MORSE: Patriots Schedule Analysis, How I Would Have Drafted
The schedule is out and it is brutal. The Patriots have 5 Prime Time night games, probably the result of being a playoff team last year. Thanksgiving Eve against the Vikings highlights the schedule. The Patriots made the playoffs and finished 2nd in the division so they will play the top two teams against the other divisions. Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Patriots at 8.5 wins.
The Strength of Schedule is right in the middle of the league (16). That was determined before the schedule came out based upon the winning percentage of their opponents from the previous season. Warren Sharp of NBC Sports Edge https://www.nbcsportsedge.com/article/offseason-research/who-was-hurt-most-nfl-schedule-release has an excellent and extensive article about who got hurt the most by the schedule. Sharp looks at the days of rest each team gets. The Patriots have a -13 Days rest, 2nd worst in the league. This translates into about a month less rest time than the remainder of the league. The Dolphins on the other hand have one of the most favorable schedules with a +5 Net Rest. The Bills have a +12 Net Rest (like they need it). Another area that hurt the Patriots is that they got no advantage other than rest after their Bye week because their next opponent (NY Jets) also has the same Bye Week.
Week 1 – They open in Miami again. This is such an unfair advantage for Miami. They will have practiced for 6 weeks in the heat and humidity of South Florida and to ask a Northern team to come down there and play under those conditions is criminal. By the 4th quarter, they will be spent and it will be a cakewalk for the Dolphins. Put that in the loss column.
Week 2 – It doesn’t get any better in week two having to travel to Pittsburgh. Yeah, they will have a new Quarterback (maybe rookie Kenny Pickett) but I think they will hold with home-field advantage and the Patriots Defense not yet gelled. give the Pats another L.
Week 3 – This will be the Patriots’ Home Opener with the Baltimore Ravens, at a decent 1:00 start. Baltimore is coming off an injury-filled season that completely derailed any chances of seriously contending in the AFC. With those players — including Lamar Jackson returning. The Ravens always play the Pats tough at Gillette and I think they will go down again.
Week 4 – Travel to Green Bay for Week 4 tilt with the Packers. Aaron Rodgers has re-upped with the Packers, but Green Bay did lose a key piece to its offense when they traded Davante Adams to the Raiders. They selected WR Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs in the draft for immediate impact. Still, they should be one of the favorites in the NFC thanks to the back-to-back MVP still lining up under center. This will be a fun destination for fans that like to travel with the team if they can get tickets. However, another loss is in orders there.
Week 5 – Finally, in week 5 the schedule tilts in the Pats’ favor with the Detroit Lions coming to town. Detroit’s 3-13-1 record doesn’t exactly reflect how competitive this team was in 2021. Dan Campbell’s team was a tough out every single week and have now just added the likes of pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson and wideout Jameson Williams. This should be the 1st win for the Patriots. Their schedule is a bit unfair but it is the own doing of the Patriots management. They have weekend dates booked for the stadium the 1st two weeks of September, forcing the Pats on the road. I feel bad for the fans that really enjoy those warm September days for viewing the game and enjoying their tailgates.
Week 6 – is at Cleveland and is a winnable game. Welcome to Cleveland, Deshaun Watson. The Browns pulled off the blockbuster to land the former Texans quarterback, but now the question remains if he’ll see the field or face punishment from the league stemming from his multiple civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct. Put another in the win column.
Week 7 – Home vs the Bears Chicago appears to be in a full rebuild as they are rolling out a new GM in Ryan Poles and a new head coach in Matt Eberflus. The roster doesn’t leave much to be desired other than promising second-year quarterback Justin Fields. This should be a victory for the Pats. If the Bears plan to content in 2022, it’ll take a Herculean effort by Fields. Field’s lack of development gives the Patriots another W.
Week 8 – At the New York Jets. Don’t look now, but the Jets are putting a solid foundation together. They hit a home run at the draft by selecting cornerback “Sauce” Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and pass rusher Jermaine Johnson in the first round. If Zach Wilson can continue to develop. I loved what they did in the draft with those three 1st round picks and top running back Breece Hall in the 2nd. These are still the Jets and I think this is a road game the Pats should win.
Week 9 – Indianapolis Colts at Gillette. A tough home game against an excellent team. The big change in Indianapolis comes under center. After the Carson Wentz experiment went up in flames, they were able to trade him to Washington and eventually acquire Matt Ryan from the Falcons. That addition alone has them as the favorite to win the AFC South and that’s not even mentioning the signing of cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The Colts can and will run the ball and the improvement at QB makes Indy a contender. Expect another loss here.
Week 10 – BYE – the bye comes at a good point for the Pats about the midway point of the season.
Week 11 NY Jets at Gillette – Both teams are coming off their bye. I expect the Patriots to win at home. Interesting the league scheduled the two teams to play again just three weeks later.
Week 12 – A prime time game on Thanksgiving eve at Minnesota. I have always felt the Thanksgiving games are an incredible home-field advantage. Minnesota is another team that is under new management as Kevin O’Connell is now manning the sidelines as the head coach. For the most part, it’s the same cast of characters on the roster with Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, and Dalvin Cook headlining the offense. Short week and another loss for the Patriots.
Week 13 – Thursday Night broadcast by Amazon Prime – Buffalo Bills at Gillette – The Patriots haven’t done enough to slow down the Bills’ Offense. There’s no denying that the Bills are the class of the AFC East at the moment. While the Patriots split with them in the regular season, they were completely shelled in the playoffs truly showing how far apart they really are. Buffalo is the current Super Bowl favorite heading into the season and has made some key additions — wideout Jameson Crowder and first-round corner Kairr Elam — to further bolster this already deep roster. Put another one in the loss column.
Week 14 – At the Arizona Cardinals – The Cards are coming off their bye week which should make this an even more difficult task. To start the season, Arizona will be without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the first six weeks of the season due to a failed PED test. He will be back by the time they play the Patriots. They did acquire former Ravens wideout Marquise Brown at the draft to help cushion that loss. Kyler Murray’s contract has been a point of discussion throughout the offseason, but under the assumption they get that figured out, this will still be one of the tougher offenses in the league. Third of 4 straight Primetime games on Monday night.
Week 15 – At Las Vegas Raiders – Las Vegas has seen an overhaul of the front office and now head coach Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler are running the show. Not only have the Raiders re-tooled the masthead, but they’ve also dove head-first into the open market, trading for Davante Adams and signing former Patriots pass rusher Chandler Jones to a contract to pair with Maxx Crosby. Tough assignment against what appears to be an improved Raiders team. Very popular away game for those inclined to attend an away game. Fourth Prime Time game in a row for the Pats on this Sunday night clash. Predict another loss.
Week 16 – Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette – Cincinnati is coming off a remarkable season in 2021 where they were able to win the AFC and reach Super Bowl LVI. Joe Burrow looks to be among the elite quarterbacks in the conference and will now have a sturdier offensive line in front of him after the front office addressed that area this offseason. Another tough game for the young Pats to overcome.
Week 17 – Miami Dolphins at Gillette – The Dolphins roster has had quite the glow-up this offseason. Not only did they surround Tua Tagovailoa with new weapons like Tyreek Hill, but they also got him protection upfront by inking tackle Terron Armstead to a lucrative deal in free agency. While Miami has a revamped roster, it’ll be interesting to see how the team transitions to Mike McDaniel after the firing of Brian Flores. If my predictions hold true the Patriots will only be playing for pride here. Put one in the win column.
Week 18 – At Buffalo Bills – The Bills Mafia will love this late-season game in the elements of Buffalo. The game is listed as a possibility for flexing to either Saturday or Sunday, at a time TBD. I doubt this game will mean anything in the standings. Unless the defense vastly improves from last season this will be another loss.
Given the uncertainty of how the coaching duties will be divided (QB coach, Offensive Coordinator) I think this is going to be a rebuilding year. The defense will have quite a few new faces and it will take some time for them to gel. Sad to report, I am predicting a 6-11 season. I hope I am wrong.
Who I Would Have Taken I have taken a look at how the draft fell out and I examine the moves the Patriots made. I have the benefit of hindsight and have no knowledge of teams that would have selected players if the Patriots hadn’t made the selections they did.
Round 1 Pick #21 – I would not have taken Cole Strange in the 1st Round. That’s not to say that I don’t like Strange. Just that they took him a round too early. Funny how leaks of other teams interested in Strange as a second-round possibly come out after the Patriots were criticized for reaching to select Strange. The Patriots, once their top Defensive targets were all taken before pick #29, switched to the next priority and that was OG. I felt a #1 shutdown CB was a much bigger priority. McDuffie was my target but if they had taken Kaiir Elam I would have been happy with him.
Round 2 Pick #54 – I would not have traded up to 50. I believe the Patriots love Cole Strange and there was a 96% chance he would have been available here. Troy Andersen LB from Montana State was my draft binky and he was available. The Patriots’ coaching staff appears satisfied with the Linebackers they have on the roster. I think that is very short-sighted, especially given the number of Linebackers that are coming off major surgery. The Patriots lost three of their top 5 linebackers from last season. If the Patriots were trying to get more athletic, as evident by their actual selections, Andersen had a 10.0 Relative Athletic Score. As for the selection of Tyquan Thornton, he is very athletic but had a slow 3-cone drill time. In previous drafts, the Patriots required their WR to run under 7.00. If that is a change of philosophy, then I would rather have Skyy Moore than Thornton. Interesting that KC selected Moore with the Patriots’ pick at #54. The rumor came out after the draft that Pittsburgh wanted Thornton at pick #52, which is why the Patriots made the move up to #50. If that was the case, given the Steelers’ excellent history of drafting WRs, the Thornton pick bodes well for the Patriots. Who are we getting Bethel Johnson or Robbie Anderson? Thornton has a tendency to drop passes, especially with his small hands.
Round 3 Pick# 85 – No issues with taking Marcus Jones. They needed a Punt Returner and a better slot corner. I would have no issues taking a 2nd CB so early.
Round 4 Pick #127 – Pierre Strong RB South Dakota State. I loved this pick as well. I originally had Strong going to the Patriots but had to change my prediction when they made the trade with Houston and they lost a pick. Strong is a very good and underrated pass blocker and if James White is not ready to start the season, as has been suggested, Strong will take over that role.
Round 5 Pick # 158 – Was a backup QB or backup WR a bigger priority for the Patriots? Since I didn’t take a WR with the 2nd round selection I would have selected Kyle Philips WR UCLA. Philips is a true slot receiver and was one of three WR that had a 3-cone drill under 7.00. I really didn’t have an issue with Zappe, just didn’t see the need for a QB that is a shade over 6’ (6.04).
Round 6 Pick #183 – I didn’t understand the selection of RB Kevin Harris at #183. Yes, Harris led the SEC in rushing in 2020. A back injury needed surgery and Harris played in pain all of the 2021 season and his stats reflected that. He is a big back at 5’9.7” 222lbs. He was projected to run a 4.56 40 but pulled a hamstring in running a 4.62 at his Pro Day. Harris is one of the younger draft picks at 21.5 years old. Will he fill the Brandon Bolden role on Special teams? He has good recognition as a runner and pass blocker. Natural receiver with versatility as a route runner. I am not sure Zappe would last until pick #183, but if he did I would have no issue with the Patriots selecting him. In hindsight, the Patriots had determined that Stidham had not progressed and were ready to make a change. Darrian Beavers LB Cincinnati was taken by the Giants just before the Pats at #182. That is a player I would have liked to see on the Pats. Beavers ran a 6.93 3-cone drill. The next best LB was Malcolm Rodriquez from Oklahoma State. All he did was tackle. His issue is that he is under 6’ tall. He ran a 4.52 40 at the combine despite pulling a hamstring. The converted Safety had 408 tackles in his 5 years for the Cowboys. Rodriquez was the Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He immediately contributes to all 4 Special Teams units and could carve out a Larry Izzo role for himself at a minimum. Compared to former Dolphin LB Zach Thomas.
Round 6 Pick #200 – I didn’t know a lot about Sam Roberts before the Patriots drafted him, but the DII Defensive Player of the Year intrigues me. I don’t have an issue with taking a flyer on him late in the draft. At this point in the draft, the Patriots have probably exhausted their draft board. These last three picks are actually like securing UDFAs by drafting them rather than having to compete for them with other teams.
Round 6 Pick #210 – Chasen Hines G LSU No issues He is a massive Left Guard. Has some weight issues, and needs to slim down to be effective in the NFL.
Round 7 Pick # 245 – Andrew Steuber T Michigan I liked this selection. Michigan’s O-line was selected for the Joe Moore Award for the nation’s Best Offensive Line. Steuber had a lot to do with that. I think a year on the Practice Squad will help him. Some think his lack of athleticism might mean a switch to OG.
Passing of Gino Cappelletti
I was saddened by the news of longtime Patriots Radio Analyst and player Gino Cappelletti’s death. The Patriots Hall of Famer was the AFL MVP in 1964, a 5-time All-Star, 4-time 2nd Team All-Star, and Most Seasons Leading the League in Scoring 5 times (tied with Don Hutson and Stephen Gostkowski). Gino belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame and it is a shame that he didn’t live long enough to see that happen. At the time of his death, he was 88.
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Offseason
Tags: 2022 Patriots Draft 2022 Patriots Schedule New England Patriots