Reading Time: 2 minutes

The New England Patriots have gotten off to a rough start for this 2020 season. With the loss of Tom Brady, numerous COVID opt-outs, and a diminished cap space limiting offseason activity, it was expected that this would not be a typical year of Patriot domination. With an unfavorable 2-5 record, Bill Belichek and co have not started off this badly since 2000. In order to salvage the season and make a potential playoff run, the game last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills was a must-win situation for New England.

As they currently place 3rd in the AFC East behind the Miami Dolphins (4-3) and the Bills (6-2), the Patriots have no choice but to win the AFC East if they want to make the playoffs. With the current state of teams like the Ravens, Colts, and Browns, all trailing in their own divisions despite respectable records, an AFC wildcard spot would be extremely difficult to obtain.

So why was this particular matchup so critical? Well, one must understand that the loss for the Patriots is not only an loss in the losing column, but it carries much more weight by extending Buffalo’s lead in the AFC East, almost putting New England out of reach for the divisional title. And as for the Pat’s remaining schedule, it doesn’t get much easier. Widely regarded as being given the most difficult slate of games in the league, Belichek’s squad faces a slew of upcoming challenges. Meetings with the Ravens, Rams, Chargers, and Cardinals are just a few to name.

So what are the future keys to success? Well, one would certainly be improvements in the passing game. Before the game in Buffalo, the Patriot’s aerial attack had been dismal. In this time, all three Patriot QBs threw for a combined eight interceptions, with only one passing touchdown to show for it.  Cam Newton, who has received tremendous scrutiny for his performance in the last couple weeks, must step up if New England has any chance of contending. Better passing production will lead to greater offensive time of possession and success. This will not only put points on the board, but give time to the defense to catch its breath between drives and get them back on track, winning game.

Photo credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports