The fate of the New England Patriots season is in Mac Jones’ hands

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

The New England Patriots have come a long way over the 2021-22 NFL season. They entered the season with a relatively new group of players, headlined by some big free agent signings and high level draft picks. And to top things off, they decided that an unproven rookie quarterback, Mac Jones, beat out a former league MVP in Cam Newton during training camp, and would be their starter for the season.

Expectations weren’t exactly high coming into the season. The Patriots struggled mightily throughout the 2020 season, and missed out on the postseason for the first time since the 2008 season. They brought in a lot of new talent this past offseason, but it felt like a lot to ask this team to make it to the postseason this year.

And yet they managed to pull off that feat anyways, and in fairly convincing fashion. The Pats gave the Buffalo Bills a run for their money in the AFC East, and they even were on top of the entire AFC for a point in time too. While they head into the playoffs losing three of their past four games, there’s still a lot to like about this team as they head into their third matchup against the Bills this season.

Now they get a chance to prove just how far they have come in one full season. This team is very familiar with a Buffalo team they have already faced two times in the regular season. For the most part, there are no secrets; both coaching staffs know what will and won’t work. But the Patriots may have an ace in their sleeve in the form of Jones, and as we draw closer and closer to game time, it’s clear that the fate of the New England Patriots season is in Jones’ hands.

The New England Patriots need a solid performance from Mac Jones against the Buffalo Bills

While both teams are probably going to repeatedly say what happened in the past isn’t important, you can bet they are both going to be revisiting their previous two matchups to concoct their gameplans for their Wild Card matchup. Both sides have found things that have worked for them in their prior meetings. The Pats know the Bills struggle against the run on defense. The Bills know that Josh Allen can carve up the Pats secondary when given the opportunity.

There aren’t a lot of unknowns heading into this game, but arguably the biggest question mark heading into this game is going to be Mac Jones. The rookie gunslinger was reduced to a bystander for most of the first game, as he threw just three passes thanks to some extreme winds in Buffalo. When Jones was allowed to air it out against the Bills in the second game, he had his worst game of the season, as he completed just 43.8 percent of his passes and threw two picks.

Nobody really knows what to expect from Jones coming into this game. It’s clear Buffalo is going to try to make Jones win this game for New England, and while he’s been inconsistent at times this season, they are running the risk of thoroughly underestimating Jones. When things click for him, as they did in the fourth quarter last week against the Miami Dolphins, he looks unstoppable.

Now, I’m not saying you should expect Jones to go out and post a 300 yard, three touchdown game here. The Bills defense allowed the fewest points against them this season, and this is going to be Jones’ first playoff game of his career. You can bet he’s probably wishing it was taking place in the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium rather than Highmark Stadium. Not to mention, temperatures are currently forecasted to be in the single digits in Buffalo for this game.

But Jones has experience in big moments. After all, he calmly led the Alabama Crimson Tide to a 52-24 demolition over Ohio State in the National Championship Game last year. He’s also gone toe-to-toe with stars like Tom Brady and Dak Prescott this season without showing any sort of nerves. For a rookie quarterback, he’s shown a ton of poise, and he’s going to need all of it once Saturday rolls around.

The New England Patriots don’t necessarily need Jones to go out and deliver his best game of the season. But they need him to be better than he was the previous two times out against Buffalo, and considering the low bar he has set for himself, he should be able to accomplish that. Chances are the ground game will find some room to run on Buffalo too, so it’s not as if he is going to have to do it all on his own.

The gameplan for Jones is simple; don’t lose the game for your team. If Jones can throw for around 200 yards and a touchdown without committing any turnovers, the Patriots will have a shot to win this game. All Jones has to do is complement the run game, and if he can get into a rhythm, even better.

Patriots will face some tough cap decisions this offseason. dark. Next

Despite what many may think, this probably isn’t going to be as one-sided an affair as it may seem. Josh Allen had one of his best games of the season his last time out against New England, and they still only led by five points with just under three minutes left in the game. Allen has been pretty mediocre on his home turf this season, and you can bet head coach Bill Belichick is going to have a plan to slow him down in this one.

But it all won’t matter if Jones doesn’t show up and play better football than he did to close the season out. Jones has proven to be an extremely competent football player this season, but he’s going to need to do it for a full 60 minutes this time around, rather than showing up in the fourth quarter as he has done the past couple of games. If there’s one player who can win this game for the New England Patriots, it’s Mac Jones. Here’s hoping he shows up.