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Patriots Unfiltered Roundtable Roundup: Bye Week Edition

The writers of give their takes on the Patriots’ first half of the 2022 season and look forward to what lies ahead in the final eight games.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson running through an open hole
RB Rhamondre Stevenson running through an open hole

This week, the writers of Patriots Unfiltered use the bye week to hand out some halfway awards while prescribing how the team can have a successful second half with a push to the playoffs.

Offensive MVP

Rhamondre Stevenson -Fred Kirsch

Rhamondre Stevenson – His emergence as a reliable receiver has made him a three-down threat. -Paul Perillo

Rhamondre Stevenson -Evan Lazar

I'm going to pull an audible and give a co-MVP: Jakobi Meyers and Rhamondre Stevenson. -Tamara Brown

Jakobi Meyers – Stevenson has been awesome but Meyers' contributions in the passing game stand alone. -Mike Dussault

Rhamondre Stevenson -Alexandra Francisco

Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9) sacks Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger (4).
Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon (9) sacks Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger (4).

Defensive MVP

Matthew Judon – Leads the league with 11.5 sacks, three more than Nick Bosa in second place. -PP

Matthew Judon – EL

Matthew Judon -TB

Matthew Judon -MD

Matthew Judon -TB

Matthew Judon -AF

Rookie of the First Half

Jack JonesFK

Marcus Jones – Given the offensive struggles, Jones' quality returns have been instrumental. -PP

Jack Jones – EL

Jack Jones – TB

Marcus Jones – His electric return ability is only starting to show itself, he's an emerging weapon and his defensive play isn't something to ignore either. -MD

Jack Jones -AF

Biggest Disappointment

Wide receivers. There's a lot of elements leading to the lack of touchdowns for the offense but the group I was most confident in coming into the season was the receivers. Other than Jakobi Meyers, I'm not seeing the type of consistent play needed. -FK

The offense – Mac Jones just hasn't looked comfortable from the opening kickoff in Miami. -PP

Mac Jones/Matt Patricia -EL

Mac Jones -TB

The offense – I'm not sure how to parse it all out, all I know is that they're not moving the ball or producing enough points and I didn't think it would remain this clunky into November. -MD

Biggest Surprise

The play of the defense. The way 2021 ended for this group, there were a lot of questions about where the plays on defense were going to come from. We're getting more and more answers every week. Matt Judon is in the conversation for DPOY. The front is getting stouter with everyone contributing including Dietrich Wise who's having the best start to his career. Josh Uche is finally showing his upside. Ja’Whaun Bentley is making plays. The secondary is playing superbly with a great mix of youth and experience. The teeth of the schedule is coming up but there's cause for optimism with this group. -FK

Bailey Zappe – Few expect the third-string quarterback to play let alone enjoy success. Zappe helped keep the season afloat when called upon. -PP

Deatrich Wise -EL

How unsuccessful Mac Jones + the offense is -TB

Deatrich Wise. I had huge concerns about the edge coming into the season and Wise has put those concerns to rest. He's putting it all together. -MD

Marcus Jones -AF

What is one change you'd prescribe for the team to implement over the bye?

I'll leave that to Evan Lazar and the Catch-22 podcast. All I know is that the offense needs to do better, starting with the offensive line and Mac Jones. -FK

The offense needs to incorporate the tight ends into the offense more, especially in the red zone. Quick, easy throws should help limit the pressure. -PP

If the Patriots are moving forward with Mac Jones at quarterback, they need to embrace that they're a spread offense now. Ditch the under center stuff, spread the field, and make this thing look like Jones is playing at Alabama again. Say it with me: RPOs!! -EL

Over the bye, the offense needs to configurate a plan for Mac Jones to have better protection. It all starts up front and he is unable to execute the Patriots offense with a roller coaster offensive line. The offense has only scored two touchdowns the past two weeks and that won't fly against the Patriots opponents the second half of the season. -TB

I like what Evan said, just lean even further into what Mac likes and does best. Toss the rest. -MD

Ability to execute. ­-AF

What are your second half expectations from the offense?

Block better. Pretty please. -FK

I'd expect the pass protection to improve with the return of David Andrews, and for Stevenson to continue to produce. -PP

None. My biggest concern right now with this group isn't execution by the players. Sure, that could be better. But you watch other teams from a play-design standpoint and it looks like a different game. I don't have much confidence in the coaching staff to start scheming at a high level. -EL

Second half expectations for the Patriots offense is being able to string together plays and finish a drive in the redzone. The inability for Mac Jones to lead the offense down the field to score a touchdown is alarming. They cannot keep relying on good field position from defensive turnovers or the defense scoring touchdowns to win games. -TB

I don't know if I'm really expecting anything. I'm hoping that they start to find a way to consistently move the ball and score points, but there are a lot of issues to overcome and I'm not sure how it all comes together. -MD

I expect Mac to get more comfortable in the passing game. -AF

Can the defense and special teams carry the team to the playoffs?

Not without significant improvement on offense. -PP

Sure, absolutely. The Pats defense is now number one in EPA per play and fifth in DVOA, a top-five unit by most efficiency metrics. Although the schedule is a grind, playing mistake-free football on offense while the defense drives the bus could get them to 9-10 wins. But to what end? They won't be a true contender if that's the case. -EL

The defense and special teams could carry the team to the playoffs but I'd rather see the offense contribute something other than field goals. While a win is a win, I'd prefer to see a more aesthetically pleasing Patriots win that includes an exciting offense. Through the first nine games of the season the Patriots offense is extremely underwhelming and difficult to watch the same issues week after week. ­-TB

That's a huge ask considering just the AFC East offenses alone that they need to find a way to stop. That said, I still believe this year could be different if the pressure continues to be dominant. If Judon, Wise, Uche, etc. go quiet down the stretch it's all over. -MD

Perhaps in previous seasons, yes, but the AFC East is too competitive these days. They're half a game out of the third and final wild card spot now with a lot of tests left to take. -AF

Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. (91) pressures Jets quarterback Zack Wilson (2).
Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. (91) pressures Jets quarterback Zack Wilson (2).

What remaining game intrigues you the most?

Before Josh Allen's injury I would have said Buffalo but I'll go with Week 16 against Cincinnati. Eager to see the Patriots defense match up with the Bengals weapons. -PP

Until we see this defense against Buffalo, it's impossible to say how much progress they've truly made. The two games against the Bills will tell us how far off they are on both sides of the ball. -EL

The second game versus the Jets is the most intriguing because they were able to string together a game plan to beat the Buffalo Bills and force Josh Allen to throw two interceptions; while Zach Wilson had a mistake-free game. I am interested to see if the Patriots defense and special teams can do enough to beat the Jets again especially considering Mac Jones had a tough time playing against the Jets stout defense and Cole Strange had his hands full with Quinnen Williams. They were able to escape the Meadowlands with a victory thanks to the Patriots defense making Zach Wilson squirm but I would expect Zach Wilson to come out and improve a lot of those mistakes he made in the first game. -TB

Generally it's the four AFC East games, and while the first Jets game is pretty much a must-win, I think the Miami game is one that interests me the most. Can the Patriots get over the hump against Tua finally? Can they show they're better than a third-place team in the division. I expect them to beat the Jets but I don't have high expectations against Buffalo. Miami is the in-the-middle game that I think will reveal the most of the 2022 Pats and where they're headed, whether they make the playoffs or not. -MD

Bengals on Christmas Eve. -AF

What do you think is the key to making the playoffs?

Get healthy, score more touchdowns and finish at least 10-7. That means going 5-3 the rest of the way. -FK

This is pretty simple: the offense needs to produce more than it has thus far. -PP

The offense scoring more touchdowns on short fields and in the red zone. I'm not expecting this group to carry them to the postseason. But they need to take advantage of the easy scoring drives set up by the D/ST as much as they can. If they can't do that, this team won't make the playoffs. -EL

The key to making the playoffs is the offense finding a rhythm and identity. The offense cannot rely on Rhamondre Stevenson to carry the team on his back or Jakobi Meyers to be the only receiver capable of making plays. The offense is the weakest link of the entire team and if they were to play from behind during the second half of the season or need to compete with an opponent's powerhouse offense, as it stands today they would not be able to produce enough points to win. -TB

Offense must find life. The league is too good for the defense and special teams to carry this team to the playoffs. Move the ball consistently. Score points. That's it. ­-MD

I think the offensive line has been the biggest liability this team has between its lack of depth and discipline. Getting those guys healthy is important, and drive-killing penalties can't continue to happen. For me, making the playoffs lives and dies with the o-line. -AF

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