In its last two games against quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills, New England’s defense has not forced one Buffalo punt. Joshua Bessex/Associated Press

The Patriots defense has been the brightest part of this team’s 2022 season. That unit is ranked fifth in yards allowed and sixth in points allowed. The Patriots best player has been Matthew Judon, who leads the NFL in sacks and is a clear-cut All-Pro and Pro Bowler.

As crazy as this might sound, the defense still must prove itself over the final six weeks of the season.

When you look at the opponents the Patriots have beaten and lost to, a clear picture emerges. Their first win came against the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Then there was the Detroit Lions and Jared Goff. After that, the Cleveland Browns and Jacoby Brissett. There was the Indianapolis Colts with Sam Ehlinger and how could we forget the New York Jets with Zach Wilson.

Now, look at the teams who have beaten the Patriots: The Miami Dolphins with Tua Tagovailoa, the Baltimore Ravens with Lamar Jackson, the Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers, the Chicago Bears with Justin Fields and then the Minnesota Vikings with Kirk Cousins.

The Patriots defense has shown it can beat up on teams with below average quarterbacks but has yet to show it can beat a good offense with a good quarterback. If the Patriots are going to make a push for a playoff spot, it’ll likely hinge on the defense’s performance over the final six weeks. It’s over this period that this unit needs to show it’s capable of beating a good quarterback with great weapons.

That brings us to Thursday night with the perfect challenge in the Buffalo Bills with quarterback Josh Allen.


Over the last two games against the Bills, Allen and his offense haven’t punted. That’s embarrassing. If the Patriots are going to have a chance at upsetting their division foes this week, they need to be better. At this time, they haven’t shown they are – even when accounting their outstanding 2022 numbers.

This year, the Patriots are allowing 18.4 points per game and 307.8 yards per game. Both numbers say they’re a top-10 defense. Those numbers are inflated due to the bad quarterbacks they’ve beaten.

Against Trubisky, Goff, Brissett, Ehlinger and Wilson (twice), the Patriots allowed an average of 12 points per game and 249 yards per game.

Against Tagovailoa, Jackson, Rodgers, Fields and Cousins, the defense allowed an average of 30 points per game and 378.4 yards per game.

That’s the story right now. The Patriots can beat below average/backup quarterbacks. They’re not shutting down above average quarterbacks. If that trend continues, the Patriots might finish this season with a losing record.

With the Bills, the Patriots are facing a great quarterback. Allen is second in the NFL in passing yards (3,585) and second in passing touchdowns (23). He’s throwing to Stefon Diggs. The receiver is third in the NFL in receiving yards (1,110), second in receptions (84) and third in receiving touchdowns (nine).


That trend continues throughout the season. The easiest it gets is Arizona’s Kyler Murray, who is 18th in the NFL in passing yards (2,359) and tied for 15th in passing touchdowns (14). Of course, the Patriots struggled with mobile quarterbacks like Jackson and Fields this season, so that’s not an easy matchup especially when you consider his receivers. The Cardinals have DeAndre Hopkins (fourth in the NFL in receiving yards per game with 95.7) and Marquise Brown (10th in the NFL with 75.9 receiving yards per game).

After Arizona, there’s Las Vegas with Derek Carr. He’s eighth in the NFL in passing yards (2,730) and eighth in passing touchdowns (18). Carr’s throwing to Davante Adams, who’s fourth in receiving yards (999) and second in receiving touchdowns (10).

Then there’s Cincinnati with quarterback Joe Burrow. He’s third in the NFL in passing yards (3,160) and second in passing touchdowns (23). He’s throwing to Pro Bowler Ja’Marr Chase (who should be back after missing time due to a hip injury) and Tee Higgins, who is 10th in receiving yards.

The Patriots finish their season with rematches against Miami and then the Bills. With the Dolphins, Tagovailoa is in the midst of a breakout season. He’s currently fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game (284.9). He’s throwing to Tyreek Hill, who is first in the NFL in receiving yards (1,233) and receptions (87), and Jaylen Waddle, who is fifth in the NFL in receiving yards (963).

That’s a tough, tough schedule. On paper, the Patriots defense should be able to handle it. Numbers say they’re a top-10 unit. However, those stats have been inflated due to the bad quarterbacks on their schedule.

The time for the Patriots defense to prove itself is now. The team’s playoff hopes depend on it.

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