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Questions linger as Patriots' offense falls short again

Fri Dec 2 3:10pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer

Related photo caption below

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks off the field after a 24-10 to the Buffalo Bills after an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)


Related photo caption below

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) runs between Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (7) and defensive end Boogie Basham (55) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass, (AP) Quarterback Mac Jones was adamant his expletive-laced tirade on the sideline during the Patriots 24-10 loss to Buffalo was about motivating himself and not an emotional plea about the play calling or anything directed at his coaches.

Only he knows for certain.

What does seem apparent is his vocal outburst had an undertone: He wants the training wheels to be removed from the offense.

''What I said was about throwing it deeper in the short game. I got to execute that part better,'' Jones said. ''But it's the short game we kept going to, which is working. But I felt like we needed chunk plays. I shouted that out to kind of get everyone going. That's emotional. That's football. I'm passionate about this game.''

At 6-6 and back in last place in the AFC East following its loss to the Bills, New England's season is now officially on the brink with five games to play.

And the much-talked about offense has yet to find consistency under the primary direction of Matt Patricia, a seasoned defensive coach who is making the deepest foray into offensive football of his career.

It's been costly to the development of the Patriots' second-year quarterback and remains the most baffling thing about a team that seems to be content to ride out the status quo on offense despite diminishing returns.

Jones is just 4-5 as New England's starter this season, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. For the season, his passer rating is down to 87.0 - 24th in the NFL.

If there are any major changes coming to help correct the issues, coach Bill Belichick isn't giving any hints what they could be.

''The bottom line is, we need to just keep working to improve it every week,'' he said. ''We need to continue to work to do things better on our end. Then as it relates to our specific opponent, then match them up and doing well against that opponent. So that's really the process.''

WHAT'S WORKING

The Patriots' offensive issues meant they were punting a lot on Thursday. Michael Palardy was again solid in his second game handling the duties with Jake Bailey on injured reserve with a back injury. Palardy averaged 41.8 yards for the night, dropping two inside the 20-yard line.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Situational football was again a glaring shortcoming. The most notable example was during the offense's management of the two-minute drill in the second quarter.

Trailing 17-7, the Patriots took over with 1:20 left and drove to the Buffalo 35 with 50 seconds remaining.

From there they let 11 seconds elapse following a Rhamondre Stevenson second-and-1 run for no gain, forcing them to use their second timeout. Jones got the first down via a sneak on third down, then burned his team's final timeout instead of spiking the ball or running another play.

Two incompletions and a short pass to Hunter Henry later, New England was left to line up for a 48-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk that was no good after hitting the crossbar.

STOCK UP

Marcus Jones. His surprise usage on offense and subsequent 48-yard touchdown reception was the Patriots' biggest highlight. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Jones is the first player in Patriots history to log both a receiving touchdown and a punt return touchdown in his rookie year.

STOCK DOWN

Offensive line. Though dealing with injuries that forced practice squad elevation of Conor McDermott into the starting lineup at right tackle, the Patriots struggled up front. The group was whistled for four of New England's six accepted penalties - holding calls on McDermott, Trent Brown, David Andrews and Cole Strange.

INJURIES

The Patriots had no announced injuries but have several key players on the mend. Starting running back Damien Harris (thigh) sat out along with tackles Isaiah Wynn (foot) and Yodny Cajuste (calf and back).

KEY NUMBER

25% - The offense's conversion percentage on third down (3 of 12) after it made finishing drives a priority following last week's loss at Minnesota. It drops the Patriots to a conversion rate of 36.2% for the season, which ranks 27th in the NFL.

NEXT STEPS

After playing a brutal stretch of three games over 12 days, the Patriots have 10 days to rest before their Monday night road matchup against Arizona on Dec. 12.

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Kenny Pickett Dec 2 3:20pm ET
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The Indianapolis Colts defense is the 19th-ranked fantasy defense so far through 12 weeks. Recently, they've been allowing more points than they did at the beginning of the year, most recently allowing 24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett. This week, the matchup is immensely harder against the Dallas Cowboys, who allow the fewest points per game to opposing fantasy defenses. The Colts defense ranks as a volatile option that will rely on sacks to put up any points. If you're looking for a streaming defense in Week 13, it'd be wise to look elsewhere.

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Trevor Siemian Dec 2 3:20pm ET
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Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus told reporters on Friday that quarterback Trevor Siemian (oblique) will have season-ending surgery to fix the oblique injury that he suffered during pre-game warmups last week. Siemian played in the Week 12 loss to the New York Jets with the injury, but he'll now miss the rest of the season. The good news for the Bears is that starter Justin Fields (shoulder) will return under center this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. With Siemian out the rest of the way, either Nathan Peterman or the recently signed Tim Boyle will serve as Fields' emergency backup for the rest of the 2022 campaign. Siemian went 14-for-25 for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception in last week's loss.

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Derek Carr Dec 2 3:20pm ET
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Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will look to continue his success after posting his first three-touchdown game of the season in Week 12. He will face a similar type of matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers who should be able to turn this game into a potential shootout. Carr posted a QB1 performance without a big game from his top receiver Davante Adams, making the performance even more impressive. The passing offense should have more success with Adams downfield in this one. Providing Carr with a solid floor as well as the ceiling he showed in Week 12. Treat him as a top-12 QB option this week as he may be asked to lead the offense with running back Josh Jacobs on the injury report.

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T.J. Watt Dec 2 3:20pm ET
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Travis Etienne Dec 2 3:10pm ET
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Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. (foot) and wide receiver Zay Jones (chest) are questionable to play against the Detroit Lions in Week 13. Head coach Doug Pederson said Etienne is "good to go," but there have been many cases where players are ruled out after that has been declared, so his fantasy managers should stay on high alert up to game day. Jones is truly questionable, so stay tuned for further injury updates for what could be a smash spot for the emerging wideout. Both Etienne and Jones have huge upside against arguably the worst defense in the NFL, and running bacak JaMycal Hasty and/or receiver Marvin Jones will be very much on the fantasy radar if either misses this game.

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Alec Pierce Dec 2 3:10pm ET
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Ja'Marr Chase Dec 2 3:10pm ET
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Darrell Henderson Dec 2 3:10pm ET
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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan has had an up-and-down year with the Colts, as he has had six finishes in the top-20, but he is second in the NFL in turnovers. The biggest bump in the road for Ryan was the benching in favor of Sam Ehlinger, who actually ended up performing worse than Ryan. With Ryan back under center, he remains an extremely volatile fantasy option. Currently the overall QB21 on the season, Ryan's matchup this week against Dallas is probably one to avoid for anyone looking to stream quarterbacks. Dallas' pass rush has ruined a few teams' game plans this season, and the Colts' shaky offensive line allows that to be a risk for Ryan. He's best left on the waiver wire this week in superflex formats.

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Parris Campbell Dec 2 2:50pm ET
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Michael Pittman Jr. Dec 2 2:40pm ET
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John Wolford Dec 2 2:30pm ET
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Washington Commanders tight end Logan Thomas (rib) was removed from the final Week 13 injury report on Friday and will play on Sunday against the New York Giants. Thomas has been dealing with a rib injury for a while, but he'll suit up this weekend as the team's top pass-catching tight end. The 31-year-old has produced very little for the Commanders and fantasy managers this year, though, catching only 21 passes on 36 targets for 190 yards and one touchdown in nine games played. Injuries have continued to get in the way, but even when healthy, Thomas hasn't been on the starting fantasy radar at the thinnest position in fantasy. He'll be a low-upside TE2 streamer this weekend.

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