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Patriots Power Rankings: Pats plummet heading into Week 8, but aren’t dead yet

Related: Patriots vs. Bears: Fan Notes from the Game

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots
Execution is key
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

In the immortal words of Michael Scott, “Well, well, well... how the turn tables.”

The New England Patriots were starting to get on track. The players were coming together as they worked their way through Mac Jones’ injury to a 3-3 record heading into Week 7. Monday night was supposed to put them above .500 and give the team at least a fighting chance in the AFC East and a potential playoff spot in the conference. Not so fast.

Just like the Titanic, the Pats’, 41-14 debacle vs. the Chiefs in 2014, the Hindenburg, and other disasters, by now we’re familiar with last night’s beatdown at the hands of the supposedly “lowly” Chicago Bears. Nothing worked for New England. The offense couldn’t score after the half, the defense lost contain and reverted back to the leaky sieve they were in the second half of the season last year, and Jake Bailey suddenly turned into Ken Walter. The rankings below reflect that disturbing turn of events along with added commentary on Bill Belichick’s handling of his quarterbacks. Not good.

Week 8 brings us Patriots-Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Jets are in second place behind the Bills, fielding a solid team behind solid coaching. This isn’t the usual punching bag and sure-thing win it used to be. If the Pats want to go anywhere the road leads through the division. It’s up to the team to pull it together, cut out the penalties, pick a starting quarterback and execute the game plan. It’s going to be tougher to ignore the noise until and unless they can turn things around a little better than Michael Scott. I’m still holding out hope of a rescue. Pats win by the skin of their teeth on Sunday.


Around the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills (5-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (3-4)

Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Detroit Lions (1-5)

New England Patriots (4-3) at New York Jets (5-2)

AFC Matchups:

Tennessee Titans (4-2) at Houston Texans (1-4-1)

Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)

Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)

Indianapolis Colts (3-3-1) vs. Washington Commanders (3-4)

Las Vegas Raiders (2-4) at New Orleans Saints (2-5)

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) vs. Denver Broncos (2-5)

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-0)

Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) - Bye

Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) - Bye


16th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots is regarded as one of the best head coaches in NFL history. Maybe the best. But Monday night at Gillette Stadium, he may have stepped in it—big time.

As Belichick told ESPN’s Lisa Salters (via Zack Cox of NESN), maybe the plan all along really was to play both Mac Jones and rookie Bailey Zappe at quarterback against the Bears. But that’s not what it looked like in the moment. In the moment, it looked like Belichick pulled Jones in favor of Zappe after Jones threw an early interception.

At first, it seemed to have been another shrewd play. Zappe gave the offense a boost, leading a pair of touchdown drives. The crowd erupted. All was right with the world. But the Patriots didn’t score another point after that. Zappe threw two interceptions of his own and also fumbled. The Patriots were blown out at home by a Bears team no one would confuse with the 1985 iteration. And now there’s a full-blown quarterback controversy in Beantown.

It’s not like Jones hasn’t had success. He led the Patriots to the postseason last year. But giving him just six pass attempts after a multi-week layoff makes it seem like the Patriots don’t have much confidence in him. And after Monday’s turkey, it’s no easier having confidence in this Patriots team. [nc]

16th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): There is a full-fledged quarterback controversy with the Patriots between Bailey Zappe and Mac Jones. But the defense was awful against the Bears, which is also a concern. [-5]

17th - Dan Hanzus ( The Patriots got blown out of their own building by the Bears on Monday Night Football, and Bill Belichick might live to regret the can of worms he just opened. The iconic head coach, who entered Week 7 tied with George Halas for second on the all-time wins board, yanked Mac Jones out of the lineup just three possessions into his return from a high ankle sprain. Enter Bailey Zappe, who was greeted with a huge ovation and led New England on two quick touchdown drives before the offense stalled out again. Did Zappe do enough to stay in the lineup, or will Jones get another chance Sunday against the Jets? New England sports talk radio will be louder than usual. [nc]

17th - Trevor Land (FlurrySports). [-6]

17th - Matt Johnson (SportsNaut): The New England Patriots’ old recipe for success seemed to be working heading into Week 7 after winning two consecutive games. What followed was a disaster of epic proportions as Bill Belichick fumbled the quarterback situation between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. The two combined for four turnovers while New England’s defense yielded 243 rushing yards. Enough said!

18th - NFL Nation (ESPN): When the Patriots were 1-2 and Mac Jones was struggling, they had eight turnovers and a minus-4 turnover differential. The eight turnovers were the second highest total in the NFL and Jones had five interceptions. Since that point, the Patriots have successfully limited mistakes and entered Week 7 with a plus-1 turnover differential. It’s no surprise that their season turned around as a result of it, although they backslid with a minus-3 ratio in Monday’s loss to the Bears. [-3]

18th - Nate Davis (USA Today): A team that appeared primed for one of its patented mid-season runs was instead exposed – by Chicago of all teams – as one with defensive issues and a festering quarterback problem. [-7]

18th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): It’s not often that the Pats get run out of their own building, especially in prime time. Just as concerning for Bill Belichick? The fact that he’s now facing a quarterback controversy in a town that cannot stop talking about sports. [-6]

19th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Well, Bailey Zappe might not be the savior after all. Whatever the Patriots decide to do at quarterback, it’s going to be an ongoing story all season. This isn’t good. [-2]

19th - Bo Wulf (The Athletic): After Bill Belichick’s inspired homage to George Halas in trying to win a game by scoring 14 points, the eyes in New England turn to the quarterback controversy we never knew we needed between Dragon Bail-Z and Mac Jones. For the record, Bailey Zappe is now at 0.06 EPA per dropback on the season, per TruMedia, to Jones’ -0.11. Jones was at 0.04 as a rookie in 2021. Obviously, it’s hard to imagine a first-round pick losing his job in Year 2, but that was a weird night! Next week, the Patriots play the Jets, against whom they’ve won a whopping 12 in a row. [-8]

19th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): In one game, they went from having a “good problem” at the quarterback position to a bad one. [-6]

20th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): What was that? The Patriots have a quarterback crisis between Bailey Zappe and Mac Jones. The offense got whipped by the Bears and the defense got gashed against the run. Go figure they limp in against the red-hot Jets. [-4]

20th - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post). [-7]

20th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): Bill Belichick playing musical chairs with his quarterbacks doesn’t exactly inspire faith in any of them. The Patriots clearly have a quarterback problem. [-4]

20th - Conor Orr (SI): This loss was among the more surprising in the post–Bill Belichick era. Normally, this is a coach who toys with young quarterbacks who are still carving out responsibilities within their offense. But a smashing run game did in the best laid defensive plans. The momentary spark the Patriots gained by pivoting to Bailey Zappe pales in comparison to the headaches it likely will cause down the road. [-2]

21st - Austin Gayle (The Ringer): “On the Bubble” category. Mac Jones returned to the starting lineup in Week 7 after missing three games with an ankle injury, but he didn’t last long. He completed just three passes for 13 yards and threw an interception before Bailey Zappe replaced him in the second quarter. Zappe, who was 2-0 as a starter while Jones was sidelined, immediately led back-to-back drives for touchdowns, but the Patriots didn’t score another point in their Monday night loss to the Bears. The spark Zappe brought off the bench faded quickly. He completed just nine passes for 76 yards and two interceptions in the second half.

The unfortunate reality for New England is they don’t have an obvious answer at quarterback. Zappe ranked fourth in EPA per dropback in the two-week stretch he was the starter, but had his fair share of struggles against Chicago. Additionally, Jones had a slow start to the season, suffered a painful ankle injury, and was benched on Monday Night Football. The path to the postseason starts and ends with the Patriots figuring out their quarterback situation. [+2]

23rd - Josh Schrock (NBC Sports Chicago): Bill Belichick might have created an unnecessary QB controversy by benching Mac Jones for Bailey Zappe against the Bears. After leading two touchdown drives, Zappe turned back into a pumpkin against the Bears. Now, there could be trouble brewing in Foxboro. [-6]

24th - Staff (TheScore): Scariest trend: With only two games left against teams currently below .500, the Patriots have the highest strength of schedule remaining in the NFL. Even those “easy” matchups aren’t as easy as they may sound, as New England will visit the Cardinals and Raiders, two clubs that made the playoffs last year. [-4]

Tier 4 - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): The “It could be better” category. The Patriots aren’t often out-coached, but it’s hard to come away from their Monday Night Football loss thinking anything else. Starting Mac Jones was probably a poor decision in hindsight.

I had previously stated that Bailey Zappe looked great, but we hadn’t seen him in any negative game script. Well, we saw it on Monday night, and it was ugly. After two scoring drives, he and the entire Patriots offense struggled in the second half. Their defense also struggled to keep Fields grounded in the pocket. Far too often, he was able to skate free and pick up yards with his legs. [nc]

AVG RANK: 19 [-3.9]