New England Patriots must use Jacksonville game to get back on track

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

Things aren’t looking good as they were just two weeks ago for the New England Patriots. The Patriots were firmly established as the number one seed in the AFC, and seemed to be one of the top teams in the league. After tough losses to the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills though, the Pats find themselves sitting all the way back in the six seed with just two games left to play.

At this point, the AFC East is Buffalo’s to lose. They are currently on a roll, and finish off the season with a pair of easier games against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. So if New England is going to make the playoffs, it’s most likely going to be through a wild card spot.

While things could have been better for the Pats, they will almost certainly find themselves in the playoffs one way or another. Assuming they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend, they would need either the Las Vegas Raiders (who are playing the Colts) or the Miami Dolphins (who are playing the Tennessee Titans) to lose to clinch a playoff spot. It’s unlikely both these teams will pull out wins, so if the Pats win, they stand a good chance of clinching a playoff spot.

Playoff seeding aside, New England’s game against Jacksonville offers them a unique chance to get back on track late in the season. The Patriots gave themselves a chance to beat both the Colts and Bills in their two most recent losses, but they couldn’t overcome some really poor football to pull out some much needed victories. Against the Jaguars, the Patriots have a shot to correct some of their issues right before the playoffs commence.

The New England Patriots can fix some of their issues against the Jacksonville Jaguars

Now no game of football is ever easy, and despite Jacksonville’s numerous flaws, that’s still the case here. But if there was ever an easy game in the NFL, this is probably it. Jacksonville already has the worst record in the league, and to add onto their woes, they have an absurd amount of players on their COVID list currently. While they have recently gotten some reinforcements, there was a point in time this week where they only had 33 players on their active roster.

The Jaguars are a team that’s in the middle of a painful rebuild, and it’s probably not going to get any prettier against the Patriots. Jacksonville’s rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence obviously has loads of potential, but he has virtually no talent around him, and watched his head coach get fired just 13 games into his tenure after making a laughable amount of mistakes in a fairly short timeframe.

This is a game the New England Patriots should win handily, and if Jacksonville somehow makes this a contest, there will be reason to be legitimately concerned about this team. Playing against a lowly team like the Jags not only gives the Pats a chance to improve their playoff standing, but it also gives them a chance to correct some of the mistakes this team has made over the previous two weeks, which is something that cannot be overlooked either.

For starters, it gives the coaching staff a chance to implement sound gameplans on both sides of the ball, and put them into effect. Defensively, the goal is to make Lawrence’s day a nightmare. Offensively, get on the board early, and then run the Jaguars defense into the ground. Pull this off, and the game could probably be over before the first quarter has even ended.

On offense, it’s safe to say Mac Jones hasn’t been at his best over the past two games. He’s really only had one good quarter of football over that two game stretch, and that was when he very nearly led the Patriots back from a 20-0 deficit in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, he has never looked comfortable in the pocket, and his trademark accuracy has all but vanished. Against a suspect Jacksonville secondary, he has a great opportunity to rediscover his form.

Defensively, not much has gone right over the past two games. Against the Colts, the run defense got torched by Jonathan Taylor for much of the game, and they simply had no answer for the league’s leading rusher. Against the Bills, Josh Allen carved up New England’s defense all day long, and their offense literally didn’t have to punt all game long.

Jacksonville offers the New England Patriots defense a prime opportunity to get back on track in pretty much every aspect of the game. It looks like they are going to be without most of their starting offensive line, and one of their only offensive weapons, James Robinson, tore his achilles last week, ending his season. The Patriots should dominate in every phase of this game.

You can make an argument that beating up an easy opponent won’t give this team much moving forward, but it’s actually quite the opposite. If Jones can remember how to hit throws against a weak Jacksonville secondary, it will give him the confidence to do it the following week against a much tougher Dolphins secondary. And if the defense can fine tune their gameplan against the Jags, that gives them something to build off of moving forward as well.

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Not many teams are getting what should amount to a free win like the Patriots are this weekend. Many of the other division leaders or wild card teams are playing tough opponents in pivotal matchups for playoff seeding. New England would be remiss to pass up an opportunity to fine tune their team against a live action opponent.

Maybe I am overlooking the Jaguars in a sense, but I truly believe that isn’t the case. The New England Patriots are very clearly the superior team, and despite their recent struggles, I fully expect them to go out and dominate the Jags tomorrow afternoon. If they can play some good football against a bad team, it could end up serving them quite well when more important games pop up on the calendar down the stretch.