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Mac Jones Has Brought the Patriots Back

The rookie quarterback has the Patriots right where they expect to be — in contention to win the AFC East and make noise in the playoffs.

Leading into April’s NFL Draft, there were plenty of doubts about whether Mac Jones had what it took to be a successful pro quarterback.

There were plenty of reasonable explanations for why he was the fifth QB selected in the first round, behind Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, the New York Jets’ Zack Wilson, San Francisco’s Trey Lance and Chicago’s Justin Fields. His arm strength was lacking, he had amazing talent around him at Alabama and he may not have the most ideal body.

Things became even more polarized when the New England Patriots took Jones 15th overall as the heir apparent to Tom Brady. Either this was a genius move that would bring the glory days back to Foxborough or it was a boring, vanilla pick that would ensure many years of stodgy mediocrity.

Fast-forward seven months, and Jones is the Pats’ starting QB, having quickly unseated Cam Newton and outplayed every signal caller in the much-hyped draft class. Now, Jones has the Pats clawing at the top of the AFC standings, years ahead of schedule. A week after completing 22 of 26 passes in a shutout of Atlanta, the 23-year-old was 23 of 32 for a career-high 310 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a statement 36-13 blowout over the Tennessee Titans.

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“Mac Jones shows no sign of the games being too good for him,” NBC’s Peter King said.

Among quarterbacks with at least 300 pass attempts this season, Jones leads the NFL in completion percentage at 70.3%, just ahead of Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow. And the Jacksonville native isn’t just completing passes, he’s executing huge plays downfield. His 40 passes of at least 20 yards are tied with Josh Allen for fifth in the NFL, behind Derek Carr, Brady, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford. Jones is also ninth among QBs with at least 300 attempts with 7.5 yards per attempt, 10th with a 97.1 QB rating and 10th with 2,850 passing yards.

The big win over the Titans pushed the Patriots to 8-4, just a half-game shy of Baltimore for the conference’s top record. Jones has 16 touchdowns and only eight picks on the season — a winning recipe when combined with a top-notch New England defense that leads the league with 15.8 points allowed per game.

FanDuel NFL futures odds for 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year as of Nov. 29, 2021

“Tell me if you’ve heard this story before — the New England Patriots have a smart, accurate quarterback who makes plays and doesn’t make mistakes,” NBC’s Tony Dungy said. “They’re playing physical on defense, they play great in the red zone, they get takeaways, they’re the most consistent team in the AFC and they’re looking toward the No. 1 seed.  It’s déjà vu.”

Exactly 20 years after a young Brady led the Pats to a Super Bowl title, Jones is not only outplaying the other rookies in his class but has New England in position to be a championship contender as we head toward the season’s stretch run.

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