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Patriots season preview: Complete schedule, offseason moves & playoff chances

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Even though it’s the team’s third season without Tom Brady, it’s hard not to look at the Patriots’ schedule in 2022 a little differently now that Brady is gone. Games that would have looked like easy wins a few years ago are now toss-ups, changing the Patriots’ strength of schedule and how we might project how their season unfolds.

Yet, New England made the playoffs last season, so there is some hope in the post-Brady era. After all, Bill Belichick is still calling the shots, which means there’s a chance for New England. Let’s take a look at our Patriots season preview and take a closer look at the Patriots’ playoff chances in 2022.

What’s changed?

One thing that hasn’t changed for the Patriots since 2000 is that Bill Belichick is the head coach. However, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left the organization to become the head coach of the Raiders. That marks a significant change for the New England coaching staff. The silver lining is that Joe Judge is returning to the Pats as an offensive assistant after a failed stint as the Giants’ head coach. 

Meanwhile, there were some meaningful roster changes, and not all of them were positive.

For starters, star cornerback J.C. Jackson was lost in free agency, signing a big deal with the Chargers. Elsewhere on the defense, New England’s linebacker corps has been decimated. The team has not re-signed Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, who remain free agents heading to the summer. Meanwhile, Kyle Van Noy and Terez Hall were released while Brandon King signed with the Colts.


The Pats also traded away defensive end Chase Winovich. On the offensive side of the ball, lineman Ted Karras was lost in free agency after starting more than half of the season for New England in 2021.

Of course, the New England Patriots’ offseason grades were improved by some positive additions. The Pats managed to re-sign players like offensive lineman Trent Brown, running back James White, safety Devin McCourty, and kicker Nick Folk. They also added cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and Malcolm Butler, as well as safety Jabrill Peppers to help give their secondary a much-needed boost.

The Patriots also added wide receiver Ty Montgomery and center James Ferentz without spending too much money in free agency. Last but not least, New England added wide receiver DeVante Parker via an in-division trade with the Dolphins before the draft.

Draft impact

Speaking of the draft, it remains to be seen how much better the Patriots got during the draft. Despite having 10 selections, many of New England’s picks were puzzling. Most believed that they reached for first-round pick Cole Strange despite the team’s need for offensive line help.

It’s a similar story with second-round pick Tyquan Thorton, who fills a need at wide receiver but perhaps wasn’t deserving of the 50th overall pick. Plus, the Patriots didn’t necessarily need to use a fourth-round pick on Bailey Zappe, who will be the third-string quarterback at best. To be fair, the Pats did add depth at cornerback in the middle rounds with Houston’s Marcus Jones and Arizona State’s Jack Jones. New England also used late-round picks to add depth to the offensive line, which is never a bad thing.


Biggest questions

Despite a promising rookie season in 2021 that earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl, quarterback Mac Jones remains one of New England’s biggest questions for 2022. Is he going to be able to take another step forward or will his play even off? The days of the Pats having the best quarterback in the AFC East are over with Josh Allen in Buffalo. But can Jones stay ahead of the young quarterbacks in New York and Miami to keep New England in line to be the second-best team in the division?

On the bright side, New England’s receiving corps is in better shape than in past years, especially if DeVante Parker can become the team’s no. 1 target. But the offensive line, especially at the guard and center spots, is a notable concern heading into the season. The Pats need first-round pick Cole Strange to step in right away and answer some of those questions.

On the defensive side of the ball, the linebacker position remains a question mark outside of Matthew Judon. The Pats are also hoping that their offseason additions to the secondary and two rookie cornerbacks can help replace J.C. Jackson. The Pats gave up the second-fewest points in the NFL during the 2021 season, which is why they made the playoffs. But if New England’s defense isn’t one of the best defenses once again, can Jones and the offense do enough to get the Pats back to the playoffs?

Patriots Schedule in 2022

Week 1: at Dolphins

Week 2: at Steelers

Week 3: vs Ravens

Week 4: at Packers

Week 5: vs Lions

Week 6: at Browns (Monday)

Week 7: vs Bears

Week 8: at Jets

Week 9: vs Colts

Week 10: Bye

Week 11: vs Jets

Week 12: at Vikings (Thanksgiving)

Week 13: vs Bills (Thursday)

Week 14: at Cardinals (Monday)

Week 15: at Raiders

Week 16: vs Bengals

Week 17: vs Dolphins

Week 18: at Bills

Navigating the schedule

The Patriots schedule in 2022 is a little backloaded, meaning a fast start to the season is a prerequisite for success. Of the team’s seven games against playoff teams from last year, five of them come in the final six weeks of the season. That stretch includes both games against the Bills, back-to-back road games with the Cardinals and Raiders, and a home date with the reigning AFC champion Bengals.

Of course, the Pats are also on the road for three of their first four games, visiting the Dolphins, Steelers, and Packers with a home game against the Ravens in the middle. That’s not an easy stretch by any means. The good news is that things set up in New England’s favor between Week 5 and Week 11. That chunk of the Patriots schedule in 2022 includes two games with the Jets, as well as home games with the Lions, Bears, and Colts, all of which are games New England will expect to win.

Final thoughts

After finishing 10-7 last year, the Patriots probably shouldn’t expect to improve upon that record in 2022. That being said, they have a chance to match it and be in the playoff picture at the end of the season. Even if the defense takes a step backward, Jones has an opportunity to take a step forward with an improved supporting cast. But that’s only if the New England offensive line can keep him protected.

As mentioned, the Patriots face a daunting schedule during the first four weeks of the season and then again during the final six weeks. If they can split those 10 games, they should be in good shape. While going 5-5 in those 10 games won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, as long as Belichick is still calling the shots, the Pats will have a fighting chance.

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