Heading into the 2022-23 season, the New England Patriots are looking to return to their old ways under coach Bill Belichick and retake their crown atop the AFC East division. However, this may be the most competitive the division has been during the entire Belichick coaching regime.
The Buffalo Bills are the favorite and with good reason. The Miami Dolphins have done everything they can to give their young quarterback a chance to succeed. The New York Jets, well, they are the New York Jets and don’t appear to be a threat this year but are young and have nowhere to go but up.
Patriots AFC East Divison Odds
How competitive is the division expected to be? Even the Dolphins are ahead of the Patriots in the division title odds.
|New England Patriots||+500||+500||+475|
|New York Jets||+2400||+2200||+2200|
Previewing the Patriots’ Offense
Perhaps the most significant change this season will be that there is a new play caller. Josh McDaniels is taking his second stab at being a head coach, this time for the Las Vegas Raiders, after turning several jobs down over the last few offseasons.
What is interesting but utterly Belichick style is that the Patriots have not named an official play caller. Surely in-house, quarterback Mac Jones and the offense know how it will operate, but media and fans have no clue — just the way Belichick likes things.
Jones’s arsenal has improved this offseason. New England brought in a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver in DeVante Parker. Parker is an incredibly physically gifted player who should benefit from playing with a talented and consistent quarterback. Tyquan Thornton, a second-round draft pick this year, is a burner and can potentially be a game breaker that could be used in many different ways.
The offensive line had a little retooling but returns both tackles protecting Jones. The most significant piece of how high the ceiling the Patriots offense is, though, has to be Jones. He improved rapidly during his rookie year, and if he continues that trend, he could be in line for an MVP-type season, especially if he can lead the Patriots to some big wins over the Buffalo Bills and to a division crown.
Previewing the Patriots’ Defense
Coming off a year in which the Patriots’ defense was one of the league’s top units, it is still trying to improve. The defense started to trend down during the last five games of the season. A significant issue, though, was that while having a superior scheme, the Patriots lacked speed on defense as a whole. The scheme can only do so much. The Patriots needed to plug a few holes on defense.
Linebacker Cameron McGrone missed his entire rookie season and should provide a boost. That, plus the addition of LB Mack Wilson from the Browns, gives the Patriots improved athleticism. Another LB, Raekwon McMillan, looked ready for a big year in 2021 but tore his ACL in camp. He may not be ready to be in starring roles the first week of the season but could provide a significant boost come playoff time.
Preseason Best Bet
FanDuel’s and DraftKings’ odds of +500 are your best value, but I have a hard time recommending betting on the Patriots to win the division this season. Jones, I am sure, will win his share of division in his career, but the Bill appears ready not just to win the division but potentially the Super Bowl.
AP Photo/Steven Senne