It’s bye to the bye week and hellooo to the gauntlet. Three games in 12 days would be a challenge for any franchise, but even more so for teams living on the 5-4 edge in a tight division like New England. The Pats take their second swing at the New York Jets when they land at Gillette this Sunday for round two in the Divisional one-two punch. The Jets are also coming off their bye week and like Belichick mentioned earlier, I expect this game to play out differently than it did three weeks ago —except for the ending.
And while the Patriots’ main focus is on the Jets, they’re also keeping a side-eye on their next two opponents: the Vikings (8-1) on Thanksgiving night in Minnesota, followed by the Buffalo Bills (6-3) at Gillette on December 1st. Important stretch indeed. It’s the main reason the experts dropped them in the rankings, even though they didn’t play last week and the Bills lost. Lack of confidence in the offense.
The top of the AFC standings are so close it’s open to a shake-up from almost any team either making a run or hitting a wall. New England is ranked 7th — high enough for a playoff spot while only two games behind the No. 1 seed. They’re also in control of their own destiny and that means taking care of the Jets first. A win Sunday bumps the Pats up and over New York in the division, based on the head-to-head record. Plus, it just feels good to beat the Jets.
Patriots are currently favored by 3.5 points and I predict they win by a touchdown.
Around the AFC East:
Miami Dolphins (7-3) - Bye
Buffalo Bills (6-3) vs. Cleveland Browns (3-6)
New England Patriots (5-4) vs. New York Jets (6-3)
Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)
Baltimore Ravens (6-3) vs. Carolina Panthers (3-7)
Tennessee Titans (6-3) at Green Bay Packers (4-6)
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6)
Indianapolis Colts (4-5-1) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (8-0)
Denver Broncos (3-6) vs. Las Vegas Raiders (2-7)
Houston Texans (1-7-1) vs. Washington Commanders (4-5)
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7) - Bye
8th - Mark Lane (TouchdownWire): The Patriots square off with the Jets at Gillette Stadium in Week 11. Can New England return to the top of the AFC East? [-2]
10th - Nate Davis (USA Today): Currently the AFC’s projected seventh seed, New England would elevate by sweeping up the Jets on Sunday. The NYJ haven’t won at Gillette Stadium since shocking the Pats in the 2010 playoffs. [+1]
11th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): What might Bill Belichick have in store coming out of the bye against three critical measuring sticks from now until December? Either way, it feels like a real season-defining run against the Jets, Vikings (on Thanksgiving night), and Bills that should go a long way in figuring out just how we’ll view the Pats in 2022. [nc]
12th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): They can still be a major factor in the AFC playoff field, if they get there. [nc]
13th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They come off their bye with a huge division game against the Jets, a team they beat three weeks ago. The division is now wide open, so it’s a big game. [nc]
14th - NFL Nation (ESPN): Who was on the hot seat in preseason: Adviser/OL coach Matt Patricia. Temperature of seat right now: Hot. Bill Belichick’s belief that a good coach can be moved to any position — even if his primary background is on the other side of the football — is being put to the test. One of Belichick’s primary concerns has to be that QB Mac Jones, after a promising rookie season, hasn’t taken the expected Year 2 jump. Belichick thinks highly of Patricia, who will likely always have a spot on his staff, but the results to date spark questions about whether Patricia’s current position is the right fit. — Mike Reiss. [nc]
14th - Trevor Land (FlurrySports). [+1]
14th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots’ next three games are against the Jets, at the Vikings and against the Bills. Those are three teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. If the Patriots are going to make the playoffs, they need to win at least one of those three games. Maybe two. [-1]
15th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): They slipped into the AFC’s final playoff spot while sitting idly on their bye week. They won’t keep that spot if they don’t fix Mac Jones and the offense. [nc]
15th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): The Pats are about to enter the teeth of their schedule. New England comes out of the bye with a rematch against the 6-3 Jets, followed by measuring-stick games against the 8-1 Vikings and 6-3 Bills. Three challenging opponents, in showdowns that will take place across the span of just 12 days. Expect plenty of scrutiny on Mac Jones during this gauntlet: The second-year passer struggled against a stout Jets defense in Week 8, and it’s not hard to imagine more cries for underdog backup Bailey Zappe if Jones is unable to get it going in Foxborough on Sunday. Jones has yet to throw for more than one touchdown in a game this year and has been unable to eclipse a 90 passer rating in six tries (89.7 is the league-average rate through Week 10). [-1]
15th - Dalton Miller (ProFootballTalk): Tier 3: “Playoff Contenders” category. The Patriots are one of the most intriguing teams in the NFL. Their offense has been underwhelming at best, but the team has survived to compete for the playoffs on the back of their top five defense.
Despite losing Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson in consecutive seasons, New England has found a few rookie cornerbacks in Jack Jones and Jonathan Jones. Mac Jones must start playing cleaner football if this team wants to be a legitimate contender. He’s taken it upon himself to try being more of a playmaker in 2022, but his ability outside of structure leaves a lot to be desired. [up from Tier 4]
16th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots are hanging around again in the AFC playoff race by overachieving with running game and defense for Bill Belichick. Mac Jones must play much better in the second half to earn another wild-card berth. [nc]
16th - Bo Wulf (The Athletic): The Patriots are the only team with a winning record that ranks in the bottom 10 of the league in both offensive DVOA and EPA per drive. Their defense has carried the team over the first nine games. If Mac Jones can just be around league average over the second half of the season, New England will be a tough out. Right now, Jones ranks 34th of 35 qualifying quarterbacks in EPA per dropback, ahead of only Mitchell Trubisky. [-1]
16th - Austin Gayle (The Ringer): Simply put: Sunday is a must-win game for the Patriots. Dropping to 5-5 as the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets pull away in the division would force New England into a three-way race with the Bengals and Chargers for the remaining playoff spot in the AFC. And, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Patriots have the league’s hardest remaining schedule. [+1]
16th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): In some respects, the 2022 Patriots are similar to last year’s team. No one is really talking about New England as a playoff threat, but the team is lurking at the fringes of contention. The Patriots are running the ball. Playing defense. And winning games old-school style. However, New England’s offense remains an in issue. The Patriots are 26th in total offense and 23rd in passing, and veteran tight end Hunter Henry admitted to WEEI Radio that the Patriots have to improve on that side of the ball to make a serious push for the postseason. ... More. [nc]
17th - Conor Orr (SI): There is a winnable stretch of road games against the Cardinals and Raiders looming. If New England continues its recent run of success against Zach Wilson specifically, they will be 6–4, fully muddying the AFC East picture even further. [-1]
17th - Staff (The Score): The Patriots sit tight after their bye. In a highly competitive AFC East, New England is, for once, the forgotten team - and rightfully so. [-1]
17th - Matt Johnson (SportsNaut): The New England Patriots and New York Jets each received two weeks to prepare for one another. It sets the stage for a matchup that could suddenly have significant implications on the AFC East and NFL Wild Card race. New England boasts the coaching advantage and its last showing against New York suggests it knows exactly how to beat the Jets. [-2]
17th - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post). [-2]
18th - Josh Schrock (NBC Sports Chicago): Bill Belichick is a genius, but letting Matt Patricia and Joe Judge run the offense has been a complete disaster for Mac Jones’ development. [-1]
AVG RANK: 15.8 [-0.9]