The New England Patriots overcame a 2-4 start to the 2021 NFL season, to finish with a 10-7 record and earned a playoff berth after a one-year absence.
Still, the Pats face a great deal of questions as they head towards 2022.
J.C. Jackson, Mac Jones
Despite a seven-game win streak which briefly returned New England to the top of the conference standings, a late-season slide led to a lull heading into the playoffs. The Pats season came to a dismal finish on Wild Card weekend with a 47-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
While the Patriots have had their share of new arrivals and significant departures within their organization throughout the offseason, several analysts are predicting ‘more of the same’ for the six-time Super Bowl champions.
According to NFL.com's analytical projections, New England is predicted to win 8.7 games in 2022. For the sake of argument, the figure could be rounded up to nine.
Considering the ebb and flow of the Patriots’ offseason, a forecast of status quo [perhaps, with a step back?] should not be surprising.
New England has seen its share of roster and organizational turnover in the past couple of months. Since the conclusion of the 2021 season, the team bid adieu to second team all-pro cornerback J.C. Jackson, starting offensive linemen Ted Karras and Shaq Mason, and all-pro punt returner Gunner Olszewski.
The Pats have also endured significant coaching changes. Longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels accepted the head coaching position with the Las Vegas Raiders. Along with McDaniels, Dave Ziegler [former director of player personnel], Bo Hardegree [assistant quarterbacks coach], Carmen Bricillo [offensive line coach] and Mick Lombardi [wide receivers coach] are also headed for the Nevada desert.
However, New England has also welcomed its share of exciting new faces, as well. Wide receiver DeVante Parker, as well as linebacker Mack Wilson arrived in Foxboro via trades. Safety Jabrill Peppers signed with the club via free agency as did cornerback Malcom Butler, who returned for his second tour of duty in New England.
The Pats clearly raised some eyebrows during the 2022 NFL Draft by selecting Chattanooga offensive lineman Cole Strange with the 29th overall selection. They continued to confound the logic of national pundits by making several selections which went against the grain of predictive ‘big-boards.’ Baylor receiver Tyquan Thornton and Houston cornerback Marcus Jones were also among the Pats notable selections.
How do the Pats fare against the field?
Unsurprisingly, the Buffalo Bills are not only predicted to be AFC East Division champions once again, they are also the favorites in the Conference with the mathematical measurements predicting 11.6 wins.
The much-improved Miami Dolphins come in with a near-identical projection to New England at 8.8, while the New York Jets round out the bottom of the division, projected to win 7.2 games.
Rounding out the AFC, the Chiefs take the AFC West with 10.4 wins, but by a slim margin as the Chargers come in with a 10.2 win projection themselves. The Indianapolis Colts are predicted for 9.9 wins, with the Las Vegas Raiders right there at 9.7. The defending AFC champions, the Cincinnati Bengals were given an 8.9 win projection.
Old friend Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that lead the NFC in projected wins, expected to win 11.7 games, confidentially a league-best as well. Meanwhile, the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams come in at 11.5 while the Green Bay Packers sit just a bit lower at 10.9.
While prognostications can be amusing, teams’ win/totals will ultimately be decided by the players, coaches, and the ability to remain healthy. For those algorithms, you need look no further than the ‘Belichickian crystal ball’ residing at One Patriot Place in Foxboro, Massachusetts.