New England Patriots 2023 season preview and predictions
This appeared in the original VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on June 29, 2023.
Dave Tuley: The Patriots were in playoff contention until Week 18, though they lost five of their last eight games to finish 8-9 and miss the postseason. The defense mostly carried the team as the offense struggled in the post-Tom Brady era. They’re still regarded as the worst team in the NFC East as DraftKings has them as the longest shot to win the division at 8-1 as well as 35-1 to win the AFC and 65-1 to win the Super Bowl with an Over/Under Season Win Total of 7.5.
Mac Jones had a mediocre season with just 2,997 yards and 14 TDs and 11 INTs. There was even a QB controversy as Jones suffered a left leg injury in Week 3 and watched as rookie backup Bailey Zappe played well in relief of Brian Hoyer in a Week 4 OT loss at the Packers and then led the team to Week 5 and 6 wins over the Lions and Browns. But then came the embarrassing 33-14 home loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football in Week 7, and Jones returned the next week to lead a win over the Jets.
The “no offensive coordinator” experiment with Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia splitting the duties was a failure as the Pats averaged 21.4 points per game (ranked No. 16 in the league) and even worse at 314.6 yards per game (No. 26), so Bill O’Brien has been brought back to tutor Jones.
Rhamondre Stevenson led the team with 1,040 rushing yards and should be more of the focus with Damien Harris leaving for Buffalo. Leading receiver Jakobi Meyers is also gone to Las Vegas, but the Patriots have brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster from Kansas City, and they’re hoping DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton finally play to their potential. At press time, the Patriots were still pursuing free-agent WR DeAndre Hopkins, which would be an immediate upgrade.
The defense continually picked up the offense in 2022 to keep the Patriots competitive in most games, allowing just 20.4 points per game (ranking No. 11 in the league) and 322 yards per game (No. 9). Those numbers were pretty impressive considering the high-powered offenses in the AFC East (last year’s Jets notwithstanding).
Inside linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley led the team with 125 total tackles while LB Matthew Judon had 15.5 sacks and LB Josh Uche added 11.5 as the Pats had the third-most sacks per game. All three are under contract and back to lead the stop unit. The Pats signed free-agent CB Jonathan Jones and first-round pick Christian Gonzalez is expected to man the other corner.
The Patriots obviously have a tough task playing in the same division they used to own with the Bills at the top, the Dolphins having their high-powered offense and the Jets expected to improve with Aaron Rodgers. So, it’s probably not worth betting them in the division, conference or Super Bowl futures. However, since they are in such a strong division, DraftKings has their Over/Under Season Win Total set low at 7.5, with the Under favored at -120. Do we really expect a Belichick team to finish that far below .500? The play is on Over 7.5, especially at even money. RECOMMENDATION: Over 7.5.
This appeared in the Updated VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on August 31, 2023.
Michael Lombardi: The Patriots finished 8-9 last season, and two plays kept them from being 10-7. The crazy lateral in the Raiders game and the Rhamondre Stephenson fumble going in to score at the end of the game against the Bengals which would have been a game-winner. If those plays go the other way, we are having a different conversation. Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says.” But altering the course of a few plays indicates a team might be closer than expected. However, no one thinks the Patriots are close. They think the world is coming to an end, and it’s all doom and gloom, which I am sure is how head coach Bill Belichick wants it.
The Patriots have a solid defense that can rush the passer and create turnovers. They can run the ball, and if they can keep Mac Jones from making mistakes, they can play with anyone. This summer, it’s clear they have improved their speed on defense, which was a huge need as they were 0-4 against running quarterbacks. Their offensive line has been a work in progress all summer as many of their returning players are coming off an injury. The biggest positive so far has been Trent Brown. The starting left tackle is in good shape and looks like he is ready to play. When Michael Onwenu is back at right guard, this line will have a chance to improve. Yes, the Patriots’ schedule is tough, but we know they will be well-coached in all three phases and will not back down.
Player to Watch: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has been focused on getting the ball out quickly, which means a lot of RPO and screen concepts for Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. However, that type of scheme also really boosts Smith-Schuster, who is the Jakobi Meyers replacement in the offense. Meyers was targeted 222 times in 2021-22 and Smith-Schuster can run all those routes and has a higher Catch% in his career. Expect a lot of volume for the former Steeler regardless of who plays QB throughout the season. - Adam Burke
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