Patrick Mahomes, who led the Chiefs to victory in the Super Bowl for the second time last season, is one of the high-caliber quarterbacks the Patriots will face this season. Matt Slocum/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Let’s face it, even though we now know the Patriots schedule, and which order they’re going to play each opponent, it doesn’t change the outlook all that much.

Whether they start with the Philadelphia Eagles on Tom Brady night, and close out the regular season with the New York Jets, the degree of difficulty hasn’t changed. The schedule, which includes at least four primetime games, remains a doozy.

It was going to be tough no matter which way the games wound up falling. The order is one thing. But the star power under center is another with two-time Super Bowl winner Patrick Mahomes, Philadelphia’s budding star Jalen Hurts, and New York’s Aaron Rodgers included in the mix.

Case in point, even sporting a top-10 defense, the Patriots have struggled against the elite quarterbacks in recent years. By extension, they haven’t fared particularly well against the NFL’s high-powered offenses.

In 2023, they have to face a boatload of the NFL’s top QBs, along with many of the best offenses. That’s a stark contrast to last year, where they took advantage of backups and or inexperienced quarterbacks. And still didn’t make the playoffs.

This year, they’re facing the iron. Along with Mahomes, Hurts and Rodgers, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, LA’s Justin Herbert and Dallas’ Dak Prescott are also part of the Murderer’s Row of quarterbacks on the schedule.


And, depending on how much magic Denver Broncos Coach Sean Payton can wield, so is former Super Bowl winner Russell Wilson. Add in Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa, who hasn’t lost against the Patriots as a starter, going 4-0, and new Vegas’ starter Jimmy Garoppolo, who is also unbeaten against Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. Needless to say, the Patriots are going to be up against it.

Just pick your poison from week to week. All told, the Patriots have to face seven of the top 12 quarterbacks from last season.

We’ll see how Mac Jones & Co. fare in those duels. And we’ll see if the defense fares better trying to neutralize Miami’s Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, Las Vegas’ Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Jakobi Meyers.

Looking specifically at the final four games, likely make-or-break games when it comes to squeezing into the playoffs, the Patriots will probably need to take down Mahomes in Foxborough on a Monday night, Wilson in the altitude out in Colorado on Christmas Eve, and Allen on New Year’s weekend in Buffalo, before closing with Rodgers at home.

Going 2-2 in that stretch seems like a miracle. For that matter, the opening four games are no picnic, either, with Philadelphia, Miami, the Jets and Dallas right out of the gate.

But, as Belichick is fond of saying, “It is what it is.”


For their part, the Patriots players don’t seem to mind the challenge ahead. They also seem to relish being forecast to finish dead last in the AFC East, prompted by Rodgers arrival in New York.

“Hands down, it’s going to be a hell of an opportunity for us to go against him twice a year,” linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley said last week. “But if you ask us, we’re excited about the opportunity. We have no choice but to be excited about it.”

Defensive lineman Davon Godchaux echoed those words Thursday prior to the schedule being announced.

“Competition brings out the best in everybody. The Jets are a better team because they’ve got Aaron Rodgers,” Godchaux said. “No one is going to say that the Jets are not a better team because they picked up A-Rod. He’s a Hall-of-Famer. His resume speaks for itself. It’s going to be very exciting to see him twice a year. Can’t wait.”

Save for Devin McCourty, Belichick pretty much brought the band back on defense, re-signing most of the linebacking corps, along with cornerback Jonathan Jones. If that crew, which could see rookie first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez start Week 1 against the Eagles, can’t keep the score down in those games, the Patriots will have trouble winning seven games, much less 10.

Quite simply, the team hasn’t shown an ability to beat teams who score 25 or more points against them. During the past three seasons, in fact, the team has gone 1-17 in those games.


Will having Bill O’Brien now running the offense instead of Matt Patricia change that narrative? Or how about adding JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki to the receiving corps, while subtracting Jones’ top gun in Meyers?

With no offensive threat opposing defenses fear, it’s still hard imagining the 8-9 Patriots getting over the hump, even with O’Brien fixing the offense.

As for a porous offensive line, will it improve under new coach Adrian Klemm, even though there are still question marks at tackle?

Belichick has always believed he can turn a collection of good players into a great team. He espouses to the notion that coaching can be a difference-maker. Looking at the big picture when it comes to navigating this torturous schedule, it’s going to be one heck of an opportunity for Belichick to try and prove the point.

Or sink further into the abyss.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.