Maybe the Patriots head into Week 17 already eliminated from the playoffs, and perhaps that has some people already checking out of the season before it ends. However, some intriguing storylines that don't involve Bill Belichick or Mac Jones are worthy of following over the next two weeks.
It starts with their matchup on Sunday against the Bills. They'll play them in Buffalo at the end of December and will likely deal with frigid temperatures and a stadium filled with chaotic fans. It won't be pleasant, especially since New England beat them earlier in the season.
Although most don't believe there's even a 1% chance the Patriots leave New York with a win, winning games against divisional rivals is never guaranteed. We know this from watching Tom Brady for over 20 years and constantly struggling against the Dolphins.
The Bills may have had luck in their favor since the GOAT left, but the Patriots offense shut them up in Week 7 with that game-winning drive ending with celebratory Griddy's.
Can they repeat that this week? That's just one of the questions heading into this game. Here are the others.
#1: Can Bailey Zappe perform consistently through all four quarters?
Since taking over as the Patriots starting quarterback from Mac Jones in Week 13, Bailey Zappe has accomplished a 2-2 record. He's done enough to keep the offense in the game for the two wins, but mainly in the first half. He fell apart as soon as they returned from halftime and got lucky that the opponents were unable to overcome the deficit to steal the win.
It has become the most problematic part of his performance thus far. Sure, he's looked more reliable than Jones did for most of the year, as he's not turning the ball over or making poor decisions throughout the game. But if he cannot maintain his production for the entirety of the game, then they're bound to lose more games.
He was put to the test against the Chiefs last week, who were inevitably going to be a tougher opponent despite coming into the game on a two-game losing streak. Fortunately, Zappe didn't entirely fall off the face of the planet in the second half, scoring a touchdown in the fourth to bring them within ten points.
But he did follow up a fairly well-played first half with an interception, four drives ending in a punt, and a turnover of downs. It's an improvement from how he played against the Chargers and Steelers, but it is still a concern with two big games against the division to end the season.