The New England Patriots‘ path to making the playoffs in 2023 just got a lot tougher.
That should be the initial reaction that Patriots fans have after the New York Jets finally agreed to a deal to trade for Aaron Rodgers on Monday. The Jets likely have their best quarterback since at least Bill Belichick’s time in New England began in 2000, if not earlier than that.
With Rodgers now in their division, here are three big Patriots takeaways surrounding the agreed-upon trade.
3. The Patriots have a better outlook with their first-round pick
If the Patriots were eyeing an offensive tackle with the 14th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, they would’ve been in a tough spot prior to Monday’s trade.
A few teams selecting ahead of the Patriots have a need for an offensive tackle, including the Jets. But while the group of prospects at offensive tackle this year is viewed as a deep group, there are three that many view above the rest: Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., and Georgia’s Broderick Jones.
With the Jets originally holding the 13th overall pick, the Patriots would’ve needed at least one, if not two, offensive tackle-needy teams to pass up on selecting one of the aforementioned players in order to have a chance at nabbing one of the top tackles.
Well, the Jets swapped first-round picks with the Packers as part of the deal, giving New York the 15th overall pick and Green Bay the 13th overall pick. The Packers don’t have a pressing need at offensive tackle, so the Patriots might not have to move up in order to secure Skoronski, Johnson, or Jones, who were all strong left tackles over the last couple of seasons.
Ohio State tackle Paris Johnson says he talked with Jets owner Woody Johnson in the draft process: pic.twitter.com/ey1bZSWZqm
— Jets Videos (@snyjets) April 26, 2023
Like the Patriots though, the Packers have a need at wide receiver entering the draft. Jaxon Smith-Njigba is viewed as the only receiver who is a top 15 pick, and many mock drafts have him being selected in the top 12, if not sooner.
Where Monday’s trade might hurt the Patriots’ pursuit of a receiver is with the second-round pick the Packers acquired. The Packers picked up the 42nd overall pick in the trade, giving them two second-round picks (No. 45) before the Patriots are on the clock at the 46th overall pick in a draft where many believe that a run on receivers might not happen until the second round.
2. The Patriots can’t count on winning two games against the Jets anymore
The Jets haven’t beaten the Patriots since the Obama Administration.
As you do the math in your head for how long that’s been, the Patriots have won 14 straight matchups against the Jets. That means the Patriots have been able to bank on two wins each season for the last seven years because they are in the same division as the Jets.
Those two wins often took a really good regular season and made it into a great regular season for the Pats. But, for the last few seasons, New England really needed those two wins to boost its season. Those two wins certainly made the 2020 season look better on paper than it really was, and in 2021, their two wins over New York helped them sneak into the playoffs.
This past season, the Jets closed the gap on the Patriots. While they went 7-10, they looked like a legit playoff contender for much of the 2022 season. The Patriots were the only divisional rival the Jets didn’t beat, but both of their losses were only by one score in l0w-scoring affairs with Zach Wilson starting at quarterback. If Mike White started those two games instead of Wilson, it’s reasonable to think that the Jets could’ve won one of those games, if not both.
Zach Wilson has 3 INTs today
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 30, 2022
Those two “freebies” against the Jets would’ve been huge for the Patriots this upcoming season, too. They’re set to have one of the tougher schedules in the league with matchups against the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys on the docket along with multiple games against each of the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and now, the Jets.
1. The Patriots are firmly at the bottom of the totem pole in the AFC East
There’s no way around it: The Patriots currently have the worst roster in the AFC East.
The Bills have the division’s best quarterback in Josh Allen. The Dolphins added Jalen Ramsey to their playoff squad from last season, and even if Tua Tagovailoa is a bit injury prone, they have one of the game’s best wide receiver duos in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The Jets just added a quarterback that should, at the very least, be capable enough for them next season that rounds out their offense and makes them one of the more complete teams in the league, because they’ve got such a strong group on defense.
That leaves the Patriots in no man’s land. They had a really good defense last season, but mostly did their damage against some of the league’s lesser quarterbacks and offenses as they struggled to stop the Bills, Minnesota Vikings, and others.
TOUCHDOWN: Aaron Rodgers 13-yd TD pass to Romeo Doubs#Patriots 24 #Packers 24 Q4 pic.twitter.com/RXMGiUSXu0
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) October 2, 2022
New England really isn’t elite at one particular thing, either, unlike their division rivals. The Patriots’ safety group was probably their strongest position last season, but that took a blow when Devin McCourty retired earlier this offseason.
And that’s not to mention the Patriots’ big question mark at quarterback. Mac Jones is the least-accomplished quarterback in the division, and while it’s certainly feasible that he could have a stronger year than Tagovailoa and even Rodgers considering his age, we can’t operate under the assumption that that will happen.
Things were already tough enough as is for the Patriots to reach the playoffs last season. Now that they have three division rivals that all have playoff rosters and talented quarterbacks, the path for them to reach the postseason has narrowed even more.
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