It is curious to check the odds of winning the East Asian title at BetMGM.
The Buffalo Bills are favored, and the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are not far behind. Then the New England Patriots come in behind those three teams. It’s no surprise that the Patriots are, in essence, favored to finish last in the division. This will be the common choice. It’s strange to see the rest of the AFC East so far ahead of the Patriots, given the recent history in the division.
The Patriots dominated the division for two decades. They’ve won 17 AFC East titles in 19 years, including 11 in a row. It is one of the most impressive streaks in NFL history. New England has not finished last in their division since 2000, Bill Belichick’s first season with the team. And now odds are the Patriots are looking for the three division foes they bullied over several seasons.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Patriots ruled the NFL, but it seems so. Since Tom Brady’s split after the 2019 season, the Patriots have settled into the midfield. They’ve been in playoff contention through December in all three post-Brady seasons, and were alive in Week 18 last season. But they only made the playoffs once in that span, losing in their first playoff game two seasons ago. The Patriots are 25-25 since Brady left, and that feels about right.
It’s a boring franchise. They are not good enough to compete for an East Asian title that is suddenly much better. Their roster does not contain enough excellent players. But Belichick is better off letting the Patriots become one of the AFC East teams that were at the bottom of the barrel during the Patriots dynasty. They’re going to be tough all season, especially with a solid defense, but nowhere near Super Bowl competition. In the span of three years, they’ve gone from an NFL hotspot to being one of the most recognizable teams in the league.
If there was hope for the Patriots to be anything more than a midfield, it’s a changeup on offense. It’s rare for the whole world to be right and Belichick wrong on the matter of football, but Belichick seems to be the only rational football observer who thought his plan at offensive coordinator last season was a good idea. After failing coaches Matt Patricia (whose experience was in defense) and Joe Judge, the offense went as badly as everyone expected. The Patriots offense was mostly a mess. The team has hired Bill O’Brien, who you probably don’t want to orchestrate the DeAndre Hopkins trade but has a proven track record as offensive coordinator.
“Bill knows what he’s doing, so he feels good,” Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne said of O’Brien. Via CBS Boston. “You can tell he knows what he’s doing in all areas of the offense—receiver, lineman, running back. He knows offense a lot, so he feels good.”
Perhaps the unspoken part of Bourne’s comment is that last year’s assault crew didn’t know what he was doing, but everyone already knew it. Perhaps a coaching upgrade will fix a lot of what was wrong with the Patriots.
It definitely can’t hurt Mac Jones. Jones had a good rookie season, and then last year people were asking for fourth-round rookie Billy Zabby. Jones’ antics seemed to turn a lot of people off. There were reports that the Patriots were Ready to trade johns. But Jones is still, and we’ll probably see him looking more like his promising rookie than he was last season.
The defense is likely to be good again. Crime can’t help but get better. The Patriots wouldn’t be bad. But they probably won’t be good either. And this is the post-Brady Bats problem.
At receiver, the Patriots signed JuJu Smith-Schuster but lost Jakobi Meyers, and that’s mostly a wash. Calvin Anderson and Riley Rev were low-cost free agent additions to the offensive line. Signing Mike Gesicki, hoping to recapture what he did for the Miami Dolphins before he was out-of-field on Mike McDaniels offense last season, could be a smart move. They kept cornerback Jonathan Jones and safety Gabriel Peppers, which helps, especially with the retirement of top safety Devin McCourty. Recruiting was going well, with valuable transfers for corner-back Christian Gonzalez in the first round and outstanding defender Keon White in the second. New England also became the first team since the 2000 Raiders to take a punt and a punt in the same draft. The Patriots season was a lot like the Patriots as a whole: It was decent.
It looks like Mack Jones may have lost his job in Week 7 Monday night’s loss to the Chicago Bears. In the last two weeks, Billy Zabe has played well in place of the injured Jones and the Patriots won 2-0. Jones came back against the Bears and he was terrible. He was 3 of 6 for 13 yards and threw a really bad interception early in the second quarter. The fans cheered as Bill Belichick slapped Jones and put Zabby in his place. Zabi threw a 30-yard touchdown right away. At that moment, Zabi seemed to be taking over. Zabe threw two more interceptions, the Patriots lost, and Belichick went straight back to Jones in New England’s next game. Zappe did not play another snap for the rest of the season. Who knows how things would be different if Zappe had thrown more touchdowns that night and avoided those shots? Jones and Zappy are said to be vying for the primary job this season, but that appears to be window dressing. It seems unlikely that Jones will lose his job, though unofficial business rumors suggest he’s not on solid ground either. It’s a pivotal season for Jones in New England.
Breakdown of BetMGM odds
Total Patriots win at BetMGM 7.5. It’s hard to take charge considering New England seem to be the worst team in their league. But New England went 8-9 last season with a poor defensive coordinator running their offense. The list is not worse. The schedule is problematic, expected to be the toughest in the NFL before Sharp football analysis. But Bill Belichick’s fade has rarely been profitable. I lay off.
Take Yahoo Fictional
From Scott Pianowski of Yahoo: The Patriots have a history of finding undervalued assets on the rosters of their division rivals; looking back a long way, we remember Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead. Maybe Mike Gesicki would be another hit.
Gesicki was square on Miami’s offense in the round hole last year, an uncommon player who’s become less important as the season went on. Now he’s listed as New England’s got regular wide receiver talent, wants to use multiple tight ends, and finally has a decent OC again. “On playing with Bill O’Brien recruiting. Let’s stick to this; Gesicki isn’t a league winner. But he’s currently being recruited as a TE20, and there’s a good chance he’s smashing that recruiting slot.”
Stats to remember
Bill Belichick’s defense has finished in the top 10 in yards allowed or points allowed for 11 straight seasons. Last season’s defense was very good. Ranked third in DVOA for outsiders in soccer. He was behind the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, not by much. Only Devin McCourty was no longer among the defensive starters last year, and New England used their top three picks on defense. There may not be a superstar in defence (Matthew Goddon is probably the closest) but he is packed with very good defenders and no obvious weakness. Given the continuity and Belichick’s record, it seems like a safe bet that the Patriots defense will be good again. It’s just a matter of how good the defense is and whether it’s good enough to keep the team in playoff contention.
Can Ramondry Stephenson handle the offense?
Ramondry Stephenson only officially started seven games last season. He averaged 12.4 carries per game. He was leading the Patriots running back but the team didn’t tire him out. In the three games they gave Stephenson 16-plus carries last season, he had 409 yards on 63 carries and produced games of 161 and 172 yards. Perhaps it’s time for the Patriots to see what Stevenson can do with a bigger workload, especially with Damian Harris moving to free agency. The Patriots also waived James Robinson in June, eliminating another option. Stevenson has looked very good since he was parted ways with the Patriots, and perhaps more Stevenson would be a good thing for a Patriots offense that needs a lot of improvement.
best case scenario
The Patriots weren’t too far away from having the best defense in the NFL last season. If they can stay elite on this side of the ball, maybe a change of offensive coordinator could make for a huge jump on that side. It seems like a long time ago, but in 2021 Mac Jones had the best rookie season among QB draft class. The Patriots have plenty of options in their passing game and Ramondry Stevenson could have a monster season if the team is finally ready to give him a heavy workload. The rest of the AFC East is stacked and the Patriots are hard-pressed to win the division, but can they get a spot as sweet as two seasons ago? certainly.
Perhaps a lot of this has to do with the development of Mac Jones. You don’t want to draft a quarterback in the first round, have a good rookie season out of him and be ready to move on by the end of the third year. But that appears to be on the table if Jones struggles. Bill Belichick is 71 years old. Will he still reset it in the middle? The Patriots are expected to finish last in the AFC East and that would be a realistic outcome for a franchise that used to be an NFL class. But that era is over, and it’s hard to see how the Patriots get out of their predicament.
crystal ball says…
The Patriots may be the best last place team in the NFL this season, but they will still be in last place. Bill Belichick hasn’t finished last since Tom Brady was at Michigan. I don’t think the Patriots are going to have a bad season, but I can’t pick them higher than #4 in the AFC East. However, they could be a fourth-placed side on the margins of play-off competition in December. East Asia is really good. Maybe surprise the Patriots, but it’s probably another decent season, and then another off-season wondering how to go beyond decent.
Other team previews
32. Arizona Cardinals
31. Houston Texans
30. Chicago Bears
29. Tennessee Titans
28. Los Angeles Rams
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
26. Indianapolis Colts
25. Washington leaders
24. Las Vegas Raiders
23. Carolina Panthers
22. Denver Broncos
21. Atlanta Falcons
20. Green Bay Packers
19. New England Patriots
18. New York Giants
17. Minnesota Vikings
16. New Orleans Saints
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
14. Cleveland Browns
13. Los Angeles Chargers
12. Jacksonville Jaguars
11. Seattle Seahawks
10. Baltimore Ravens
9. Miami Dolphins
8. New York Jets
7. Detroit Lions
6. Dallas Cowboys
5. San Francisco 49ers
4. Buffalo bills
3. Cincinnati Bengals
2. Philadelphia Eagles
1. The Kansas City Chiefs