3 Biggest Concerns for Patriots in Final Two Weeks of NFL Season

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 29, 2021

3 Biggest Concerns for Patriots in Final Two Weeks of NFL Season

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots went from the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC to fighting for a wild-card position in a two-week span.

    The losses to the Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills exposed some flaws within the Patriots defense that need to be fixed ahead of a potential Super Bowl run.

    New England struggled to contain the run in both defeats, and its offense was done in by turnovers. The Patriots committed two turnovers in consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 5 and 6. 

    The Patriots also need more output from their entire receiving corps to support Mac Jones in his first foray in the postseason. 

    The good news is they can fix some issues against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins while wrapping up a wild-card spot, but Bill Belichick's side needs to show improvement to feel more confident about its Super Bowl hopes going into the postseason. 

Rushing Defense

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    New England was gashed for 340 rushing yards in the last two weeks. 

    Jonathan Taylor, Devin Singletary and Josh Allen achieved plenty of success on the ground to move the Patriots down from the No. 1 seed. 

    The team's rushing defense totals should get better in the next two weeks, starting with the Week 17 clash against the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    James Robinson suffered an Achilles injury in Week 16, and that makes Jacksonville's ground attack much less threatening. 

    New England held Miami, its Week 18 opponent, to 74 rushing yards in the season opener, but that should be the true test for the rushing defense before the postseason. 

    If the Patriots contain Myles Gaskin, Duke Johnson and Co. in what could be a playoff elimination game, they should feel way more comfortable about their postseason chances. 

Turnovers

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    The Patriots gave the ball away on five occasions in their last three games. They had two turnovers in each of their last two trips to the gridiron and are 2-6 in games where they give the ball away that often or more. 

    The equation is fairly simple for the team's playoff chances. Do not turn the ball over and you should be in a good position to win. New England is 7-0 in contests in which it has one or zero turnovers. 

    Mac Jones was the root of the turnover issues against the Bills and Colts. He was picked off twice in each defeat. 

    Jones' turnovers versus the Colts came at costly times, too. He was picked off on both sides of the halftime break, and his second giveaway led to an Indianapolis field goal. 

    The rookie's two picks against the Bills did not lead to any points, but they put the Patriots in less-than-ideal situations. The first turnover set up the Bills with a short field, and the other came at the end of a failed comeback attempt. 

    Jones was clean in the pocket for a long stretch of the regular season, and if he works on correcting his mistakes in Week 17, he should gain more confidence heading into the toughest part of his young NFL career. 

Consistency at Wide Receiver

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Four New England players have 450 or more receiving yards. 

    That did not show in the Week 16 loss to the Bills. Jakobi Meyers was the only Patriots player with more than 35 receiving yards. 

    New England needs to help out its rookie quarterback on a more consistent basis to field a well-rounded squad in the postseason. 

    Meyers and Kendrick Bourne will be tasked with the leading roles in the passing offense. Both players have over 700 receiving yards. Meyers leads the team in catches and Bourne has the most touchdowns of any wide receiver. 

    Hunter Henry leads the Patriots with nine scores, but he only has 480 receiving yards. Nelson Agholor and N'Keal Harry have been effective in spurts. 

    The entire Patriots pass-catching unit needs to be better in the coming weeks to ensure Jones is as comfortable as possible in the pocket. 

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