After going 8-9 through a tumultuous offensive coaching situation and being bumped from the playoffs in Week 18, the Patriots look to return to playoff form in 2023. Hopes are higher than they were this time last season, thanks largely to the hiring of offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. New England’s additions at receiver may not have wowed fans, but Mike Gesicki and JuJu Smith-Schuster have proven they can be productive players, and 6th-rounders Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas have legitimate upside. The team also made an undeniable effort to add depth in the trenches with a look toward 2024. This could prove to be a wise move, as the offense will face several elite pass rushers, including Joey Bosa, Maxx Crosby, Chandler Jones, Quinnen Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Von Miller, and basically everyone on the Eagles’ front.
Defensively, a unit that flirted with greatness last season may finally have the pieces to break that ceiling, retaining nearly every starter while adding three dynamic pieces through the draft. The organization also locked down Jerod Mayo for the long haul, an underrated move that could hint at where New England will go in the post-Belichick era.
This revamped defense comes at the perfect time, as the Patriots are slated to face a gauntlet of explosive offenses. Some of the quarterbacks on New England’s schedule include Super Bowl quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, aliens Josh Allen and Justin Herbert, and championship-winning veterans Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. The defense will also square off against two of the league’s best receiving duos in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle (at least twice) and A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.
New England also massively upgraded their special teams, bringing back studs Matthew Slater and Cody Davis while signing Chris Board in free agency and drafting Ameer Speed on day three. This should make a huge impact after a woeful 2022 that saw the unit allow two kick return touchdowns in the season finale alone. Isaiah Bolden and Demario Douglas also have return experience, so they could contribute on kicks and potentially even punts.
The Patriots have their work cut out for them and plenty to prove with their third offensive system in as many seasons, but they have the talent to field a competitive team that could surprise people. For all of their recent struggles, New England very rarely gets blown out, so most of these predictions involve close games against tough opponents.
Week 1: vs Philadelphia Eagles
The Patriots will hit the ground running in 2023, facing off against the Super Bowl runner-ups. Rookie Christian Gonzalez will face a baptism by fire against the combination of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, while the run defense should have its hands full with Philly’s stacked line and backfield. New England will need to capitalize on each possession against the Eagles’ ball-control style while avoiding the defense’s fearsome front and top cornerback duo of Darius Slay and James Bradberry.
I think the Patriots will be significantly more potent on offense than they were in 2022, and JuJu Smith-Schuster beat nickel Avonte Maddox several times in the Super Bowl. But asking New England to keep up with one of the league’s best teams out of the gate is a tall task, even with the added incentive of Tom Brady being honored at halftime. I think Jalen Hurts pulls out a win on the road against former backup Mac Jones.
Prediction: Loss (0-1)
Week 2: vs Miami Dolphins (Sunday Night)
The Dolphins are still the league’s fastest offense with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and new face Chosen Anderson at receiver, as well as a backfield full of track stars. Miami also upgraded a talented defense that disappointed in 2022, hiring legendary coach Vic Fangio as coordinator, trading for Pro Bowl corner Jalen Ramsey to form a lockdown duo with Xavien Howard, and signing underrated linebacker David Long Jr.
Exploiting Miami’s offensive line should be a key to victory, as the unit is full of high draft picks but hasn’t proven it can excel together consistently. Going after linebacker Jerome Baker and nickel Kader Kohou could be an area of emphasis against a Dolphins defense that’s short on weak links. Hard Rock Stadium may be a house of horrors for the Patriots, but I think home-field advantage gives New England the edge in another tight game.
Prediction: Win (1-1)
Week 3: at New York Jets
The Patriots finally hit the road for their second straight division showdown. This time, they’ll square off against Robert Saleh’s tough-as-nails defense and a revamped offense led by blockbuster trade acquisition Aaron Rodgers. The future Hall of Famer will have a deep arsenal of weapons, including young studs Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, old friends Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, and speedster Mecole Hardman. Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed form one of the league’s best cornerback tandems in New York’s zone-heavy scheme, and the Jets’ defensive line full of bullies pairs perfectly with their rangy, heavy-hitting second-level.
Right tackle may be a weak link on a generally strong offensive line, and I think New England’s secondary matches up well with the Jets’ receivers. Belichick also took Rodgers to overtime last season with Bailey Zappe under center. Offensively, the Patriots will need to attack the middle of New York’s defense through the air and field a respectful run game to move the football. The Patriots should give New York all they can handle, and I think this one will be neck-and-neck, but I’m giving comeback specialist Aaron Rodgers the nod at home.
Prediction: Loss (1-2)
Week 4: at Dallas Cowboys
The Patriots will have no shortage of well-rounded opponents in the first month of the season. Like the Eagles, Dallas will be another early-season test with a young dual-threat quarterback, multiple playmakers at receiver and corner, and talented fronts on both sides of the ball. The Patriots’ defense put up a good fight when the Eagles visited Foxborough in 2021, but Dak Prescott played a nearly perfect and CeeDee Lamb couldn’t be stopped. Dallas also added former Patriots Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore, as well as bolstering their defensive front by drafting nose tackle Mazi Smith in the 1st round.
I think how Prescott rebounds from a turnover-filled 2023 season will be the deciding factor here. If Belichick can trick him into a critical mistake or two, it could give New England the necessary momentum to seize this game. If Prescott pulls off another magical performance, it might be too much for Mac Jones and company to keep up with early in the season. I’ll side with recent history and predict the Patriots’ defense does enough to keep Dallas at bay.
Prediction: Win (2-2)
Week 5: vs New Orleans Saints
The Patriots aren’t very familiar with this version of the Saints, which has a new signal-caller in former Raider Derek Carr. The offense is getting Michael Thomas back from injury, and he should form a dynamic duo with Chris Olave while taking some pressure off of stud back Alvin Kamara. Demario Davis, Marshon Lattimore, Cameron Jordan, and Tyrann Mathieu headline a veteran defense, but there are exploitable pieces around them. Jordan and Mathieu are also in the twilight of their respective careers.
Out-of-conference games are never easy to predict, especially with teams who don’t have much history together. But with Belichick’s proficiency against such opponents and the Patriots hosting, I’m putting this game in the win column for New England.
Prediction: Win (3-2)
Week 6: at Las Vegas Raiders
Last season’s trip to Vegas ended in disastrous fashion for the Patriots, so this will be a chance at good old fashion payback. That won’t be easy with last season’s top back Josh Jacobs returning and old pal Jakobi Meyers complimenting Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow. Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones also form one of the most dangerous pass-rushing duos in football.
But new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s tendency to favor the intermediate middle of the field should be a decided advantage for the Patriots, and the Raiders’ defense lacks proven playmakers outside of its edge defenders. Marcus Jones also held up surprisingly well against Davante Adams 1-on-1, though the receiver spent most of that game receiving extra attention. Barring another catastrophic meltdown, the Patriots should win this one comfortably.
Prediction: Win (4-2)
Week 7: vs Buffalo Bills
It’s no secret that the Bills have flipped the script on the Patriots in the past few seasons, with Josh Allen acting as an insurmountable obstacle no matter what they throw at him. This matchup will depend largely on the development of New England’s top-three draft picks, as Gonzalez vs Stefon Diggs will be a crucial matchup while Keion White and Marte Mapu’s athleticism could make life tough for Allen up front.
The Bills’ pass defense should be better with Tre’Davious White at full strength, Kaiir Elam in his second season, and Jordan Poyer returning to round out a talented secondary. Von Miller’s status is unknown as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered late last season, but Ed Oliver is explosive inside, young edge rusher Greg Rossueau gave New England trouble last season, and Poona Ford should be a big help to a typically porous run defense. And of course, Matt Milano returns to the heart of Buffalo’s defense as one of the best players at his position.
Tremaine Edmunds is a significant loss at middle linebacker and the Bills’ receiving corp hasn’t proven to be a consistent threat outside of Diggs, though top draft pick Dalton Kincaid should change that. But I can’t bet against Josh Allen until the Patriots prove they can stand up to him, so this one goes to Buffalo.
Prediction: Loss (4-3)
Week 8: at Miami Dolphins
Heading to Miami off a division game against the Bills could be a tough two-game stretch.
As with Josh Allen, Hard Rock has the Patriots’ number, so the Patriots take an L here.
Prediction: Loss (4-4)
Week 9: vs Washington Commanders
Jacoby Brissett may finally stabilize what’s been a talented, but directionless Commanders offense. Terry McLaurin is one of the most underappreciated ballers in the league, Jahan Dotson is primed for a breakout season, and Washington has a nice one-two punch in the backfield with Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson. The Commanders’ defensive line, which is loaded with former Alabama players, is a tough and physical unit that can take over games. Washington also added playmakers Emmanuel Forbes and Jartavius Martin to a coverage unit that lacked game-changing talent.
As promising as the Commanders are, the Patriots kept Brissett in check when he was with a similarly talented Browns team. New England should also move the ball at will if they mitigate Washington’s pass rush.
Prediction: Win (5-4)
Week 10: vs Indianapolis Colts (Germany)
The Patriots-Colts rivalry has been dead for years, but this matchup could be resuscitated in front of the Frankfurt crowd. With Jonathan Taylor and rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson in the backfield, the Colts should have one of the league’s most dynamic rushing attacks next season. Add to that a massive receiving corp complimented by undersized dynamo Josh Downs, and Indy could be an underrated challenge. On defense, the Colts have forced at least one turnover both times they’ve faced Mac Jones’ Patriots, and Indy’s literal inability to move the ball last season overshadowed a disappointing performance from New England’s offense.
Running the ball may not be an effective strategy against top-tier tackle duo DeForest Buckner and Grovert Stewart, but there are exploitable matchups in the passing game. A more disciplined, well-coached offense should keep the Patriots in control as long as the run defense is competitive and Belichick adds to his stellar track record against rookie passers. New England has also been excellent in international games, where preparation plays an even more significant factor than usual. The Patriots get the nod here against rookie head coach Shane Steichen.
Prediction: Win (6-4)
Week 11: Bye
Week 12: at New York Giants
The Giants blew away expectations last season thanks to a strong run game, an aggressive front, and excellent coaching. They made some additions offensively to make life easier on star Saquon Barkley and quarterback of the future Daniel Jones, trading for Darren Waller, signing Parris Campbell, and drafting center John Michael-Schmitz as well as receiver Jalin Hyatt. New York also drafted physical press corner Deonte Banks to shore up their pass defense and added quality role players A’Shawn Robinson and Bobby Okereke to their front.
This is guaranteed to be a slugfest with former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll and relentless defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale on the other sideline. The Giants also showed last season that they could not only keep games close against good teams but close them out. If Daniel Jones takes a significant step forward with his new receiving corp, I’d have the Giants winning in a rock fight, But until then, I think the Patriots pull it out with their run defense keeping them in the game and the weak links in New York’s pass defense being exposed.
Prediction: Win (7-4)
Week 13: vs Los Angeles Chargers
The Patriots have followed the same plan in each of their matchups against Justin Herbert’s Chargers; run the ball to control time of possession and use zone coverage with minimal blitzing. This strategy achieved the rare feat of making Herbert look human and getting him out of rhythm.
Assuming lightning will strike thrice probably isn’t wise, but the Chargers haven’t made many roster changes to inspire confidence in an about-face. Their offensive line is admittedly much improved with Jamaree Salyer having a breakout rookie season while Rashawn Slater was on IR, and Quentin Johnston is a legitimate YAC threat with the ability to win deep. Still, New England has managed to keep a cap on the Chargers’ receiving corp consistently and without much trouble. Sebastian Joseph-Day, Khalil Mack, and free agent signing Eric Kendrick are good run defenders, but the same can’t be said about the rest of the Chargers’ defense and their coverage scheme has exploitable cracks for O’Brien to pick at.
I think the Patriots’ improved offense and formidable defense keep the Chargers in check.
Prediction: Win (8-4)
Week 14: at Pittsburgh Steelers (Thursday Night)
The Patriots only won by a field goal last season in Pittsburgh, but the game never felt out of reach with Mitchell Trubisky under center and New England’s offense holding itself back. Kenny Pickett is an upgrade at quarterback but doesn’t scare anyone at this point in his career, and Allen Robinson is coming off a down year in an injury-hampered offense. The Steelers’ biggest offensive upgrades came on the offensive line, signing former Eagles guard Isaac Seumolo and leapfrogging the Jets to take Georgia tackle Broderick Jones in the draft. Defensively, the defense got more physical after drafting defensive lineman Keeanu Benton and press corners Joey Porter and Cory Trice Jr. Pittsburgh also signed cornerback Patrick Peterson and former Patriot Elandon Roberts.
The Steelers’ defensive additions could make for a competitive game, but their offense doesn’t move the needle in terms of threat level. Mike Tomlin always has his teams ready, but if the Patriots play a clean game I think they leave with a victory.
Prediction: Win (9-4)
Week 15: vs Kansas City Chiefs (Monday Night)
The Super Bowl champions lost several key contributors in free agency, including left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman, safety Juan Thornhill, as well as defensive linemen Frank Clark and Khalen Saunders. Kansas City did upgrade at right tackle with pass pro specialist Jawaan Taylor while getting younger on the edge with former 49er Charles Omenihu. Electric talents Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore should also step up in Hardman and Smith-Schster’s absences. Regardless of how these changes shake out, it’s hard to imagine the Chiefs aren’t favorites to repeat throughout next season with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. Steve Spagnuola also has a knack for getting the best out of his defenses late in the year, so New England’s offensive growth to this point will play a massive factor.
All that said, no defense has contained Travis Kelce and the Chiefs’ passing attack under Mahomes like Belichick, who’s held the dynamic quarterback without a touchdown for at least one half in all three of their meetings. If the Patriots can keep this one competitive into the 4th quarter, I could see the Patriots milking clock with their final possession and squeaking out a field-goal victory in Gillette with the world watching. Also, I am allowed one biased pick.
Prediction: Win (10-4)
Week 16: at Denver Broncos (Christmas)
The Broncos have a receiving corps loaded with talent, Javonte Williams is one of the league’s best young runners, and quarterback whisperer Sean Payton coming out of retirement bodes well for Russell Wilson after a career-worst season. Denver’s secondary has a pair of All-Pros in shutdown corner Pat Surtain II and versatile safety Justin Simmons, while Randy Gregory and Baron Browning are handfuls off the edge. The Patriots have also historically struggled in Denver, with players acknowledging that altitude does play a factor.
Though Mike McGlinchey was a significant addition at right tackle, I think the Patriots’ front could dominate against Denver’s line. New England should also be able to control the game on the ground and attack the Broncos’ linebackers in coverage. As long as the Patriots can handle whichever big receiver isn’t covered by Gonzalez, I see this as a winnable game.
Prediction: Win (11-4)
Week 17: at Buffalo Bills
Once again, Josh Allen is an automatic win against the Patriots until proven otherwise. Especially with the raucous Bills fanbase backing him.
Prediction: Loss (11-5)
Week 18: vs New York Jets
Picking the winner of a division game between comparable teams when playoff contention/seeding is probably on the line. How can I possibly screw this one up?
I gave the Jets a win in the first matchup, but this time Belichick and company find the recipe to contain Rodgers and his arsenal to close out the regular season with a W.
Final Record: 12-5