FOXBOROUGH – A new New England Patriots season is upon us.

New England is set to begin its 2022 regular season on Sunday, traveling down to South Beach to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Patritos are coming off a playoff appearance, where it went one-and-done following a Wild Card Weekend blowout loss to the Bills.

Despite going 10-7 with a rookie quarterback a year ago, expectations don't seem high for the Patriots. Most sportsbooks have New England's win total set at 8.5 following the departures of Pro Bowl corner J.C. Jackson and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels while several AFC teams added star talent in the offseason.

With all of that in mind, here are four predictions for the Patriots' 2022 season.

Mac Jones doesn't progress or regress

The Patriots' 2021 first-round pick should be hitting a sophomore surge in 2022. Jones led all rookies in passing yards (3,801), passing touchdowns (22), and passer rating (92.5), accomplishing that without a star receiver.

That's part of the reason why I don't expect Jones to make a big jump this season. New England added DeVante Parker, who is a strong outside receiver (recording nine touchdowns in 2019) but has struggled with injuries the past couple seasons. Jones had a pair of practices where he and Parker showed a strong connection. On the flip side, they also had a fair amount of practices in which Parker didn't make much of an impact.

The other reason to not place super high expectations on Jones this season is due to the offensive line and coaching situation around him. Bill Belichick opted not to name a direct successor to McDaniels as the Patriots' offensive coordinator, choosing Matt Patricia (who's the offensive line coach) to be the playcaller and Joe Judge to be the quarterbacks coach.

The new zone blocking scheme implemented in training camp and the preseason had little success, with the Jones-led offense scoring just twice in seven drives over two preseason games. New England went three-and-out in four of the other five drives and the other drive ended in a Jones interception.

Despite all of that, Jones still showed toughness as a rookie when he continually under pressure during the opening half of the season with Trent Brown out of the lineup due to injury. Jones has consistently shown he's a smart decision-maker with the ball, too.

Jones also made due with Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne last season, with both players having career years. Hunter Henry returns and should still be one of the better receiving tight ends in the league. Nelson Agholor and Jonnu Smith had improved training camps after disappoint first seasons in New England. Second-round rookie Tyquan Thornton looked promising too before suffering a collarbone injury that'll keep him out for at least the first four games of the season.

All in all, Patriots fans likely won't have to stress much about their quarterback situation. They might have to stress though if the team's not doing enough to protect Jones.

Christian Barmore proves to be the Patriots' best player

While the Patriots' offensive line struggled through most of training camp, one player on the opposite end continued to wreck havoc day-in and day-out.

Barmore, who the Patriots selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, consistently made plays as a pass rusher and a rush defender. The former shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Barmore recorded 1.5 sacks as a rookie in 2021. While that isn't a lot, Barmore had a 17.2 pass-rush win rate, which is the best recorded by a rookie defensive tackle since 2006, per Pro Football Focus. That pass-rush win rate was also second among all rookies, trailing just Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons.

The strong rush defense from Barmore is a welcomed surprise though for the Patriots. Barmore said in August that improving in that area was an emphasis of his over the offseason.

“I’m playing the stretch [run] better. I’m playing the run a little more better than I was last year,” Barmore said. “That’s really my No. 1 goal, is playing the run a little more. I’m getting way better with the run – [footwork] and everything, that’s my No. 1 goal right there.”

Live and breathe the NFL?

🚨 Get viral NFL graphics, memes, rumors and trending news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

As Barmore pushes to be a three-down player, he looked and said he's in better condition than he was as a rookie.

“I’m way more comfortable now than I was last year. I’m more faster. I’m literally more faster,” Barmore said in August. “So, I’m literally getting better every day. I’m trying to get better more today and better more tomorrow.”

There aren't many top-end talented players on the Patriots, so it wouldn't shock me if Barmore usurped Matthew Judon for the title of best player on the team if he's able to be an effective three-down interior defensive lineman.

The young Patriots defense actually surprises

Heading into camp, there might have been more concern about the Patriots' defense than the offense – and for good reason.

New England several new faces in at linebacker, with Ja'Whaun Bentley being the only proven player of the group. But Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson were flashy in the preseason, racking up tackles. Wilson, in particular, looked well-rounded, making plays at the line as a rush defender and holding his own in pass coverage. McMillan looked effective as a blitzer, too.

On the edge, Anfernee Jennings had a strong camp and appears to be the edge rusher that will start opposite of Judon. Jennings and Josh Uche each recorded sacks in the preseason.

The Patriots' biggest gamble is at corner. They let Jackson walk with no clear succession plan and opted to move Jonathan Jones from the slot, where he was one of the NFL's best, to the outside. Myles Bryant appears to be in the slot after playing decent there last season and Jalen Mills holds the No. 1 corner spot, where he had a good showing during training camp and in joint practices with the Panthers.

If anything goes wrong with any of the projected starters, the Patriots have third-round rookie Marcus Jones and fourth-round rookie Jack Jones. Both had impressive camps and it wouldn't shock me if either sees a major amount of playing time this season. Marcus Jones played in the slot and can probably go head-to-head with any receiver in the league speed-wise. Jack Jones, along with second-year corner Shaun Wade, made plays on the outside during the preseason that made it easy for the Patriots to place veteran Terrance Mitchell on the practice squad and let Malcolm Butler walk.

The young players in the secondary and at linebacker will have some assistance along the defensive line and at safety. In addition to Barmore, Davon Godchaux had a good a camp as a rush defender and Deatrich Wise was a force at times as a pass-rusher.

As for the safeties, Belichick said the group is the strongest position on the Patriots' roster. Devin McCourty has been one of the best free safeties in the league since he was placed in that role in 2012. Kyle Dugger is one of Belichick's few draft hits in recent years, proving to be one of the Patriots' best tacklers and pass defenders. Adrian Phillips was also impressive in his first two seasons in New England, recording 92 tackles and four interceptions last season.

There's certainly a fair amount of inexperience on the Patriots' defense. But what they lack for there, they make up in speed and versatility, some New England desperately needed in the home stretch of last season prior to its blowout loss to Buffalo in the playoffs.

The Patriots end up missing the playoffs

Speaking of the playoffs, I wouldn't expect the Patriots to make it back there in 2022. New England faces a tougher schedule than it did a year ago while the rest of the AFC improved.

Taking a quick initial look through the schedule, I expect the Patriots to go 9-8 or 8-9. Getting off to a good start is a must for the Patriots as they have five games after Thanksgiving against teams that made the playoffs last season as opposed to just two prior to that.

I don't see that happening though with how much the offense has been in disarray during the preseason. It's also hard to argue that the Patriots, who only have one All-Pro on their roster from last season (Matthew Slater), have a better roster than several teams in the AFC.