How the hell are the Patriots a playoff team?

If the postseason began today, seventh-seeded New England would face the 10-3 Chiefs in Kansas City.

Norm Hall / Getty Images


If watching the 2022 Patriots has been a chore this season, the task’s strain is only exacerbated by having the local football team play on a Monday night. This is a 1 p.m. team if we’ve ever watched one. Maybe it’s even a squad that should have a Vegas-style residency on Thursday nights. Al Michaels would love it.

The fact that we might have the opportunity to watch this team play an 18th game in January is ludicrous. Like, do we have to?

Somehow, someway, the middling Patriots found a path to win in Arizona Monday night, aided by injury to Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray in the first quarter, star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ boneheaded regard for the football, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s insistence to go for it on fourth down five times over the course of the game (the Cardinals succeeded once).


There was nothing telling about the Patriots’ 27-13 win in the desert, a “victory” that allowed New England to leapfrog back into the AFC playoff picture. If the postseason began today, seventh-seeded New England would face the 10-3 Chiefs at Arrowhead in the wild card round.

And you thought last year’s playoff loss to the Bills was brutal?

Where to begin with a Patriots offense that is every bit as dysfunctional as preseason pundits predicted that it would be as early as March? Once again, quarterback Mac Jones wasn’t good, completing 24 of his 35 passes for 235 yards and an interception. It was the eighth time in 10 starts this season that Jones has posted a QB rating lower than 100. The turf at whatever they’re calling the Malcom Butler shrine these days was a relative minefield, claiming Pats running back Rhamondre Stevenson, wide receiver DeVante Parker (head injury), and rookie cornerback Jack Jones. Nelson Agholor’s biggest move of the night was to alert officials when Parker didn’t look right lining up for a play following the Patriots receiver’s injury. It’s the one ball Agholor didn’t manage to drop all evening.


In the midst of the chaos, we had Jones throwing tantrums at his teammates and offensive coordinator — or whatever Matt Patricia is calling himself these days so the Krafts can save a buck — which either speaks to his internal fire to win or his majestic immaturity. Year Two of the 15th overall draft pick hasn’t settled anybody of the mind that Jones will be the future of the franchise at the quarterback position. It might even be more realistic to ponder which teams might want to trade for him during the offseason rather than what 2023 is going to look like for Jones in Foxborough.

All the while, head coach Bill Belichick is acting like Leslie Nielsen, shouting over the cavalcade of fireworks surrounding the team. The coach insists he’s still committed to the Patriots’ offensive approach and coaching staff, which is sort of like demanding that you get all your holiday shopping done at Bradlees, a fruitless pursuit.

Yet, believe it or not, there were a few positives to take from the Patriots’ offensive approach Monday night. Jones took a moment to look under the rock where Hunter Henry had been hiding, and utilized the tight end for 70 integral yards. Rookie running backs Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong, Jr. stepped up in the absences of Stevenson and Damien Harris, toughing out 96 combined yards with a pair of touchdowns. And does anybody else come away from the last two games without the conclusion that cornerback Marcus Jones needs more offensive snaps?


But the malaise that has infected the team’s offensive capabilities still hovers. It’s possible, but not likely, that it could continue into next month.

With four weeks remaining in the NFL’s regular season, the Patriots may currently be in the playoff picture, but it’s going to take a whole lot for that to remain the case at the end of the season. Josh McDaniels’ Las Vegas Raiders have nothing to play for, except for this game against the former New England offensive coordinator’s overmatched unit. The Bengals are resurgent and are a contender for the Super Bowl, a spot where Miami and Buffalo, the two teams at the end of New England’s 2022 schedule, could be headed as well. Even if the Bills, with the top seed intact, sit half their roster for the final game of the season, do you still have any faith the Patriots can figure it out?

They will be an 8-9 or 7-10 team because that is who the Patriots are, a team that takes advantage of bad teams and wilts against everybody else. Playoff-bound? Just be happy they’re finally (by advantage of head-to-head) out of last place in the AFC East.

“It’s always good to win,” Belichick said Monday night after the victory. “It’s what we practice for.”

That might be up for debate.

The Patriots are back in the playoffs. Four games remain.

Wake me at the draft.


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