The 2023 NFL season will be vital for Mac Jones’ career, and he’ll face that challenge as the worst quarterback in his division.

That moniker is not indicative of Jones’ talent or ability. Instead, it highlights the steep competition the Patriots will face in the AFC East. New England dealt with Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa in past seasons and now will play Aaron Rodgers at least twice this season.

The Patriots brought back Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator to help steer Jones back in the right direction after a disastrous tenure from Matt Patricia, and the defense will need to be sharp to help avoid another season without postseason football.

“It’s going to be tough,” Patriots safety Adrian Phillips said on “NFL Total Access,” per’s Coral Smith. “You know our division was already tough; Buffalo’s been doing their thing, Josh Allen’s been balling, you’ve got Mike McDaniel down in Miami dialing it up, and then you get Aaron Rodgers going to the Jets, like, it’s crazy.”

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New England opens the season against the Philadelphia Eagles, and while a Tom Brady ceremony will highlight the day, it faces tough competition in Jalen Hurts. The Patriots also have AFC West opponents on their schedule, so they’ll face matchups against Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes.

“You literally cannot take a week off,” Phillips said. “I mean this is the NFL anyways, you can get beat on any given Sunday, but in the AFC alone, we’re just stacked. If you look at our schedule this year, it’s just stacked with a bunch of quarterbacks, a bunch of skill players who can take a slant for 80 yards. So, we’ve got to make sure we’re dialed in each and every week.”

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Bill Belichick will manage the defensive matchups, but if New England can’t keep up its end on offense, it won’t be a pretty season for the Patriots.

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