The New England Patriots are 7-7, the current No. 8 seed in the AFC, and still very much alive in the race for a wild card playoff spot. If they win their remaining three games they are in the tournament regardless of what happens elsewhere in the league.
Their story, however, is far more complex than those facts would indicate. The Patriots, after all, have fallen short of expectations throughout the season and as a consequence are in a difficult situation now: as noted above they likely have to win out to make the playoffs, but doing that against Cincinnati, Miami and Buffalo will be a massive challenge for what has been an inconsistent team throughout the year.
Fans are not overly confident in the Patriots’ ability to do that, especially coming off a disheartening loss to the Las Vegas Raiders — a game seen as a de facto must-win to give New England some wiggle room down the stretch. That is now gone, thanks to the 30-24 collapse in Week 15.
It also dropped fan confidence to a new low: only 4 percent of participants in the latest SB Nation Reacts survey claim that they feel good about the direction the team is headed into. That marks the lowest point the graph has ever reached since SB Nation started tracking fan confidence all the way back in 2018.
Obviously the loss in Las Vegas played a role in that — the confidence number was still 27 percent last week — but so does the team’s continued inability to play successful offensive football. There are several factors why that is the case, but one popular culprit is play-caller Matt Patricia.
Patricia is playing a lead role in replacing long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels this offseason, but the unit has played uninspired football with him at the helm. It is among the least productive in football over the last few weeks, and has shown little development throughout the season — a main reason why New England is just 7-7 now.
Patricia’s future was our lead question this week, and only 15 percent of fans believe he will be back in the same capacity in 2023. There is no obvious replacement candidate in sight, however.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.