The New York Jets go on the road to take on the New England Patriots in a blustery, snowy season finale for both teams. Previewing this matchup, Taylor Kyles of Pats Pulpit was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2023 New England Patriots.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. How have the Patriots changed since the last time the Jets faced them?
The headliner is that Bailey Zappe is now QB1 for New England. He hasn’t been a massive upgrade over Mac Jones, particularly in the turnover department, but he’s got much better pocket presence and is more aggressive. The offense has actually looked functional with him under center for stretches.
Outside of the quarterback situation, the Patriots have been battered by injury since Week 3. They lost defensive studs Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez in Week 4. They traded for corner JC Jackson to replace Gonzalez, but he was inconsistent before being shut down for the season due to mental health reasons. Edge Anfernee Jennings has seen an increased role without Judon and become an elite run defender, while Mack Wilson has flashed as a pass rusher after being mostly a dime off-ball linebacker. Christian Barmore has also emerged as a rising star at defensive tackle.
The offense has lost several starters, including running back Rhamondre Stevenson, guard Cole Strange, tight end Hunter Henry, and receivers Kendrick Bourne and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Ezekiel Elliott’s been solid in a larger role, but the other spots have been filled with depth players.
One of the league’s worst offensive lines found some stability by kicking Mike Onwenu over to right tackle and putting rookie Sidy Sow at right guard, but Atoni Mafi has been mostly unplayable at left guard, while left tackle Trent Brown gave up on the team weeks ago and was benched for Vederian Lowe last week.
So, there have been bright spots on defense for the Patriots despite their losses, but I can’t really say the same for their offense.
2. What will the Patriots do in the offseason about the quarterback position? Do you think the Patriots will sign a veteran quarterback, trade for a quarterback, draft a quarterback in the first round, or some other option? If the Patriots draft a quarterback, who amongst the quarterbacks realistically expected to be available when the Patriots pick would you prefer and why?
I think the team will use their top-5 pick to address the spot and bring in a veteran to stabilize what’s been a toxic room between Jones and Zappe.
New England will likely miss out on Caleb Williams and Drake Maye, both of whom I’d run to the podium to pick, so I could see Jayden Daniels or Michael Penix Jr. being their guy. Daniels’ arm and athleticism are somewhat reminiscent of a young Deshaun Watson, and we saw how well O’Brien utilized him during the end of their time together in Houston. Penix fits the pocket passer mold we’ve seen from the Patriots for years, so he feels like a no brainer, but his injury concerns are significant.
3. If Bill Belichick resigns or is fired in the offseason, who would you like to replace him, and why?
Belichick probably won’t get fired given his history with the team, so a “mutual parting of ways” is most likely.
Jerod Mayo has appeared to be the next in line since last season, and I think his experience and success as a player, as well as his business acumen, would make him a great replacement candidate a la DeMeco Ryans. Players have raved about Mayo’s preparation, intelligence, and leadership, and he was a captain in his second season as a linebacker for the team. He commands respect through effective communication and an impressive playing resume, and has already been on the staff for years.
4. The Patriots will finish last in the AFC East for the first time since Belichick’s first year with the team. What will be the ramifications? Are you expecting a complete tear-down and rebuild? How long do you think it will take before the Patriots are a contender again? If you were GM of the Patriots, what would you do this offseason?
I don’t think the Krafts will want to start from scratch, as they like to keep things in the family. And I think the team is closer to returning to relevance than many seem to think, as they entered all but two 4th quarters with a chance to win behind exceptional defense.
I would overhaul the quarterback and receiver spots, draft a tackle early, and sign quality backups at tackle and guard who can compete for starting jobs.
I’d also prioritize re-signing players who fought hard for the team late in the season, like Onwenu, Jennings, Myles Bryant, Hunter Henry, Pharaoh Brown, and perhaps Mike Gesicki. Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche seemed like no-brainer re-signings but have had down seasons, so they’d need to return on team-friendly deals.
5. If you were a betting man which team would you bet on winning this game, and why?
I don’t see how the Jets score on the Patriots’ defense without the help of turnovers (which is entirely possible). Even then, New England has scored at least two touchdowns in every game with Zappe under center. And with this likely being Belichick’s last game, players will fight hard to give him a victory on his way out. I’m going Patriots in this one.