4. Week 14 at Arizona Cardinals on MNF
The Patriots will travel to Arizona to face the high-flying Cardinals on Monday Night Football in December and it’s not unreasonable to say they might have their hands full.
After losing key defensive players in JC Jackson and Kyle Van Noy, how are they going to defend a trio of stars in DeAndre Hopkins (who will be back from suspension), Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore as well as contain Kyler Murray?
Belichick’s schemes usually don’t let many contests get out of hand, but the way the Buffalo Bills handled them in their final two 2021 matchups certainly leaves that up for debate heading into a new season with fewer defensive stars. Maybe the additions of Jabrill Peppers, Mack Wilson and Malcolm Butler (a former Cardinal!) fill the voids appropriately, but not having Jackson around to lock down the opposition’s top receiving threat feels like a big problem.
But Arizona losing Chandler Jones this offseason will undoubtedly weaken their pass rush, which is a considerable plus for Mac Jones, who will need to be upright for most of this game to make it a contest. With the way the Patriots are currently constructed, fans aren’t exactly confident in their ability to win shootouts because of their reliance on a tough rushing attack and stingy defense. Jones has proven he can air it out, but the Patriots will need to see a considerable leap in Year 2 because they did not win one “shootout” in 2021. The only one that resembled such was Week 6 against the Cowboys, and they lost a tough one in overtime.
On the road against a top offense in the league doesn’t exactly bode well. At least they’ll have plenty of time to prepare with how late in the year it is.