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Questions linger as Patriots' offense falls short again

Fri Dec 2 3:10pm ET
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.''


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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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Starts, Sits and Sleepers: Week 13

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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
Trevor Siemian

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
Derek Carr

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
T.J. Watt

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (ribs) is listed as questionable to play in Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons. A must-start linebacker in IDP fantasy formats, Watt may not be available this weekend. The 28-year-old has played at least 80 percent of the defensive snaps since returning from Injured Reserve in the last three games. In the Monday night win over the Indianapolis Colts, Watt posted three tackles (two solo) and a forced fumble. Fantasy managers will have to check back Sunday morning to see if he's active, and you'll need a backup LB option in case he's not cleared.

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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
Alec Pierce

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Alec Pierce has generally been the fourth or fifth option in the Colts' passing attack, which can be highly volatile at times. There was a point in the season where Pierce was getting hot, going 4-80 and 8-81 in back to back games. Since then, fellow wide receiver Parris Campbell has fully assumed WR2 duties for Indianapolis, leaving Pierce to fight with the tight ends for the remaining Matt Ryan targets. Last week's zero-catch effort was his third of the season, making him a volatile fantasy option. With almost no floor, Pierce shouldn't be in lineups this week, even in 14-team leagues.

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Ja'Marr Chase Dec 2 3:10pm ET
Ja'Marr Chase

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (hip) is "on track" to play in Week 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs, and head coach Zac Taylor said he's "optimistic" that Chase will be out there on Sunday. Chase returned to limited practice work this week and is likely to be listed as questionable on Friday's final injury report, but he's expected to be active for fantasy managers. You'll run the risk of the 22-year-old being eased back into the offensive game plan this weekend, but it's hard to argue for benching the superstar receiver if he plays. And in a game that should feature plenty of points, Chase will have easy WR1 upside if he's on the field regularly. In seven games before his injury, he had 47 catches for 605 yards and six touchdowns on 74 targets.

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Darrell Henderson Dec 2 3:10pm ET
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Jacksonville Jaguars running back Darrell Henderson Jr. (illness) is questionable to make his debut with the team in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions. Henderson was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Rams last week, but he was held out of the Week 12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. With Travis Etienne Jr. (foot) expected to play this Sunday, the 25-year-old Henderson would likely be the No. 3 behind Etienne and JaMycal Hasty if he was active, so fantasy managers should ignore him for the time being. Eventually, Henderson could surpass Hasty on the RB depth chart, but that may not happen anytime soon. He can be left to the waiver wire in most single-year fantasy leagues.

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Justin Fields Dec 2 3:00pm ET
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Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (shoulder) is off the team's final injury report and will play against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13. In Fields' first matchup with Green Bay in Week 2, he posted just 90 total yards and one touchdown, but his upside has climbed to overall QB1 status, so he's a must-start when active. Fields has 834 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns on the year as an elite dual-threat fantasy quarterback. He missed just one game due to the injury, so his fantasy managers should trust him and play him with confidence.

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Matt Ryan Dec 2 3:00pm 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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Jaylen Warren Dec 2 3:00pm ET
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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (oblique) is not on the team's final injury report, so he'll start against the Falcons in Week 13. Harris totaled 39 yards and a touchdown on 11 touches before leaving last Monday's game against the Indianapolis Colts, but he's good to go. Jaylen Warren (hamstring) is officially questionable, and his status could have a major impact on Harris' outlook. When Warren was active, Harris' touches were limited, but when he was out, Harris looked like the workhorse RB he was in his rookie season. It's tough to bench Harris either way, but his ceiling will be limited a bit if Warren is full-go.

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Parris Campbell Dec 2 2:50pm ET
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Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell's two-catch game in Week 12 was his worst since Week 9, when quarterback Sam Ehlinger was still under center. This ended his four game streak of at least five targets with Matt Ryan as the starting quarterback. Tight end Jelani Woods surprisingly played the safety value role for the Colts in their Monday night loss, but with his game status up in the air, Campbell should recover from a bad game in what has been a generally successful season for him. The upside isn't high being on the Colts' often-inept offense, but there could be useful volume for Campbell, making him a mid-range WR3.

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Michael Pittman Jr. Dec 2 2:40pm ET
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Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. has operated as the clear-cut number one wideout for the Colts this season. Having no fewer than six targets in every game, Pittman has been the main option for whoever is playing quarterback for the Colts. This has kept him playable as a consistent WR2 this season, and he currently ranks as the overall WR14 in PPR leagues. Pittman's Week 13 matchup is slightly less favorable against Dallas' decent secondary, but his high volume role keeps him in play as a solid WR2, especially in PPR leagues. Assuming Matt Ryan isn't under constant duress, Pittman should push for top-20 upside.

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Jelani Woods Dec 2 2:40pm ET
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Indianapolis Colts tight end Jelani Woods is officially questionable for the team's Week 13 game against the Dallas Cowboys. He has just 15 receptions for 117 yards and three touchdowns on the year, but there are surely fantasy managers in large and deep tight end premium leagues who will be affected. If he's out, Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson should see more snaps at tight end. That said, this Colts' offense will likely be shut down by one of the premier defenses in the NFL on Sunday Night Football.

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John Wolford Dec 2 2:30pm ET
John Wolford

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (neck/head) has cleared concussion protocol, but head coach Sean McVay said he won't play against the Seahawks in Week 13. Bryce Perkins started against the Kansas City Chiefs in the absence of John Wolford (neck), but Wolford will start on Sunday. Ultimately, even Stafford was a low-end QB2 in fantasy when healthy, so Wolford is not on the fantasy radar in single-QB leagues. With Cooper Kupp (ankle) and Allen Robinson II (foot) out of action, the upside of the passing game is extremely low.

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Jonathan Taylor Dec 2 2:30pm ET
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Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is finally fully healthy after dealing with a high ankle sprain for a good part of the season. Fantasy managers who drafted him as high as number one overall have had a tumultuous season between the injury, the Colts' coaching fiasco, and the quarterback issues. It finally seems like Taylor is producing like an elite, high-end fantasy back, as he's finished as a top-12 back in three straight weeks. This week's matchup against the Dallas Cowboys' talented front seven poses a tough challenge for Taylor and the Colts offense, but he's obviously going to remain in fantasy lineups as an RB1.

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Jerick McKinnon Dec 2 2:30pm ET
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Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon (hamstring) is expected to play against the Cincinnati Bengals according to head coach Andy Reid. Isiah Pacheco has taken over the starting running back job in Kansas City, but McKinnon has deep league flex value in PPR leagues. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) is out for at least another two weeks with an ankle injury, and it remains to be seen what impact Melvin Gordon III will have on this backfield.

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J.K. Dobbins Dec 2 1:30pm ET
J.K. Dobbins

Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins (knee) began practicing this week after being designated to return from Injured Reserve, but he will not play against the Denver Broncos in Week 13. Dobbins aggravated his knee in Week 6 after suffering a torn ACL that cost him the 2021 season. It appears he'll return to the field at some point this year, but it won't be until at least Week 14. When he does return, he'll almost certainly be in a timeshare with Gus Edwards and Kenyan Drake, so his upside is capped, even in a run-heavy offense.

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Antonio Gibson Dec 2 1:00pm ET
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Washington Commanders running back Antonio Gibson (foot) is officially listed as questionable for Week 13 against the New York Giants. The good news is that Gibson returned to practice on Friday after missing Thursday's session, so he appears to be on the right side of questionable for this weekend. However, he could continue to be a distant second to rookie Brian Robinson in Washington's backfield against the G-Men if he's at less than 100 percent for Sunday's game. If Gibson is limited or out, Jonathan Williams would see more backup work behind Robinson. Gibson should be viewed as a more shaky RB3/flex in fantasy with slightly more appeal in point-per-reception leagues.

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Logan Thomas Dec 2 1:00pm 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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