Week 13: vs Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert has been quite a performer since joining the league in 2020, but he has had forgettable outings when going against the Patriots. And to make matters worse for the Chargers, they're playing at Foxboro, which the quarterback is yet to do in his career thus far.
It will be the first time J.C. Jackson returns to Foxboro since leaving in free agency last year, creating an interesting dynamic for the Patriots' offense to overcome. And the defense will need to be better at stopping the run, as Austin Ekeler can be an absolute menace on the field.
If they can consistently stop the run game and not allow the speedy receivers to define the game, this shouldn't be a game the Patriots can't win. Recent history shows they can do all of that and get the win.
Week 14: @ Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football
The Patriots just played in the Steel City last season, walking away with a narrow victory, winning just 17-14 in week two. Mac Jones and the Patriots' defense had pretty good performances in that game, but the Steelers have been a much different team since they last met.
With second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett set to be the starting quarterback moving forward, New England must prepare far differently than last season when developing a game plan against Mitch Trubisky. Plus, they lucked out with T.J. Watt missing the game due to injury, creating a much more comfortable atmosphere for Mac Jones, even with a depleted offensive line.
Assuming both teams will be healthy when this game happens (because you should never hope for the opposite), the pass rush on Jones will need to be dealt with immediately. And the defense will have its hands full with an offense made of talented receivers Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and Allen Robinson, in addition to tight ends Pat Freiermuth and rookie Darnell Washington.
Because the task seems significant, believing the Steelers may be too much for the Patriots to handle doesn't seem completely unethical. But because of their last meetings and remaining optimistic, the Patriots get the job done in Pittsburgh once again.