5 games the Patriots must win to prove the haters wrong in 2024

Oct 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) is tackled by New England Patriots defensive back Kyle Dugger (23) n the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) is tackled by New England Patriots defensive back Kyle Dugger (23) n the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the recreational horse rider, occasional actor, and famous singer Johnny Nash once crooned, “There are more questions than answers.” That’s as true in the NFL as in any walk of life. While there are plenty of questions surrounding the Patriots' 2024 season, the most important one is, “Will they win more games than last year?”

Experts seem to be split on the answer to that particular query. However, bookmakers are usually better judges than the so-called experts when sports are involved.

The Patriots’ win total is currently set at 4.5, which seems generous (to the people betting on it). It should go up once preseason games begin. Odds makers aren’t feeling the influx of talent combined with the return of injured stars like Christian Gonzalez, then.

The Patriots' 2024 season may be just as chaotic and disastrous as their 2023 version was and the new coaching team certainly has plenty to prove. But you can’t argue the roster has improved drastically during the offseason.

They managed to find new ways to lose games in 2023, though. There’s only one way to prove the experts and the oddsmakers wrong: turn those losses into wins. Here are the Patriots’ five must-win games to silence the haters.  

5 games the Patriots must win to prove the haters wrong in 2024

Week 3 at the Jets 

There are just as many, if not more, questions hanging over the Jets as the Patriots headed into the 2024 season. The biggest one revolves around their injury crisis. Did the Jets' offense struggle in 2023 because they were missing important players? Or were there other issues at play?

Just like the Patriots, the Jets cut a young quarterback adrift in a bid to fix their offense. 

If Gang Green hasn’t completely fixed that offense in their first two regular-season games , the Patriots defense will be licking its lips. Former Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith arrived in New York during free agency. 33-year-old Smith battled a back issue toward the end of the 2023 season and missed the Week 15 game in Miami.

If he’s not fighting fit, Keion White will be a thorn in his side (or back). 

The Patriots won the corresponding fixture last year when a Pharaoh Brown touchdown gave them a 10-0 lead in the Meadowlands. After a mini-Jets fightback, New England clung on for a 15-10 road win. They’ll aim to score more points this time, but they would be happy to win 2-0 on the road. 

Week 7 vs. Jaguars in London

For some ungodly reason, bookmakers think the Jaguars will win more than eight games in 2024. The sportsbooks seem to have forgotten how the Jags ended the 2023 season. They lost five out of six games (only beating the beleaguered Panthers), and that was partly because Trevor Lawrence had an injured ankle. But he’s not why they conceded 24 points per game in that period.   

Jacksonville had a horrible start to the 2023 season, too. They didn’t have a winning record until they beat the Bills at Tottenham Stadium in Week 5! 

As if they weren’t big enough red flags, ten players left during free agency, with 12 newbies arriving. The Jags also signed 12 undrafted free agents with the nine guys they drafted. The Jags haven’t exactly burned it to the ground, but that’s quite some rebuild they appear to be undertaking. If all those rookies make the final roster, they'll be heading to London with players who have never been overseas before.

The Patriots have played two games at Wembley Stadium, and both resulted in wins. First, they won 35-7 over the Buccaneers in 2009 and 45-7 against the Rams in 2012. So, there’s nothing to worry about here. 

Week 9 at the Titans 

Tennessee fired Mike Vrabel and let Derrick Henry walk at the end of the 2023 season. They hired former Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to replace Vrabel; you could say it’s a bit of a leap from a legendary Super Bowl-winning linebacker (and tight end) to an NFL nepo baby. Callahan even gave his dad, former Raiders head coach Bill, a job coaching the offensive line in Tennessee. 

In all, 19 Titans left in free agency, and ten new faces joined. But, just like the Patriots’ offseason, a whiff of “rebuilding on a budget” permeates Nashville. Despite paying Calvin Ridley $23 million this year, they are still projected to be $25 million below the salary cap. 

Again, like the Patriots, the Titans failed to address their biggest issue effectively. They needed a new quarterback, and they signed Mason Rudolph. Rudolph did win three games in 2023, but so did Will Levis.

Even with what should be one of the best offensive lines in the AFC, the Titans' offense should be pretty clunky as Tony Pollard tries to fill Derrick Henry’s enormous shoes. New England’s defense should be able to clog up his running lanes and tempt Will Levis into throwing some passes up for grabs.

Week 13 vs. the Colts 

After another Chris Ballard masterclass at a draft, the Colts will be the surprise package in the AFC South this year. Laiatu Latu should be the defensive rookie of the year, Adonai Mitchell will be tricky to defend (even if he struggles for yards after the catch), and Anthony Gould will be a superstar. Matt Goncalves may not start the season, but if needed, he’ll be one of the best offensive linemen in the AFC. 

But the Patriots can still succeed against them, especially outdoors in December. When the two teams met in Frankfurt last year, a distinctly average Patriots offense racked up 340 total yards and ran all over the Colts' defense.

Two interceptions put paid to New England’s chances in Germany. With a much better receiving corps and new quarterbacks that shouldn’t be an issue this time around. 

Week 17 vs. the Chargers 

Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman says Jim Harbaugh reminds him of Will Ferrell. No self-respecting football team should lose games to Buddy the Elf, especially when his team has the worst receiving corps in the league. Even with the highly underrated rookies Cornelius Johnson and Brenden Rice on the roster, Justin Herbert has an uphill struggle ahead of him. 

If Khalil Mack can reproduce his sensational 2023 form, the Chargers' defense will be tough to crack (he’s 33 now, though). But the Patriots' run-heavy offense seems perfectly designed to limit both Mack's and Joey Bosa’s effectiveness. 

New England has beaten the Chargers 27 times out of 45 in regular season games. Superstar quarterback Justin Herbert has thrown four interceptions and just two touchdowns against the Patriots.

The only Chargers win in the last five meetings came in that atrocious Week 13 meeting last year. On that occasion, two fumbles cost the Patriots the game as Los Angeles ran out 6-0 winners. 

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