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Cardinals-Patriots Game Preview: 5 questions and answers with the Week 14 enemy

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Happy Monday one and all.

The Arizona Cardinals take on the New England Patriots tonight on Monday Night Football, and we talked with Taylor Kyles of Pats Pulpit to see what the Patriots are up to.


1. Mac Jones has had an up and down sophomore season, albeit the Pats have been beset by injuries. Is there still belief in Mac or is that wavering?

The organization has had pretty unwavering confidence in Mac Jones this season. Players even defended his role as a team leader when Bailey Zappe was seeing snaps. I also think most fans understand the problems are much bigger than the quarterback, especially as he’s cut down on the turnover-worthy plays.

The Patriots had a notoriously dreadful offseason coaching-wise that saw a huge chunk of the offensive staff follow Josh McDaniels to the Raiders or retire. Matt Patricia taking over as pseudo-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach and Joe Judge becoming quarterbacks coach haven’t had a noticeably positive effect, rather the offense feels directionless and poorly prepared.

Offensive line injuries and regression have also had a significant impact on the Patriots’ ability to execute consistently, resulting in the overly-conservative play-calling PAtricia has displayed of late. Jakobi Meyers has also missed time with injuries and no one has managed to step up consistently when he’s out.

So to bring things back around, Mac Jones hasn’t been perfect, but he’s also been in a very tough spot.

2. Matthew Judon has been sensational, who else has been making that defense click?

DE Deatrich Wise has been a consistent pressure generator for New England, using his power and length to overwhelm tackles and push back guards when he bumps down inside.

That said, OLB/ED Josh Uche really turned it on last week after playing his most snaps in a game all season. His lack of ideal size makes him more of a rotational rusher, but his explosiveness and bend are rare, even drawing comparisons to Von Miller from All-Pro Cameron Jordan. Uche gave the Bills’ backup tackles fits with his athleticism and precise hands. Expect to hear his name in obvious pass situations.

3. Do you ever begin to worry about Bill Belichick and how much longer he has left?

I think Bill Belichick will be the team’s coach as long as he wants to be, but it’s undeniable that the on-field product hasn’t met expectations.

Losing the greatest player of all time was never going to fly under the radar. But some personnel and coaching decisions, as well as uncharacteristically undisciplined play, have plagued the Patriots for a few years now. The team’s defense, which Belichick typically has the biggest hand in, dominates lesser opponents but struggles against the league’s better units, particularly dual-threat passers.

I doubt I’ll ever advocate for moving on from Belichick, but you definitely expect more from the Hall of Fame coach and general manager.

4. No Jakobi Meyers and Damien Harris, who will help Mac Jones and the offense this week?

That’s the million dollar question! Which obviously isn’t a great look this late in the season.

Thankfully the offense still has Rhamondre Stevenson, who accounts for the lion’s share of their positive plays this season. But as I mentioned earlier, no one has consistently stepped up outside of top-receiver Meyers and the second half of the Patriots’ 1-2 backfield punch in Harris.

Nelson Agholor has made plays, but he’s struggled with fumbles and runs cold. Top TE Hunter Henry is solid, but far from a game-changer (until he starts seeing more Red Zone targets). Rookie WR Tyquan Thornton had some flashy moments after returning from early-season IR, but has mostly been a clear-out guy while occasionally seeing targets and gadget touches. TE2 Jonnu Smith can be fun with the ball in his hands, but he’s not a great route runner and rarely sees downfield targets.

Sorry for the non-answer, but that’s where the Patriots are at offensively.

5. Rhamondre Stevens has been a monster for the Patriots offense. DraftKings Sportsbook has his Rushing/Receiving total at 115.5 yards… Are you taking the over or under?

As much as I’d like to take the over, the Patriots’ run game has been rough for a few weeks now. Most of their yards have come after contact with Stevenson running over defenders or making them miss.

He’ll likely see 10+ targets on underneath concepts, but if the Cardinals rally to the ball and wrap up, they should be able to mitigate the damage.