The wait is over, football fans: the 2023 NFL season is finally here. The New England Patriots open the new campaign with a major test as they’re set to host the Super Bowl LVII runner-up Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Beating last year’s second-best team won’t be easy, especially with the talent that the Eagles have on both sides of the ball. Having said that, upsets are a part of sports and the Patriots have enough talented players of their own to help play spoiler this weekend.
If certain New England players step up and play their part Sunday, don’t be shocked if Bill Belichick’s squad proves a lot of doubters wrong once the smoke clears.
Here’s a look at three Patriots X-factors who must deliver against the Eagles in Week 1.
3 Patriots X-Factors vs. Eagles in Week 1
3. Mac Jones
The Eagles are a well-balanced team loaded in most areas, especially under center with Jalen Hurts. After all, the 25-year-old gunslinger just finished second in the 2022 NFL MVP race after dominating defenses through the air and on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Patriots’ Mac Jones is coming off an extremely disappointing sophomore campaign.
After making the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2021, Jones’ numbers were down across the board in Year 2. He only averaged 214.1 passing yards with 14 touchdowns to 11 interceptions in 14 starts while finishing with an 84.8 passer rating — good for eighth-worst among 33 quarterbacks on Football Reference.
If Jones plays that poorly this weekend, you can forget about an upset. The Eagles were one of the toughest teams against QBs last year, having tallied 70 sacks (No. 1 in the NFL) and 17 interceptions (T-No. 4) while allowing only 179.8 passing yards (No. 1) and a 62.9% completion rate (No. 12) per game.
It won’t be an easy matchup, but Jones has the opportunity to prove why he deserved to be taken 15th overall in 2021. Putting on a competitive performance against Philadelphia would give New England a ton of confidence heading into the remainder of the campaign.
On the other hand, if he starts slow, the Patriots will be in danger of opening the season with a loss for the third straight year.