The New England Patriots need to snap a two-game losing skid to revive their playoff hopes when they travel to face the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night.
The 6-6 Patriots lost 24-10 to the Buffalo Bills a week last Thursday - a not wholly unexpected result given the struggles they have had with their division rival these past few years.
Bill Belichick's men come off a mini-bye to face a 4-8 Cardinals side that did not play last Sunday and may still be smarting from the last-gasp defeat they suffered at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers two weeks ago.
If New England fail to make the postseason this year then there can be no doubt where the blame lies. They entered Week 14 with the NFL's seventh-best defense - but an offense that continues to sputter and lack any true identity.
What: New England Patriots @ Arizona Cardinals
Where: State Farm Stadium, Phoenix, Arizona
When: 8.15pm ET/5.15pm PT Monday, December 12th
How to watch: ESPN & stream via fuboTV
Odds: NE Patriots -130, ARZ Cardinals +110
Mac Jones has not been able to deliver on the promise of his rookie campaign with last week's showing against Buffalo being par for the course from him in 2022.
Jones completed 22 of 36 passes for just 195 yards and a touchdown, while he was lucky to avoid being charged with an interception when a pick by Bills safety Jordan Poyer on the sidelines was eventually ruled incomplete.
New England converted just three of 12 third-down attempts and managed to muster just 60 rushing yards in total without RB Damien Harris, who is still dealing with a thigh issue.
But the Patriots' offensive line did not hold up well at all, even with center David Andrews back to anchor it. Trent Brown played through an illness, but is still listed as questionable for Monday while Yodny Cajuste (calf/back) has a similar status.
Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn has been ruled out with a foot injury and New England will also be without leading wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (concussion) and cornerback Jalen Mills (groin).
Most teams are banged up by this stage of the season and the Cardinals are no exception, although QB Kyler Murray will have his two top receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown together on the field for just the second time this season.
Brown has caught six touchdown passes in five previous appearances on Monday Night Football to place third on the list of active players with TD catches on the nationally-televised football institution behind Stefon Diggs and Travis Kelce.
He could see a lot more single-coverage now that Hopkins has finally caught fire this season by hauling in 49 passes in his six games since returning from a six-game suspension - the second most in the league since Week 7.
The explosive former Houston Texans star averaged almost 22 yards per catch against the Chargers and will draw a lot of attention from the Patriots' secondary.
The reason why the Cardinals, who rank 20th overall on offense, have not been better is the number of players they have on injured reserve, including TE Zach Ertz and four starting offensive linemen.
Defensively, they have lacked playmakers and have not been able to replace the production of Chandler Jones, who joined the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason. But defensive tackle Zach Allen has played well and they are ranked tenth in the league at stopping the run, which is respectable.
Establishing the run or just staying with a balance approach will be tough against the Patriots, who can put opponents into tough third-down situations through Matt Judon's pass-rushing capability alone.
Mobile quarterbacks have given Belichick's defense problems but, although blessed with dual-threat capability, Murray has tended to hang on to the ball too long before taking off and New England can spy for that.
The Patriots are 3-3 on the road this season and should win their third straight game against Arizona as long as the secondary holds up against the Cards' star wideouts.
Judon's disruptive ability will be key to forcing Murray into risky throws or tucking and running, which can be an even riskier proposition.
The AFC East team can cover the -2.0 point Spread, for which New England are -110, as long as Jones completes enough of the easy stuff to keep the chains moving while their special teams play remains consistently good enough to be worth a score.