod Mayo (inside) are expected to continue play-calling duties in 2020.
Quite simply, they are loaded. Absolutely stacked. Both outside receivers - Mike Evans and Chris Godwin - were Pro Bowlers in 2019, both registering over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns each last season. The backfield featured Ronald Jones (2018 second-rounder), and Ke'Shawn Vaughn (third rounder this year) even before adding household names Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy.
And of course, there's Rob Gronkowski. If healthy, he is arguably the best tight end of all-time!
Last year, with Jameis Winston at QB, they managed the third-most yards and tied third-most points in the NFL, despite a whopping 41 giveaways (largely down to Winston). They should be even more efficient this time around.
The story of how the Patriots fared after Brady will now include 2015 MVP Newton. Far from starting over with a rookie this season - or last year's fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham, as seemed to be the direction for most of the summer - New England welcome one of the last decade's greats.
The scheme will be different, and this attack has got younger. Expectations should be high for sophomore wideout N'Keal Harry, on whom the Pats spent a first-round pick, while two rookies could share time at tight end (Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene). How will the offence look? No one really knows!
This defence has talent across the board, with a decent mix of veterans and youngsters. The linebacking group is a strength - with Jason Pierre-Paul and 19.5-sack man Shaq Barrett on the outside, and Lavonte David and last year's fifth overall pick Devin White on the inside.
A lot will rest on the performance of a young secondary that features plenty of second and third-year players. Last season, they gave up the third-most passing yards (270.1) in the entire league but if they improve on the back-end, it will be huge.
The Patriots are coming off a historic, record-setting defensive year in which they allowed just 14.1 points and 275.9 yards per game. However, losing linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who opted out of the season, will be hard to make up for.
2019 Defensive Player of the Year, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, will continue to make it hard to throw on the Pats, but as well as Hightower, the team lost LBs Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy, with that position all change. New England are certainly in capable coaching hands, but it will be a new-look D.
Expect the Bucs to be in the postseason shakeup. While Brady won't offer the same deep passing volume - or even success - of Winston, he will be more efficient with the ball. Fewer turnovers and more possession football should keep the offence on the field, and the defence has plenty of room to improve in year two under Todd Bowles. They're in a tough division, with the New Orleans Saints - their opponents on Sunday - again favourites to take the NFC South, but they're well capable of a Wild Card spot and then, who knows.
Despite losing Brady, New England still have arguably the best NFL coach in history in Belichick, who has proven time, and time again, that writing him and his team off is not advisable. Newton can lead the team into the playoffs if his offensive line, and his body, holds up. People are hopping aboard the Buffalo Bills bandwagon, but don't be surprised if it's the Pats taking home another AFC East title - just don't expect a deep playoff run.
On the latest Inside the Huddle podcast - which you can listen to in the player below - Neil Reynolds, Rob Ryan and Jeff Reinebold pick out 10 players in new surroundings for the 2020 season and debate whether they will be hits or misses?
Sky Sports' weekly NFL predictions returns for a new season... and with Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher making their Week One picks?!
Click on the video above to watch Neville and Carragher make their predictions, including whether Cam Newton gets off to a flying start in New England, whether the Cowboys rack up the points in Los Angeles, and which team does Tom Brady play for again?!
Sky Sports NFL will be your dedicated channel for NFL coverage through the season - featuring a host of NFL Network programming, a new weekly preview show as well as at least five games a week and NFL Redzone, you won't miss a moment.