The New England Patriots once again will be on their couches this weekend as they watch meaningful playoff football from afar. They should be taking notes, though.

That’s especially true for Saturday of the NFL’s divisional round when the Baltimore Ravens host the Houston Texans ahead of the Green Bay Packers’ trip to take on the San Francisco 49ers.

Obviously, the long-term goal for Jerod Mayo and whoever is ultimately tabbed with making football decisions for the Patriots is to again fight for NFL superiority like the Ravens and 49ers. But it’s those two teams’ opponents who could provide a short-term roadmap back to relevancy.

The Texans and Packers are both underdogs of more than a touchdown in their respective games. All signs point to their seasons ending Saturday. However, the future looks bright in both Houston and Green Bay, largely because of C.J. Stroud and Jordan Love, respectively.

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The two young quarterbacks have taken different paths to this point but both look like they’re ready to solidify themselves on the short list of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Stroud, the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, is the runaway favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year after a sparkling freshman season. Love, meanwhile, is making the Packers look like geniuses for drafting him in 2020 despite still employing Aaron Rodgers.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle on this week’s episode of “The Spread,” NESN’s football picks podcast, discussed the ascension of both QBs.

It’s a credit to both teams’ scouting and development for getting the most of the young signal-callers. A lot of that is coaching and building a system that allows those QBs to flourish. Roster building is important, too. Houston hired DeMeco Ryans, a defensive-minded head coach, who obviously made a brilliant decision to hire Bobby Slowik — picked from the Shanahan tree — as his offensive coordinator. Slowik is now one of the hottest names on the coaching market, and he could have a head coaching job as soon as this offseason. The Packers made a similar decision a few years back when they hired Matt LaFleur, another branch off the Shanahan tree. His offense revitalized Rodgers’ career, and it’s making Love look every bit the player that made him a first-round pick.

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You also have to applaud both teams’ front offices. Before he got hurt, Tank Dell looked like a brilliant third-round pick for the Texans at the receiver position. Nico Collins, a 2021 third-round pick, just had by far the best season of his career. Plucking Cowboys castoffs Dalton Schultz and Noah Brown sure looks shrewd in hindsight. As far as Green Bay’s roster goes, the Packers famously haven’t drafted a first-round wideout since 2002. Yet, that looks like one of the more talented receiver rooms in the NFL — despite being the youngest corps in the league. That sort of thing makes it easier to commit resources to a running back like Aaron Jones when most teams are reticent to pay running backs (though it helps when he’s willing to take a pay cut, too).

There’s more than one or even two ways to build a good NFL roster and infrastructure that contends every year. It’s also just not as simple as copying off someone else’s paper. Yet, as the Patriots seemingly get ready to run back a lot of things after Bill Belichick’s departure, they’d be well served to look around the league for some inspiration.

Featured image via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images