Tom E. Curran

Tom E. Curran makes bold Patriots wins prediction after schedule release


The New England Patriots have a tough 2023 NFL schedule.

In fact, it's the fourth-toughest in the league based on their opponents' 2022 win percentage. The first four games are against the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, the rival Miami Dolphins, Aaron Rodgers' New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys -- in that order.

But a tough schedule doesn't mean the Patriots are destined to finish at the bottom of the AFC East. And it doesn't mean they're guaranteed to miss the playoffs.

Curran: 17 games, 17 subplots for the Patriots' 2023 schedule

How many games could the Patriots realistically win? Even though the first eight matchups are tough, our Patriots insider Tom E. Curran thinks this team is capable of winning 10-plus games.

"They don't play a (below average) quarterback until like Week 9 when they conceivably play Anthony Richardson and Sam Howell back-to-back and then they have the bye week," Curran said Thursday on "Boston Sports Tonight". "Daniel Jones after (the bye) and then Kenny Pickett. But they have nothing but good to very good quarterbacks to deal with in the first nine weeks. So that's a problem.

"I'm bullish on the Patriots in 2023. They're going to win 10, 11 or maybe even 12 games. They're going to be a good football team."

How could the Patriots get to 10, 11 or 12 wins? Curran doesn't view the AFC East as strongly as some others.

"The Jets (were bad) last year, and Aaron Rodgers isn't going to take them from a 28-touchdown offense, which is what they were last year, and immediately have them scoring 26 or 27 points per game," Curran said. "There's going to be a little bit of an assimilation period. They'll (beat) the Jets the first time around. I don't think the Bills are what we've seen over the last two or three years. I think they're in a little bit of a decline. I think the Patriots will be able to match up with them. And then Miami, it's been a problem but I don't think it should be a problem if you can play offense."

What's the path to the Patriots winning 10 or more games?

Well, they obviously need to be better offensively. The Patriots scored 21.4 points per game in 2022, and that's simply not good enough in the AFC when so many teams have quality quarterbacks and high-powered offenses. 

The passing attack, in particular, must show dramatic improvement after ranking 20th in yards and 21st in touchdowns last season. The offensive line needs to be more consistent with its pass protection and cut down on the penalties. The Patriots didn't make any substantial additions at the skill positions, but hiring a true offensive coordinator in Bill O'Brien should make a positive difference. His coaching ability and play-calling are a massive upgrade over the Matt Patricia-Joe Judge tandem that led the offense in 2022. 

The defense was the strength of the Patriots last season, and this unit might be the key to unlocking the team's true potential in 2023.

When you look at how many good quarterbacks New England is scheduled to play this season -- Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen (twice), Aaron Rodgers (twice), and others -- the defense must perform at a high level for the Patriots to be a playoff team. After upgrading at cornerback, defensive end and linebacker with their first three picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, it seems like the Patriots agree that the defense will need to carry them to success this fall. 

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