The New England Patriots are not going to make the playoffs. That isn't exactly breaking news. Pats fans have known that for quite some time this season. But what we didn't realize was that New England still had a chance of getting better, especially offensively. And yet, New England has.
Say what you will about whether it is time for head coach/de facto general manager Bill Belichick to leave New England, and the Patriots to bring in younger coaching staff to help lead the team to glory once again, but there is one thing Belichick's teams don't do, and that is quit. Although, to be fair, I wouldn't want to have to answer to Belichick if I were on the team and appeared to be giving up.
New England has now won two of their last three games. It always feels good to win, of course, but the winning might hurt the team in the long run, and the Patriots' first-round draft pick in 2024 keeps falling lower. However, maybe Belichick doesn't care about that, as he might be gone after 2023. But here are three things I am guessing will happen in Week 17.
No. 1 - The New England Patriots won't gain 200 total yards
There really is very little reason that the Patriots should be scoring more points now than they were earlier in the season, at least speaking in terms of raw statistics. Before the Week 11 bye week, New England had five games where they had at least 327 total yards. Yet, they scored 20 points or fewer in four of those games. That isn't going to win many games, which explains New England's 2-8 record through Week 10.
Since Bailey Zappe became QB1 for the Patriots in Week 13, New England has just one game over 300 total yards and that was just 303 in Week 14. But in two of the last three games, New England scored 21 points or more, which happened only once before Week 13. Zappe needs to be more capable of leading his offense to explosive numbers, but he can be efficient and have fewer turnovers than former QB1 Mac Jones did.
The Buffalo Bills, however, held a very good Dallas Cowboys offense to only 195 total yards and 10 points two weeks ago. After a wretched start to 2023 when the Bills allowed at least 105 yards rushing in a game in five of their first six games, only twice since Week 7 has Buffalo given up more than 100 rushing yards. The Patriots are not going to be able to run against Buffalo, but they can keep the game close with an efficient passing game, even if they aren't getting explosive plays.