Welcome to the bye week. The New England Patriots players and coaching staff head into Week 10 ready to get to work scouting against the team’s biggest opponent of the second half of the season: themselves.
How many free agents acquired by New England over the years credit Bill Belichick for finding what they do best and putting them in a position to succeed? That is exactly what needs to happen here, beginning with Mac Jones and the entire offense — including the coaching staff. When opposing defenses are calling out your plays and you only have a select number of plays that work to begin with, it’s a solid signal that changes are needed across the board.
The Pats are fortunate to have two out of three units working well. Defense and special teams were hot as Hades last Sunday making life hell for QB Sam Ehlinger. While it was fun enjoying those two units put an absolute beatdown on the Colts — it couldn’t have happened to a more worthy opponent — it’s also fair to acknowledge that the Pats’ offensive performance is concerning. That’s what’s happening with the rankings below. Whatever bump the experts would give the team for one side of the ball, is leveled by the ineptness of the other. The final thumb on the scale appears weighted by the team’s upcoming opponents: Jets (6-3), Vikings (7-1), and Bills (6-2). The AFC standings are so tight, New England can’t afford to be sloppy or stagnant from here on out.
Around the AFC East:
Buffalo Bills (6-2) vs. Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
Miami Dolphins (6-3) vs. Cleveland Browns (3-5)
New York Jets (6-3) - Bye
New England Patriots (5-4) - Bye
Kansas City Chiefs (6-2) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6)
Tennessee Titans (5-3) vs. Denver Broncos (3-5)
Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) at San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
Indianapolis Colts (3-5-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (2-6)
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6) vs. New Orleans Saints (3-6)
Houston Texans (1-6-1) at New York Giants (6-2)
Baltimore Ravens (6-3) - Bye
Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) - Bye
6th - Mark Lane (TouchdownWire): The Patriots are second in the NFL with 17 takeaways and only give up 5.2 yards per play, the ninth-fewest in the league. As long as the defense is playing elite, it gives second-year quarterback Mac Jones a safety net to continue his growth as a perfect Bill Belichick field general. [+2]
11th - Nate Davis (USA Today): As they do, they’re in the midst of a patented midseason ascent with four wins in the past five weeks. But Bill Belichick and Co. will really have to earn their money on the other side of their Week 10 bye, their next three opponents (Jets, Vikings, Bills) currently a combined 19-6. [+2]
11th - Bryan Fischer (Athlon Sports): Another suffocating defensive effort out of the Pats but there still has to be more than a few questions as to why the offense isn’t quite clicking on all cylinders. [+2]
12th - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Well, Bill Belichick finally got his revenge on Frank Reich for Super Bowl LII. [+1]
13th - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): They are 5-4 and haven’t really played that well this season. The defense came up big against the Colts. [nc]
13th - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): The Patriots had nine sacks, including three each from Matt Judon and Josh Uche. We haven’t heard much the past couple weeks about the quarterback controversy, mostly because the defense has been really good and is winning games. [nc]
14th - NFL Nation (ESPN): 14th - Non-QB MVP: LB Matthew Judon. This was a close call with running back Rhamondre Stevenson, but Judon leads the NFL in sacks (11.5) and has generated the most consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks for a team that has leaned heavily on its defense. Judon started fast last year, as well, before fading out late in the season, and he is motivated to not let that happen again. — Mike Reiss [+3]
14th - Dan Hanzus (NFL.com): If it’s November, that must mean the Patriots are finding their way. This time of year has always been fertile ground for New England, a team that — going back to the early days of Tom Brady — has used the season’s initial months to tinker with the model. The model looked pretty damn good on Sunday, as the Pats piled up nine sacks and didn’t allow a single third-down conversion in a dominant 26-3 win over the adrift Colts. Mac Jones remains a source of ongoing concern after another lukewarm performance, but the Pats are over .500 and in good position for yet another playoff push. [-1]
15th - Ryan Dunleavy (NY Post). [-1]
15th - Karen Guregian (Boston Herald): Odd to say that Jets win is looking better and better every minute. But it does, and for good measure, they get to play Gang Green once again following a bye. [nc]
15th - Matt Johnson (SportsNaut): Defense is winning games for the New England Patriots right now and that works against the Colts’ and Jets’ offenses. If Bill Belichick wants to stay above the .500 mark though, the Patriots must figure out how to get even neutral play out of Mac Jones. [+1]
15th - Trevor Land (FlurrySports). [+1]
15th - Dalton Miller (ProFootballNetwork): Tier 4: “It could be better” category. The Patriots are a decent team that has a defense that looks completely dominant at times. But in the end, it doesn’t even matter. Mac Jones has not looked as good in his sophomore season.
He’s taking more risks and doing more in the offense this season, and it’s showing how limited he is as an athlete and passer. Josh McDaniels did wonders for the young QB. Jones is a bus driver. And there is nothing wrong with being that type of player, unless that driver is continuously running off the road. His turnover-worthy rate skyrocketed in 2022. It didn’t hurt him against Indianapolis, but it has in some of New England’s competitive games this season. The Patriots’ floor is decently high, but its ceiling is low. [nc]
15th - Bo Wulf (The Athletic): Trade recall: Second-round pick DK Metcalf for third-round pick Chase Winovich and fourth-round pick Hjalte Froholdt (trade with Seahawks, April 2019). Another team with a long list of options given their propensity to move around during draft weekend. Unless you want to stand on the table for bringing back Jimmy Garoppolo, this one probably comes down to Metcalf and Mailata. Maybe the real Bill Belichick would opt for the lineman, but Mac Jones and the 26th-ranked passing offense by DVOA might be better served with someone who can win some jump balls. [-1]
16th - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots are winning ugly again with their running game and defense to get into the wild-card race, probably how Bill Belichick likes it, especially to take attention off Mac Jones staying as the starting quarterback. [+2]
16th - MMQB Staff (SI): The Patriots come in one spot behind their old quarterback, even with a better record. New England is a perfectly average team, which would feel normal for any other franchise. Some days the defense will win a game for you; some days the nation will watch a Mac Jones–Bailey Zappe QB controversy play out in prime time. That’s life in the NFL middle. [+1]
16th - Staff (The Score): The Patriots continue to exceed expectations thanks to another outstanding Bill Belichick defense. Mac Jones and the offense have been a different story. [+1]
16th - Consensus (Bleacher Report): The New England Patriots are on a roll headed into their bye week. Not only are the Patriots coming off arguably their most impressive win of the season, but the team is also above .500 for the first time. It is without question the best last-place team in the league, and while the Pats are on the outside of the playoff picture, they aren’t far off the pace. As one might expect of a Bill Belichick-coached team, the Patriots were spurred to victory Sunday by their defense. It tallied nine sacks, with Matthew Judon and Josh Uche notching three apiece. The Patriots held the Colts to 121 yards and zero third-down conversions in 14 attempts.
New England also continued its dominance of young quarterbacks at Gillette Stadium. Since 2003, first- and second-year signal-callers are a staggering 4-43. [-1]
17th - Josh Schrock (NBC Sports Chicago): Mac Jones is regressing, and the Patriots need to figure out a way for that to stop. Now. [+1]
17th - Austin Gayle (The Ringer): The Patriots’ second-half outlook isn’t pretty. We know how New England wants to play: with strong, sound defense and a risk-averse offense that limits Mac Jones’s downfield throws. Jones is the lowest-ranked quarterback in EPA per dropback and the second-lowest in EPA per attempt on passes thrown at or beyond the first-down marker. Bill Belichick and Co. will have to overcome a lot to make the postseason as they embark on the hardest remaining schedule, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. [-2]
AVG RANK: 14.1 [+0.9]