Are the Patriots the worst team in the AFC East?
Probably not. But, at this point, the question is a fair one to ask.
New England left Lambeau Field on Sunday with nothing but moral victories — and impressive ones, at that — after losing 27-24 in overtime to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe played admirably in relief of Brian Hoyer, but his performance ultimately wasn’t good enough as the Patriots dropped to 1-3 on the still-young season.
New England’s heartbreaking loss came on the same day that saw the Bills and Jets pull off comeback wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, respectively. Buffalo now is 3-1 and New York now is 2-2 — and both are looking up at the 3-1 Miami Dolphins in the AFC East standings.
That means the Patriots now sit alone in last place in the same division they dominated for two decades. And it’s not a feeling that Belichick has felt many times before, to say the least.
“First time the Patriots have been in last place in the AFC East since 2014, after Week 1,” Mike Reiss of ESPN tweeted Sunday night, citing ESPN Stats & Info. “Only other time under Bill Belichick that they have been in last place came in his first season, 2000, when they held lats place outright in all 17 weeks that season.”
The Patriots now face a potential must-win game in Week 5, with a home game against the upstart Detroit Lions scheduled for next Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. Whether Zappe, Hoyer or Mac Jones will start at quarterback next weekend remains unclear, as does the statuses of receiver Jakobi Meyers, cornerback Jalen Mills and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy — all of whom missed Sunday’s game due to injuries.
So, yeah, New England is in a tough spot.
The good news for the Patriots is that they were in the same situation last season. After starting the season 1-3, New England rattled off seven straight wins and eventually qualified for the postseason. The Patriots might need a similar run in 2022 if they want to make it back to the playoffs.
But first things first: getting out of the AFC East basement.