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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, December 9, 2023

Keeping Up with the 617: Reality Check


In a year where the NFL is as unpredictable as the New England weather forecast, the New England Patriots continue to prove to this fanbase how a mediocre offense can’t win the “big games.” Sure, the Patriots currently occupy the final playoff spot heading into Week 11, which should shock many NFL pundits; they currently are ranked No. 26 in total yards per game, a statistic that should worry many fans. Although Matt Judon is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and this defense continues to dominate the gridiron, there remains multiple questions on the offensive side of the ball, particularly with quarterback play.

I’m a victim of buying into the Bailey Zappe hype following his stellar performances against the Packers, Lions and Browns. Even with the knowledge that the coordinators simplified the offensive game plan, he looked confident in the pocket and limited his mistakes, similar to Tom Brady’s performance in 2001. When Mac Jones returned against the Chicago Bears, I undoubtedly was questioning the decision to start him, since the recovery process for a high ankle sprain requires at least 4–6 weeks. The Bears game was doomed from the start since alternating between two quarterbacks in the NFL seldom produces positive results. 

Following that Bears game, I truly believed that this season was doomed; with a discombobulated offense and the morality seemingly sucked out of the locker room, I wouldn’t blame many fans that gave up on the season after that travesty. However, the bounceback games against the Jets and Colts sparked some hope, although Jones still looks horrific. Partially due to the switching of systems in the offseason, Jones hasn’t looked comfortable all season, and a leaky offensive line doesn’t add any positives to that situation either. It feels too late in the season to reform the offensive system; however, a switch could create a more comfortable environment for Jones. 

Their next game against the New York Jets will most likely reveal the true colors of the Patriots; a victory would solidify a “playoff contender” label, but a loss will diminish their postseason chances while simultaneously helping the Jets, who are surprisingly tough to beat this season. The game plan should be simple: pressure Zach Wilson. Although he doesn’t take as many sacks as other young quarterbacks, creating pressure on Wilson has translated into more defensive turnovers. Additionally, scoring early would help the Patriots immensely, as forcing the Jets to run a pass-heavy offense early on provides the New England defense with a slight advantage, as Wilson’s passing numbers don’t jump off the page. 

Given the current composition of this Patriots roster, a reality check for this fanbase is well needed. To be frank, this Patriots team is nowhere near a Super Bowl contender, and an AFC East title is still far out of reach. Even with the sudden poor play from the Buffalo Bills, the Patriots will need plenty of help — and a few wins of their own — to make any noise in the division. I still see this team in a playoff spot come January, but a deep postseason run seems like a pipe dream at best.