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The Pats Could Only Go 3 Months Without An MVP Quarterback

We begin with the big news out of NFL free agency. Former league MVP Cam Newton will join the New England Patriots on a one-year contract so low-risk for the Pats that it reminds us why New England tends to run strategic rings around every other team in the league. While Newton needs to be healthy to perform, the upside could be huge for both him and head coach Bill Belichick, who has been building a team more around the run anyway and probably has a lot of ideas saved up over the past two decades about how to use a quarterback who can actually move. We are not convinced that this changes the balance of power in the AFC — though we do offer a moment of silence for the glimmer of hope that Geoff’s beloved Jets could have excelled in the AFC East. Nor did this make us forget that the Patriots got caught cheating. Again. But, at the very least, the Belichick/Newton partnership could be really fun to watch.

Next, we talk about the latest round of athletes speaking out against injustice, particularly in college football. The most notable example is Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, who vowed that he wouldn’t play for the school until Mississippi removed the Confederate battle flag from its state flag. But other athletes — including those at Kansas State, Clemson and Oklahoma State — have also spoken out against racism, homophobia and lax health protocols during the coronavirus outbreak. College athletes are in a unique position, especially when they band together, of being able to exert economic pressure without having much to lose — it’s not like they’re getting paid to play anyway. Plus, they’re coming of age with more and more recent examples of how to speak out and engage in activism from the pros. Colin Kaepernick is maybe the most prominent, but the WNBA’s Maya Moore offers a concrete, and inspiring, template for athletes who want to leverage their careers to make positive change.

Finally, Neil and Geoff take over the Rabbit Hole to talk about how pro golfer Bryson DeChambeau might, in fact, be a real life Incredible Hulk. The evidence? He’s a total stats and analytics nerd who has gained about 40 pounds of muscle in the last nine months. While adding a Sammy Sosa level of bulk doesn’t automatically guarantee greater efficiency per swing, the change has put DeChambeau in the hunt for first in every tournament he’s played — and made him a lot more money.

What we’re looking at this week:

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.