Ranking of QBs on Patriots' 2023 schedule reveals a serious gauntlet originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Much has been made about whether the New England Patriots' offense can improve in 2023. But the fate of this team also will be decided by how well it can defend some of the NFL's best quarterbacks.
With Aaron Rodgers now on New England's schedule twice as a member of the New York Jets, the Patriots are set to face some seriously talented quarterbacks, including the top three vote-getters in the 2022 NFL MVP race and three Super Bowl champions.
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Ranking the Patriots' toughest opponents for the 2023 season
How loaded is the group of quarterbacks on the Patriots' schedule? To find that out, we ranked all 14 projected starting quarterbacks the team will face in 17 games. (They'll face the Jets', Miami Dolphins' and Buffalo Bills' QBs twice each). We also looked back at our 2023 offseason quarterback power rankings published in late February to see how many of the league's top signal-callers are on New England's slate.
Hint: It's a lot. Let's dive in.
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1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Matchup week, location: Week 15 in New England
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 1
After a two-year hiatus, the Patriots get the pleasure of facing the reigning the NFL MVP in 2023. The good news is New England will be at home in primetime for this matchup. The bad news is Mahomes hasn't lost to the Patriots since the 2018 AFC Championship Game and will be heavily favored to win his third in a row over Bill Belichick and Co.
2. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Matchup week, location: Week 1 in New England
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 3
The Patriots open their season with a massive test against the 2022 MVP runner-up and the NFC champion Eagles. Hurts enjoyed a breakout 2022 campaign as an efficient passer (66.5 percent completion rate, 22 touchdown passes, six interceptions) and lethal rusher (760 yards and 13 touchdowns). He'll stress New England's offense from the jump -- with Tom Brady watching on the sidelines. No pressure.
3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Matchup weeks, locations: Week 7 in New England and Week 17 in Buffalo
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 4
How's this for a brutal schedule: The Patriots will play four games against the top three finishers in 2022 NFL MVP voting. Allen has won his last four games against New England (including playoffs) and will be part of an absolute QB gauntlet for the Patriots late in the season. (More on that shortly.)
4. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Matchup week, location: Week 13 in New England
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 5
Herbert got himself another weapon this offseason in TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston, the team's No. 21 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Chargers aren't the scariest opponent -- New England is 2-0 against them in the post-Brady era -- but they're very dangerous offensively with Herbert and his full complement of weapons.
5. Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets
Matchup weeks, locations: Week 3 in New York and Week 18 in New England
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 7
Oh yeah... The Patriots get a four-time NFL MVP twice this season as well. The jury is out on how Rodgers will handle the move from Green Bay to New York, but if he plays at an elite level, consider this four-game stretch of QBs to finish New England's season:
- Week 15: Patrick Mahomes (home)
- Week 16: Russell Wilson (road)
- Week 17: Josh Allen (road)
- Week 18: Aaron Rodgers (home)
6. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Matchup week, location: Week 4 in Dallas
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 9
If you consider Prescott a top-10 quarterback, the Patriots will play eight games against top-10 QBs in 2023. That's a lot of elite signal-callers. Prescott missed five games due to injury in 2022 and threw a career-high 15 interceptions, but he's still a Pro Bowl-caliber QB when healthy and will be at home early in the season for this matchup.
7. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
Matchup weeks, locations: Week 2 in New England and Week 8 in Miami
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 14
Tagovailoa remains one of the biggest wild cards at his position; he was a top-10 quarterback based on many traditional and advanced stats in 2022 but missed four games (including Miami's second matchup with New England) due to concussions. He led the Dolphins to 20-7 win over the Patriots in the 2022 opener, and he'll have the chance to earn another early-season victory against New England as the second QB on this team's docket.
8. Daniel Jones, New York Giants
Matchup week, location: Week 12 in New York
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 12
Jones was abysmal in his lone game against the Patriots in 2019, throwing for 161 yards with one touchdown pass and three interceptions. He's made great strides in the three years since then, however, and enjoyed a career season under new head coach Brian Daboll in 2022 with just five interceptions in 16 starts. If the Patriots are counting on opponents' mistakes to win games, this could be a challenging matchup.
9. Derek Carr, New Orleans Saints
Matchup week, location: Week 5 in New England
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 15
Carr has always put up impressive numbers (four straight seasons of 4,000-plus passing yards from 2018 to 2021) but went 63-79 as a starter with the Raiders. Will he find more success in New Orleans? That remains to be seen, but he's in the clear third tier of QBs on the Patriots' schedule this season.
10. Jimmy Garoppolo, Las Vegas Raiders
Matchup week, location: Week 6 in Las Vegas
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 21
Hello, old friend... Garoppolo went 7-3 as a starter in San Francisco last season and has some tantalizing weapons in Davante Adams and ex-Patriot Jakobi Meyers. But the issue with Jimmy G will always be health. Whether he's in the lineup by Week 6 for his Patriots revenge game is pretty much a toss-up.
11. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
Matchup week, location: Week 16 in Denver
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 22
Maybe Sean Payton and Joe Lombardi can help revive Wilson in 2023. But he was bad last season. The 34-year-old threw just 16 touchdown passes to 11 picks in 15 games and ranked 27th among qualified QBs in total QBR. From Wilson on, you can make the case that the Patriots would have the quarterback edge in these matchups.
12. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers
Matchup week, location: Week 14 in Pittsburgh
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: No. 26
Pickett actually didn't face the Patriots last season, as Mitchell Trubisky was still Pittsburgh's starter in Week 2. But New England's defense should be able to contain the second-year QB, who will be a welcome respite before the Patriots' late-season QB gauntlet.
13. Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Matchup week, location: Week 10 in Frankfurt, Germany
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: N/A
Richardson is immensely talented, but his learning curve will be steep, especially on a Colts team that's expected to be among the worst in the NFL. Only six rookie QBs have beaten Belichick in his 23 seasons with the Patriots, and we can't see Richardson being the seventh, especially after flying halfway across the globe to Frankfurt.
14. Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
Matchup week, location: Week 9 in New England
Overall rank in our 2023 offseason QB rankings: N/A
The Patriots play plenty of elite QBs in 2023, but they also get a few cupcakes. Howell attempted just 19 passes in one spot start for the Commanders last season but looks like Washington's starting QB, unless ex-Patriot Jacoby Brissett wins the job by Week 9. In any case, quarterback will be far from the Patriots' top concern in this matchup.