As if the Pats-Saints game itself wasn’t punishment enough. As if all the post-game stories, analysis and replays weren’t bad enough. As if the Pats-Bucs media circus wasn’t irritating enough. Now we get to slog through the power rankings. Woot!
The Patriots played a sloppy, undisciplined game on Sunday, so it wasn’t a surprise the team dropped down to 20th in the rankings. There’s no objective reason for the experts to show any optimism either. Coaching and quarterback play used to be the two mainsprings bouncing the team up after a bad loss or a bad start to the season. Not anymore. There’s too much uncertainty and unproven ability right now to freely give Belichick the benefit of the doubt. I get it.
Week 4 brings TB12 and the 2-1 Buccaneers to Foxboro on Sunday night. There’s always a chance the Pats could pull out a win (although I’m not betting my coffee money on it). On top of that, the Bills and Dolphins each look like they can pull off wins this week against the Texans and Colts. Worst case scenario, this time next week it’s ‘Hello’ to third place in the division, at least for a week. But even a 1-3 start doesn’t signal a death sentence for the team.
I’m still in the optimistic camp of watching the season play out, believing that they will improve as the weeks progress. Frankly, I’m more concerned with the team sabotaging itself with turnovers and penalties, than I am with the Buccaneers. If the Pats can clean up those areas and play with discipline, they’ll have a fighting chance. Maybe even this Sunday night. The remainder of the season will depend on it.
Around the AFC East:
17th - Mark Maske (Washington Post): This is not exactly the start to the season that the Patriots had in mind when they went on that free agent spending spree in the offseason. And now a certain old friend is coming to town this weekend. Coach Bill Belichick has managed to turn 1-2 starts into Super Bowl-winning seasons before. But that was with Tom Brady on the same side of the field, not across it. [-6]
18th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots suddenly find themselves at 1-2 with Tampa Bay coming to town. Without an upset there, they’d be 1-3 with three home losses. Sunday night is a big game in New England for more than the obvious reasons. [-2]
19th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): All that money spent on free agents and not much to show for it, so far. [-6]
19th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Mac Jones has completed 81 of 120 passes for 737 yards and two TDs with three INTs. Jones is growing into the job, and there have been some predictable rookie growing pains — such as his first interception against the Saints on Sunday. He has been solid in the shorter passing game, but he hasn’t been able to consistently connect down the field. Overall, teammates are bullish on him as their leader, and that should bode well for his development. “Tough kid, poised, kept throwing punches,” starting center David Andrews said.
19th - Danny Kelly (The Ringer): Pats moved from “The Contenders” down into “The Muddled Middle” category. [-4]
20th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): There are certain realities in the NFL. One of them is that first-year quarterbacks struggle. Even Hall of Famers like Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning had to take their lumps early on.
Week 3 was all kinds of lumpy for Mac Jones of the Patriots. After playing relatively clean football over the first two games, Jones threw the first three interceptions of his professional career. One was returned for a touchdown. Another was brought back deep into Pats territory. ...
Things aren’t going to get any easier for the rookie. Week 4 brings a visit from an angry Tampa Bay Buccaneers team led by some guy who used to be a quarterback in New England. Name’s Brady or something like that. [-2]
20th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): What the heck was that against the Saints? They looked flat as can be. Mac Jones still has a long ways to go. Here comes Tom Brady. [-1]
20th - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): Mac Jones’ Rookie of the Year candidacy took a massive hit on Sunday when he threw his first 3 interceptions of the season. His “success” early in the NFL season was a mirage. New England’s passing attack hasn’t sniffed explosiveness so far in 2021. Jones isn’t a playmaker. That’s fine on a team that likes to play with the lead. However, his lack of athleticism won’t help create splash plays when things break down. When New England gets behind and is forced to claw its way back, Jones and the rest of the offense struggle to put up points.
21st - Harris Ahmadzai, Dylan Fraychineaud (NewArena): So maybe Mac Jones isn’t the magic cure for the Patriots’ woes? After a lousy 7-9 season a year ago, the Pats are off to an uninspired 1-2 start — with their lone win coming against a Jets team that was held scoreless this week. Jones tossed three interceptions to New Orleans’ defense as the Pats managed to conjure up just 13 points on the day. Jones was also New England’s leading rusher on the day with 28 yards — the Patriots ran for just 49 yards total. He’ll have better days ahead, but the defending champions come to town this week. Prepare for another ugly outing for the rookie in Week 4.
21st - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots have done their best to hide Mac Jones with the defense and running game. But when those fall apart, the rookie can unravel. The caretaking vs. playmaking won’t work over the long haul this season. [-4]
21st - Nick Wojton (TouchdownWire): Rookie QB Mac Jones had his toughest day as a pro. Two of his three interceptions led to TDs for the Saints who continued to be one of the most confusing teams in football. [-3]
22nd - Justin Leger (NBC Sports Boston): It was an embarrassing effort on both sides of the ball for the Patriots in their 28-13 loss to the Saints. Rookie QB Mac Jones hardly had any time to throw as New England’s offensive line struggled mightily yet again. Jones finished with three interceptions in the defeat, including one that bounced off the hands of tight end Jonnu Smith. It won’t get any easier next Sunday night. The Patriots will welcome Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to town for undoubtedly the most anticipated game of the NFL season. [-4]
22nd - Nate Davis (USA Today): They’re 0-2 at home for the first time since Bill Belichick took over in 2000 ... and staring down the barrel of 0-3 with prodigal son TB12 on his way back to Foxborough. [-2]
22nd - MMQB Staff (SI): It’s not that surprising that New England has scuttled its way through life in the NFL after Tom Brady. After all, Brady can go to a new team, with elite wideouts and a stout defense, and attempt to win again, having not only reloaded but landing in a better situation. The team he left, even with Bill Belichick, must reconfigure—and must reconfigure despite having built around Brady, using draft picks and capital and cap space, for years. There’s a lot to like about rookie quarterback Mac Jones. There’s not a lot to like about the Pats’ playoff chances. [-2]
23rd - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): The Patriots were the NFL’s gold standard for so long that it’s almost jarring to see how ordinary Bill Belichick’s team has become. New England authored no flashbacks to former glories on Sunday, a listless 28-13 loss to the Saints that featured three Mac Jones interceptions. This uneasy period of self-reflection comes at an awkward time for the organization: Tom Brady makes his return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday night with a great chance to set the NFL’s all-time passing-yardage mark. Brady continues to cast a huge shadow over the organization — this week is going to feel like a total eclipse. “The Patriots have done nothing but win for a long time,” Jones said after losing to New Orleans. “We have to get back to that.” The rookie has opted into a world of impossible expectations. [-8]
23rd - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post). [-2]
23rd - Adam Hoge (NBC Chicago): Bill Belichick is getting tested right now and you know he’ll pull out all the stops to beat Tom Brady Sunday night. [-2]
AVG RANK: 20.6 [- 3.35]