For most of this season, the Patriots offense has been a weak point for this team. Of course the pressure will fall on the quarterback nine times out of ten in the media world but realistically it all starts with the coaching staff. When both Matt Patricia and Joe Judge were brought back and were in charge to run the offense; trouble was written all over the wall. Patricia's failed stint in Detroit with a potential Hall of Fame QB in Matt Stafford was an absolute train wreck and then Judge turned a promising 1st round pick in Daniel Jones into a human punching bag overs two season in New York only spelled trouble for Mac Jones heading into this season.
Although there have been times in this season in which both Mac Jones and the offense looked good this season; it hasn't been done on a consistent level. Granted Jones did miss three games this season with a high ankle sprain and rookie qb Bailey Zappe looked comfortable in the pocket; the offense still had problems. Jones was slowly improving as the weeks went on; even though the Jets game in Week 11 really questioned the offense; Thursday night's primetime match-up against Minnesota will at least quite down the critics for a few days.
It was a high scoring game for the patriots who have struggled moving the ball with consistency this year. Thursday however, the Patriots had some pretty good success moving the football. The offensive line gave Jones really good protection throughout which benefited Jones as it gave him. chance to survey the field and find the open man and release the ball quickly. Jones finished the night 28/39 for 382 yards and two touchdowns.Most importantly; the offense did not turn the ball over once. This is the third straight game for Jones without throwing an interception which does show some progress. Also Mac was only sacked three times compared to being sacked 16 times between the two games against the Jets and against the Colts prior to the bye week.
In a rare night in which the defense did struggle and the special teams was a let down compared to being the hero just 4 days prior. The Patriots had a difficult time covering Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, did a good job containing Dalvin Cook for most of the night; really limiting Minnesota's run game. Jefferson caught 9 passes for 139 yard and a touchdown. Thielen also caught nine passes, only for 61 yards but he did find the end zone as well. Cook was limited to just 42 yards on the ground and 14 yards receiving.
However it was the special teams that really hurt the Pats in this one. Multiple costly mistakes on special teams which includes recently signed punter Michael Palerdy only average 41 yards on his three punts; which would give Minnesota excellent field position. The kickoff return for a touchdown following a Patriots touchdown for Minnesota's returner Kene Nwangwu for 97 yards proved to be a killer. The gut punch was the roughing the kicker penalty in fourth quarter which gave new life to Minnesota who eventually went on to score which ended up being the game winning drive.
With the loss to the Vikings; the Patriots fall to 6-5 on the season and pending the outcome of games for the remainder of Week 12 of the regular season on Sunday & Monday; the Pats sit in last place in the AFC East and on the outside looking in to the playoff picture; but far from out of the race. However the Patriots have a tall task next week on Thursday Night Football at Gillette and when the Bills pay the Pats a visit. The last two times the New England has played Buffalo, it wasn't pretty. Buffalo didn't have to punt at all in either game. Week 16 last season, the Bills beat the Patriots 33-21 and in the Wild Card playoff game, it was a laugher as Buffalo won that game 47-17. Over the course of the last 8 quarters these two teams played last season the Bills have outscored New England 80-38.
The Patriots do lead the all-time series against the Bills 77-47-1 (125 games total including playoffs); although Buffalo has won four of the last 5 games against the Patriots; and Josh Allen has played a big role in each of the four wins. Allen can beat you with his arm and legs. Certainly will be an extremely important game for both teams as Buffalo looks to keep pace not only in the division but also for the top seed in the AFC after surviving the Lions 28-25 on Thanksgiving; meanwhile the Pats look to keep pace with everyone else in the AFC playoff picture; a loss would certainly be a massive blow for New England's playoff hopes.
The final six games for the Patriots is as followed:
Week 13: vs Bills - Thurs. 12/1 at 8:15 pm on Amazon Prime (can be seen on NFL Network/FOX in NE & Buffalo markets)
Week 14: @ Cardinals - Mon. 12/12 at 8:15 pm on ESPN
*Week 15: @ Raiders - Sun. 12/18 at 8:20 pm on NBC
Week 16: vs Bengals - Sun. 12/24 at 1:00 pm on CBS
Week 17: vs Dolphins - Sun. 1/1/23 at 1:00 pm on CBS
Week 18: @ Bills - Sun. 1/8/23; time TBD** on CBS
*game could be flexed out of Sunday Night due to Raiders 3-7 mark currently
**game could be either at 1:00 or 4:25 pending if the game has playoff implications for either team.
There is a path for the Pats but the path has a lot of tough opponents; how the Pats will fair in these games remains a mystery; but no doubt about it; the fate of th Pats season starts with game against the Bills on Thursday.
AFC Playoff Picture as of 11/25/22 :
1) Kansas City Chiefs 8-2
2) Buffalo Bills 8-3
3) Tennessee Titans 7-3
4) Baltimore Ravens 7-3
5) Miami Dolphins 7-3
6) Cincinnati Bengals 6-4
7) New York Jets 6-4
In the hunt: Patriots (6-5); Chargers (5-5); Colts (4-6-1) all other AFC teams are 3-7 or worse