American Football

Rookie of the Year candidate Mac Jones has Patriots looking like serious Super Bowl contenders

By Stuart Dick

Published: 15:40, 2 December 2021

The New England Patriots once again have the summit of the American Football Conference (AFC) in sight.

Their prospects are thanks to a six-game win streak covering victories over play-off contenders Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland Browns, and on Sunday a thorough mauling of the Derrick Henry-less Tennessee Titans.

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After a year in the wilderness (the Patriots failed to win the AFC East for the first time in 11 seasons and missed the play-offs in 2020), New England looks set to capture the division once more, this time under the stewardship of rookie quarterback Mac Jones.

Jones, the #15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and the fifth quarterback taken after Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Justin Fields, has silenced the doubters with a strong season. Certainly, he is the most impressive rookie quarterback so far in 2021.

Here’s why.

A titanic performance

Jones posted a career-high in passing yards (310) in the 36-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans with a pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. He also completed 71.9% of his passes, the eighth time this season he recorded a completion percentage of 70% or better.

Mac’s first touchdown pass of the afternoon was a well-executed play-call by the NE offense.

The Pats set up with three wide receivers split right. Bourne, the nearest of the three to Jones, ran a corner route to the back of the end zone and Mac lofted a perfect pass over Titans defensive back Kevin Byard into the hands of Bourne. The two outside receivers ran routes to the inside to take defenders out of the back corner of the end zone and help Bourne create the little separation needed to secure the score.

The second touchdown pass, again to Bourne, came on a crossing route from the left. Bourne took the reception across the field to the right-hand sideline before breaking a couple of tackles and tiptoeing along the border into the end zone.

It was a fine all-round display from the Patriots. The defense recorded a pair of sacks and four turnovers to help set up the offense to capitalise. Running back Damian Harris rushed for a touchdown, while kicker Nick Folk booted five field goals and three extra points, an 18-point haul for the veteran.

Jones’ season so far

Jones has enjoyed an extremely encouraging start to his NFL career. After a 2-4 start, the former Alabama signal caller has certainly proved a vital cog in Bill Belichick’s New England machine.

Mac has thrown for 2850 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 52.6. All those categories put him into the 10-20 range of NFL starting quarterbacks.

Jones is just one of three NFL starting quarterbacks to hold a completion percentage of over 70% — Kyler Murray (72.7) and Tua Tagovailoa (70.5) are the other two — and during the six-game win streak Jones has tossed just two interceptions.

If he continues in this vein for the remaining five games on the schedule, Jones will join Drew Brees – who achieved a 70% seasonal completion percentage seven times – and only 10 other QBs in NFL history to achieve the mark.

From a team perspective, the Patriots host the #7 scoring offense (28.0 points per game) and have scored the third most points in the NFL (336), with Jones the steady hand that rudders the ship.

As always, the New England defense is one of the top units in the NFL. They rank #4 in total defense (316.7 yard per game), #3 in pass defense (200.9 yards per game), #1 in scoring defense (15.8 points per game) and are the #2 team in the NFL when it comes to turnover differential (+10).

While Jones has been the perfect addition for the Patriots, he has certainly benefited from the roster around him with the opportunity to succeed from the off, unlike Lawrence, Wilson and Fields, who were drafted into much more challenging situations.

Mac Jones player profile

  • College: University of Alabama
  • Drafted: #15 overall in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft by New England

Michael McCorkie ‘Mac’ Jones played High School football in the state of Florida at The Boiles School in Jacksonville. Jones led the school to a Florida 4A title during his senior year, throwing 29 touchdowns and 1532 yards in the process.

Jones committed initially to play football at the University of Kentucky before accepting a scholarship offer from the University of Alabama. He enrolled early and redshirted his freshman year (the practice of sitting out a year to ensure a player maintains their NCAA eligibility).

It wasn’t until Tagovailoa, Jones’ predecessor at Alabama, suffered a horrific hip injury during the 2019 season that Mac got the opportunity to start in Tuscaloosa. He started four games and ended his sophomore season with 1503 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions.

The full-time starter in 2020, Jones racked up 4500 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions, leading the NCAA in pass completions (311) and yards. He also broke the NCAA seasonal record for completion percentage (77.4%) and quarterback rating (203.1), with Alabama also securing the NCAA National Championship title in his final year.

Jones chose to forego his Senior campaign to enter the NFL Draft and his resumé includes two National Titles (even though he didn’t play in the 2017 success), a Davey O’Brien Award (best NCAA quarterback), All-American honours and a Heisman Trophy runner-up award.

Jones’ award prospects

MVP: 80/1 (+8000) – Betfair

Mac Jones is not one of the front-runners for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award despite leading the Pats to that 8-4 start. He has pushed himself into outside contention in recent weeks, with New England on a six-game winning streak. 80/1 odds (+8000) are about right for Mac at the moment, with far too many others ahead of him in the pecking order.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: 4/11 (-275) – Betfair

Jones may be an outsider in the MVP stakes, but Offensive Rookie of the Year is a different matter entirely. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase looked a certainty for the award during the first half of the 2021 season, but the current run Jones is putting together has seen the former Alabama product overtake the LSU standout in the odds. He’s now a short-priced favourite.

New England Patriots Super Bowl odds: 10/1 (+1000) – Betfair

Here we go again, the New England Patriots – after a one-year hiatus – look like a serious contender for the Super Bowl title in 2021. After a 2-4 start to the season, New England has reeled off six consecutive victories to take command of the AFC East over a stuttering Buffalo Bills team. With two matchups against Buffalo left on their remaining five-game schedule, the Pats will definitely prove their worth in the next month, and the odds reflect that.

You have to be 18+ to gamble. Be Gamble Aware. All odds accurate at time of writing (4pm, 30/11/21)

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