The Patriots have a very tough game ahead of them. Going 0-2 in the AFC essentially ends your playoff chances, and they will be looking to rebound and reestablish themselves.
New England had a sloppy game against the Dolphins in week one, and they are entering a very important game in week two. The Steelers are a tough team with great coaching coming off a win against the defending AFC Champions. Here are three Patriots’ players who will need to be at their best against the Steelers.
In the AFC you need a true wide receiver one, and New England traded for Devante Parker with that intention. What seemed to be a perfect revenge game turned into a bad game for Parker, recording only one reception for nine yards in a game where he had a very difficult matchup in Xavien Howard, New England has a lot of depth at wide receiver, and they need Parker to break away and establish himself as a wide receiver one. Devante Parker established a great connection with Mac Jones during training camp, and it needs to translate to the regular season.
The Patriots have had a rough time at the receiver position of the past few seasons, and it must be fixed for New England to be a good offense. Devante Parker needs to be at his best against the Steelers, and the Patriots need to show they have enough offensive power to compete in the competitive AFC.
His speed, agility, route-running and football IQ contain the tools to become that number one receiver, he just needs to develop that chemistry with Mac in a game setting. The Steelers have a tough defense and some talented corners and safeties, and establishing the threat of Parker will be a great way to keep them at bay.
The linebacker group for the Patriots overall needs to have a good game against the Steelers, but the catalyst needs to be Ja’Whaun Bentley. Bentley was looked at as a breakout player heading into 2022; he had a great game against the Dolphins, leading the team in tackles but it fell under the radar since New England lost. Bentley recorded seven tackles, three assisted tackles, and one sack. The reason Bentley needs to be at his best is because the Patriots need to slow down Najee Harris and the Steelers rushing offense, as well as put pressure on Trubisky.
The Steelers currently have Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, who’s been average at best throughout his career. If Bentley is able to have a great tackling game, and he’s able to slow down the Steelers’ rushing offense, the Steelers will have to try and throw the ball more. He’s also an adept pass rusher with near-perfect tackling form, so he can play his part in making the pocket a crowded place for Trubisky. By eliminating the Steelers’ rushing offense, and making Mitchell Trubisky beat you, the Patriots give themselves a much better chance against the Steelers.
While Mac wasn’t necessarily bad against the Dolphins, he needs to be better. Mac threw for 213 yards, with a touchdown and a pick against the Dolphins. The Steelers have a much better defense than the Dolphins, even though T.J. Watt won’t be there. With their safeties being Terrell Edmunds and star Minkah Fitzpatrick, Mac will need to be at his best, and limit careless turnovers, which the Steelers previous opponent, Cincinnati, wasn’t able to do. New England’s passing offense hasn’t been good enough, and Mac determines whether the Patriots’ offense can be elite or mediocre.
Certainly, strong offensive line play will be a big part of Mac’s path to success. Last week, he had very little time to work with, and that definitely put a cap on how well he could play. Furthermore, inconsistent and questionable playcalling gave him a confusing offensive scheme to work with. While he himself will need to show more of the arm work he’s done with Tom House to elevate the offense, the people on his sideline and right in front of him will need to do their jobs well.
Kendrick Bourne getting more playing time will help the Patriots significantly, since he’s their best playmaker on offense. New England will have a much better chance at establishing a good run game without T.J. Watt, which can help take pressure off Mac Jones. Overall, Mac Jones just needs to show development, and it starts with him having a great game against a talented and respected Steelers defense.
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