The “on-paper” outlook doesn’t look great for the Patriots in 2023 as the AFC East ostensibly continues to pass them by talent-wise.
In addition to the continued threat of the Buffalo Bills atop the division, the Miami Dolphins pushed their chips in yet again with a blockbuster trade for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey while the New York Jets have set the table for acquiring four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers via trade.
New England’s biggest off-season acquisitions, meanwhile, have been Bill O’Brien and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Not exactly inspiring, is it?
But Pro Bowl pass-rusher Matthew Judon reminded everyone during a Monday appearance on “Good Morning, Football!” that it’s not always bad to be the underdog.
"When nobody's talking about you, you don't have high expectations — you have nothing to lose,” he said.
“We have our defense coming back. Our offense, we signed a lot of guys up front that nobody’s talking about to steady up the line. Regardless of who we have and who's talking about us or what type of nuances we have… it doesn't matter. We gotta go out there and play.”
Of course, no one’s gonna be terribly excited about a team that doesn’t look like it’s built to compete with a rapidly strengthening division, especially when the Patriots haven’t won a playoff game since 2018.
The fact that the Jets might finally be about to erase their biggest Achilles heel — awful quarterback play — it’s hard not to think of the Patriots as the fourth-place team in the division.
Still, that’s only on paper. Reality, Judon points out, often ends up looking quiet different.
“…We’ve seen plenty of teams get constructed, and you look at the paper like, ‘They got these guys? They got them? Oh yeah, obviously Super Bowl winners.’ But it doesn’t happen every year,” he explained.
For every 2021 Los Angeles Rams squad, there are another handful or more of super teams that fail. After all, the Denver Broncos thought they were a quarterback away last year, too, and they were miserable. (Nathaniel Hackett will be involved in this year’s big quarterback swing as well. Coincidence??)
The bottom line: no, the Patriots have not yet made themselves a team capable of taking back the AFC East. But they should compete for a playoff spot, and they might just do better in the division than you think.
Off-season crowns are nice, but the end-of-season results are the only ones that count. Of course, the Patriots still need to make sure their results are up to par themselves.