Time to step up, or step out for New England Patriots

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

It’s time for the 2021 New England Patriots to step up or step out of any meaningful playoff spot or advancement in the NFL tournament.

The Patriots were sitting pretty atop the AFC East and the entire AFC before dropping two duds against the Indianapolis Colts and the Buffalo Bills.

The seemingly miraculous re-emergence of the Patriot juggernaut of yesteryear came crashing down with a thud in these two games. It has rocked New England fandom to the core.

New England Patriots have to step up or step out

After dropping two vital games in both the AFC East and the AFC title race, the Patriots find themselves looking in from the outside on the conference and the Division after two weeks of futility.

The losses against the Indianapolis Colts and the Buffalo Bills have sent the seemingly revitalized Foxborough outfit into a tailspin. The question among Patriots fans and NFL observers is whether or not they can right the ship and get back into the race.

The key to any NFL team is its quarterback. Prior to the past two flops, Mac Jones, the precocious rookie gunslinger had ripped apart NFL defenses to the tune of a 70 percent completion percentage.

That numbers coupled with a decent running game and a solid defense will propel an NFL team to the top of their division if not higher. They did just that.

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However, in Week 15 and 16, the wheels fell off both the Jones wagon and the Patriots generally. They lost a game in Indianapolis and then were thumped by the Buffalo Bills at home.

This collapse has left the Patriots not only reeling emotionally from the sudden invalidation of their claims for supremacy in the AFC East division or the AFC but has left questions as to whether they are a playoff team in 2021 at all.

After those two poor performances, the future of the 2021 Patriots team is in serious doubt, and should the free-fall continue, they will be an also-ran in any serious AFC contention discussion.

New England Patriots games vs. Jacksonville and Miami will decide their status

The Patriots have two games left in their season which hangs in the balance after the two calamitous losses in the past two weeks.

After their bye week, when teams should be refreshed and healed from minor injuries, the Patriots emerged as a flawed and beatable team in all three phases of their game.

Their once-lauded quarterback (including hyped big-time in this space clearly) has flopped in the past two encounters and has shown none of the form that made him a shoo-in for NFL Rookie of the Year.

His poor performances have placed not only his personal accolades in jeopardy but more importantly, those of his team. But he’s had help.

The defense that has been a force throughout most of the season came up short in the past two games.

Most importantly, they failed to show up against the Buffalo Bills in what was clearly the most critically important game of the year. A win, and the AFC East title was in the bag.

They didn’t get the job done and now a playoff berth and the entire season’s outcome is in doubt and frankly, in jeopardy.

Sunday, in Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, mired at the bottom of the AFC South with a 2-13 record, the Patriots will have a chance to re-establish themselves as a playoff team in name and in substance.

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A loss at home to Jacksonville and the season will end in reality if not officially as the Patriots will be finished as a reasonable contender for anything but a possible Wild Card playoff berth and a one-and-done game therein.

This Sunday at the not-so-friendly confines of Gillette Stadium for the home team, lots of marbles will be on the table for the New England Patriots.

Let’s see if they can rebound and make the season interesting again. If not, they will be, as they say across the pond, done and dusted, and 2021 will be another post-Tom Brady flop.