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4 moves the New England Patriots must make to return to NFL Playoffs

The New England Patriots did everything possible on Saturday to come back against the Cincinnati Bengals and keep their playoff hopes very much alive.

Bill Belichick and Co. fell down 22-0 at the half before scoring 18 unanswered points in the second half, only to lose by the score of 22-18.

By virtue of this loss, New England finds itself at 7-8 on the season. It has dropped four of five, including last Sunday night’s humiliating late-game collapse against the Las Vegas Raiders. The team is not going to be playing playoff football for just the second time since all the way back in 2008.

The backdrop here include rumors that Belichick could be headed out of town via a trade after one of the most-successful tenures in modern NFL history for a head coach. While that seems highly unlikely, there’s several moves New England must make to return itself to relevancy in the NFL. Below, we look at four of them.

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New England Patriots hire experienced offensive coordinator

new england patriots hire bill o'brien
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The entire Joe Judge and Matt Patricia calling plays thing was destined to fail to begin with. Neither had called plays in their careers with Patricia making most of his living as an assistant on defense. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s now a necessity for Belichick to bring in an experienced offensive coordinator to take care of that side of the ball. Simply put, the Pats’ current offense is seen as too predictable by rivals around the NFL.

One recent report suggests that former Patriots offensive coordinator and Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien could be brought back to New England. O’Brien is currently the offensive coordinator under Nick Saban with the Alabama Crimson Tide and has created one of the most-dynamic units in the nation.

New England Patriots add No. 1 receiver via a trade

new england patriots trade for deandre hopkins

New England has not necessarily had a true No. 1 receiver since the days of Randy Moss. No, Jakobi Meyers is not that guy right now. Unfortunately, there’s no player of this ilk available in free agency.

Insteads, the Pats need to make that blockbuster move to bring in a No. 1 guy for whoever is under center (more on that below).

Perhaps, someone like Carolina Panthers star D.J. Moore becomes available after trade talks surrounded the 1,000-yard receiver ahead of the in-season deadline. DeAndre Hopkins of the rebuilding Arizona Cardinals comes to mind, too.

New England Patriots trade Mac Jones

new england patriots trade mac jones
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This sophomore quarterback might have put up his best performance of the season in Saturday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, completing 21-of-33 passes for 240 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. But that doesn’t come close to making up for what we’ve seen from Jones heading into Week 16.

This comes after Jones earned a Pro Bowl nod en route to leading New England to a playoff appearance as a rookie. In reality, the regression coupled with Jones’ inability to learn the nuances of an NFL offense paints him in a bad light. His attitude at times this season has also been a bad look.

The backdrop here includes Belichick refusing to throw a ton of support behind Jones at times throughout the season. In fact, he created a quarterback controversy heading into Week 16 by refusing to commit to Jones moving forward. At this point, the Pats should just cut ties and acquire some draft capital for the struggling young signal caller. It’s simply not working out.

Related: New England Patriots standing in Sportsnaut’s NFL power rankings

Bill Belichick gets his QB in Derek Carr

NFL: New England Patriots at Las Vegas Raiders
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As the second-oldest head coach in the NFL, Belichick is not going to start anew with a rookie quarterback. He tried that with Jones and it has proven to be a failure.

Instead, Belichick should call up his old friend in that of Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler and see what it might cost to acquire Derek Carr. It will likely come cheap from a draft pick perspective, giving New England a three-time Pro Bowl signal caller as a stopgap option.