It’s NFL team preview time, and today we’re looking at the New England Patriots. Each Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from July 25 through Sept. 8, we will take an in-depth look at each team in the NFL with a 7- to 10-minute video going through impactful additions and departures, last year’s rankings and strength of schedule in 2023.
Home Field Sports analyst Jim Derry will then make a prediction on the team’s record this season and where they will finish in their respective division, along with the over/under win total, as posted at Caesars Sportsbook.
These stories are a brief summary of the accompanied preview videos – powered by the Dattitude Podcast (which will review each division every Friday until the season begins). The schedule for when each team will run is listed below with a link to each story and video that already has run.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Coach: Bill Belichick (24th season)
2022 record: 8-9, 3rd in AFC East; did not make playoffs.
Last season in a nutshell: For just the third time in 20 seasons, the New England Patriots failed to make the playoffs.
That’s it. What more do you want from the Patriots’ nutshell? Ohhhh, you want to know HOW it happened. Well, that’s kind of complicated.
Truth is, maybe we’re beginning to find out that Tom Brady was THE reason why this team was so good for so long. We’re not blaming Bill Belichick, but we are putting a major piece of their downfall on an anemic offense. (Read about former offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien coming back in the “What needs to go right” segment below.)
Overall, New England was 26th in total offense (yards per game), 29th in plays per drive, 24th in rushing yards – all this while finishing in the top 10 in most defensive categories except passing yards allowed, where they were 16th.
They scored seven points in the opener against Miami, and that was a sign of things to come (although it never was that bad again). They scored 24 or fewer points in 11 of 17 games and a 1-4 stretch from late November through Christmas Eve shattered whatever playoff chances they had.
Now they enter the 2023 season with questions at quarterback after 2021 first-round draft pick Mac Jones regressed from an impressive rookie season. The Patriots were 6-8 in games he started and 2-0 in games started by reserve rookie Bailey Zappe, who was drafted out of Western Kentucky in the fourth round.
Where they don’t have questions is at running back, where Rhamondre Stevenson has turned into quite the find. The second-year player jumped from 606 rushing yards in 2021 to 1,040 last season. And he’s got help in the form of former All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott, whom the Pats picked up in free agency a few weeks ago from Dallas.
At receiver, they have replaced Jakobi Meyers with JuJu Smith-Schuster, and they have also added Mike Gesicki at tight end to go with Hunter Henry.
2023 bye week: 11
2023 Draft: 1 (17th overall) CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon; 2 (46) DL Keion White, Georgia Tech; 3 (46) DB Marte Mapu, Sacramento State; 4 (107) OL Jake Andrews, Troy; 4 (112) K Chad Ryland, Maryland; 4 (117) OL Sidy Sow, Eastern Michigan; 5 (144) OL Atonio Mafi, UCLA; 6 (187) Kayshon Boutte, LSU; 6 (192) P Bryce Baringer, Michigan State; 6 (210) WR Demario Douglas, Liberty; 6 (214) CB Ameer Speed, Michigan State; 7 (245) CB Isaiah Bolden, Jackson State.
Free-agent signings: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (from Kansas City), 3 years, $25.5M; T Calvin Anderson (from Denver), 2 years, $7M; LB Chris Board (from Detroit), 2 years, $5M; T Riley Reiff (from Chicago), 1 year, $5M; TE Mike Gesicki (from Miami), 1 year, $4.5M; RB Ezekiel Elliott (from Dallas), 1 year, $3M; DE Trey Flowers (from Miami), 1 year, $1.68M; TE Anthony Firkser (from Atlanta), 1 year, $1.08M; QB Trace McSorley (from (Arizona), 1 year, $1.08M; P Corliss Waitman (from Denver), 1 year, $990K.
What needs to go right: To go with all the additions and development from Stevenson and (they hope) Jones, the Patriots need (not hope) Bill O’Brien returning to the team to become offensive coordinator will jump-start this unit that dropped from 15th to 26th after Josh McDaniels left for Las Vegas.
They also need their offensive line to be better than predicted, which is anywhere from the middle of the pack to slightly below average, depending on where you look.
New England is talented from 1 to 3 in their receiving corps, but it’s shallow after that. Just another reason why they signed Gesicki, and there’s little question he and Henry will be on the field quite a bit at the same time.
Rarely does one have to worry about a Belichick-coached defense, and this season shouldn’t be much different. That being said, being average against the pass probably needs to get better for this team to avoid missing the postseason in back-to-back years since 1999 and 2000.
The schedule is not their friend. According to our formula that bases how good a team is in the preseason by over/under win totals from Caesars Sportsbook, the Patriots have THE TOUGHEST schedule in the NFL. And even if it isn’t, no one can question how brutal it is in the first half with games against Philadelphia, Dallas, Buffalo, New Orleans, the Jets and Miami twice.
Oh, and in the second half, they finish the regular season with the Chargers, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Denver, Buffalo and the Jets.
In other words, just about everything is going to have to go right, and this team absolutely must win the games they’re supposed to win.
Key moments in video:
0:00 New England Patriots
0:59 Is Belichick losing it?
2:02 Can Bill O’Brien help Mac Jones?
3:51 Rhamondre Stevenson again needs to come up big
4:51 JuJu is a lift to this offense
5:42 Dissecting a brutal schedule
8:18 Predictions, best bet
PREVIEW SCHEDULE / LINKS
July 25: Houston Texans
July 26: Indianapolis Colts
July 27: Jacksonville Jaguars
July 28: Tennessee Titans
Aug. 1: Arizona Cardinals
Aug. 2: Los Angeles Rams
Aug. 3: San Francisco 49ers
Aug. 4: Seattle Seahawks
Aug. 8: Denver Broncos
Aug. 9: Kansas City Chiefs
Aug. 10: Las Vegas Raiders
Aug. 11: Los Angeles Chargers
Aug. 15: Dallas Cowboys
Aug. 16: New York Giants
Aug. 17: Philadelphia Eagles
Aug. 18: Washington Commanders
Aug. 22: Buffalo Bills
Aug. 23: Miami Dolphins
Aug. 24: New England Patriots
Aug. 25: New York Jets
Aug. 29: Chicago Bears
Aug. 29: Detroit Lions
Aug. 30: Green Bay Packers
Aug. 30: Minnesota Vikings
Aug. 31: Baltimore Ravens
Aug. 31: Cincinnati Bengals
Sept. 1: Cleveland Browns
Sept. 2: Pittsburgh Steelers
Sept. 5: Atlanta Falcons
Sept. 6: Carolina Panthers
Sept. 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sept. 8: New Orleans Saints