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For just the second time since 2001, a quarterback other than Tom Brady will start the season under center for the New England Patriots. With Brady now in Tampa Bay, newly signed signal-caller Cam Newton is the heavy favorite to be the Patriots' starter when New England opens the 2020 season against the Miami Dolphins.
Here are the odds for the Patriots' starting quarterback, with a breakdown of the top contenders:
Most people believe Newton will emerge as the starter in New England, and the odds reflect that. The biggest issue with Newton is health. Before he suffered a shoulder injury in 2018, Newton's passer grade from PFF was 86.4 - seventh-best in the NFL. Newton's play has declined since the injury, however, and he's 0-8 in his last eight games as a starter. He certainly looks healthy and motivated based on recent social media posts, which is good news for the Patriots:
Even if you think the former MVP is on the decline, it's hard to argue against New England's decision to add him; the Patriots brought in a quarterback who was among the league's best before his shoulder injury, and they didn't break the bank to do it. Now, the question is, will Newton start? The answer is probably, but the 31-year-old has only two months and potentially no preseason games to learn the Patriots' offense. Betting him at -330 makes little sense.
Unless something catastrophic happens, Brian Hoyer and Brian Lewerke aren't serious contenders to start in New England. That leaves second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham as Newton's only real threat. How serious a threat is he? That depends on who you ask. At least one coach in the AFC East apparently isn't buying the Newton hype:
That could be a bunch of nonsense, but Stidham definitely has a couple of things going for him. The 23-year-old was sensational during last year's preseason, connecting on 67% of his passes. He's now entering his second offseason in Josh McDaniels' offensive system after spending a year learning behind arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
Another thing to keep in mind: The Patriots didn't rush to sign another quarterback. NFL teams had months to sign Newton, but Bill Belichick swooped in and got him for below market value after no one else bit. That might mean Newton starts, but it may also mean Belichick simply wants veteran insurance in case something happens to Stidham, especially in these uncertain times with players testing positive for COVID-19.
Newton is still one of the NFL's most dynamic quarterbacks when healthy, and he'll get every chance to win the starting job. But given how late he signed and the offseason schedule changes caused by the pandemic, this is a more open competition than many believe it to be.
Belichick will start whichever quarterback he thinks gives the Patriots the best chance to beat Miami in Week 1. Though Newton deserves to be the favorite, the market overreacted to the signing. Stidham +220 is the play here based purely on value.
Thomas Casale is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. He's been following the sports betting industry for almost 30 years. A devoted fan of the wishbone offense, Thomas bets on all sports but specializes in college football, NFL, and college basketball. Find him on Twitter @TheTomCasale.