New England Patriots: Any shot of a Week 4 victory falls on Mac Jones

Quarterback Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Quarterback Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

It’s safe to say that not many people think the New England Patriots have a shot at coming out with a win in their Week 4 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Patriots haven’t looked very good through their first three games, and have stumbled out of the gate to a 1-2 record. On the other hand, the Bucs have looked pretty dominant, and have started off their season 2-1.

Much will be made about Tom Brady’s return to Foxboro, MA after he departed for Tampa Bay in 2020, but many people are forgetting there is still a football game that has to be played. Whether or not the game lives up to it’s prestigious billing remains to be seen, but it’s clear the Patriots are facing some stacked odds in this one.

On paper, the Buccaneers are a vastly superior team than the New England Patriots, and it’s tough to pinpoint one specific area where New England may hold an advantage over their Floridian foes. Tampa Bay’s offense is one of the best in the league, and their front seven on defense remains intent on inflicting as much damage as possible at the line of scrimmage.

But Tampa’s secondary has been a bit of a sore spot to start the season. Their pass defense is the worst in the league, as they have allowed an average of 338 passing yards per game through their first three contests. It may not be the solution the Patriots and their fans were looking for, but if New England is to have any shot at beating the Buccaneers, it’s going to be because of Mac Jones.

Why Mac Jones is so important to the New England Patriots’ success against the Bucs

Jones has had a bit of a quiet start to his NFL career. He hasn’t really done anything to stand out and make fans proclaim him the second coming of Brady, but he also hasn’t done anything that put the offense in a bad position. Sure, he had a three interception game last week against the New Orleans Saints, but it wasn’t nearly as ugly as Zach Wilson’s four interception game a week earlier.

To summarize, it feels like the training wheels haven’t really come off for Jones yet. Too often Jones’ skills get hampered by a pointless screen play or his decision to hit the checkdown option before he even goes through his progressions. It feels like Jones’ first three games left something to be desired, as he was never really able to get into the flow of the first few starts of his career.

The Patriots would be wise to take the training wheels off now, because they are going to need Jones to be at his best on Sunday night if they intend to keep this game from getting ugly. The Buccaneers secondary is their main weakness. If they try to attack them on the ground with the run game, they are going to get destroyed.

Jones establishing the passing game is really New England’s only hope. Unfortunately, it’s been something the team has failed to do in each of their first three games to open the season. Yet against Tampa, Jones may have more of an opportunity to let the ball fly, and if he can get into rhythm, the New England Patriots might actually have a shot.

The Bucs cornerback room has already lost Sean Murphy-Bunting to the injured reserve, and will be without another one of their top corners in Jamel Dean on Sunday. Carlton Davis will assume his role as Tampa’s top corner, and he will supposedly be playing alongside former Seattle Seahawk and San Francisco 49er Richard Sherman. In case you missed it, Sherman was signed by Tampa earlier this week to try and help out their perilously thin cornerback depth chart.

While Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead loom as a solid safety duo, the pair haven’t been as effective as they were last season. There should be room for Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry to roam in the middle of the field if they feel like showing up for this one.

But in all truth, this game is going to be about the wide receivers getting open. Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers had solid outings in Week 3, but they couldn’t consistently separate themselves from the Saints tough secondary. Against corners like Sherman and Ross Cockrell, these guys should be able to get open much more than they did last weekend.

For the most part, when Jones has had guys getting open, he’s hit them. He’s held off on a couple of shots downfield that he probably could have hit, but he may not have that luxury against Tampa. When these shots open up against this secondary, you have to take them.

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Of course, Jones will need to stay upright in order to make these throws, which is something his offensive line has struggled to understand so far. Jones has been under pressure from pretty much the opening snap of the season, and has become far more familiar with the Gillette Stadium turf than he probably would have liked to. Tampa has some solid pass rushing options, so this is a matchup that bears watching.

The throws are going to be there against Tampa, the question is whether or not Jones has what it takes to hit them. He’s going to have to go step for step with Brady and the Bucs offense if he wants a shot to pull off an upset victory, and that’s easier said than done. There isn’t a lot of hope that the New England Patriots will improve their record to 2-2, but if Jones can get things going, it may not be as unlikely as originally thought.