FOXBORO- The New England Patriots look like the team of destiny again. After two consecutive blowout wins against the Cleveland Browns 45-7, and the Atlanta Falcons 25-0, the Patriots are now 7-4. New England is closing in on first place and looks like a challenge to take the AFC East crown from the Buffalo Bills. The change at quarterback from Cam Newton (now back with the Carolina Panthers) to rookie Mac Jones out of Alabama seems to be the spark that the Patriots so desperately needed. Jones was the starter from week one and the decision to release Newton before the season opener was the right call.
Early on in 2021 mock drafts, it looked like Jones would be, at best, a second-round pick as a reach. Then he suddenly rose sharply up the draft boards in part due to leading Alabama to a national championship win over Ohio State. Even with that win, Jones was not expected to have his name called before Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields. All four of these quarterbacks were taken before Jones.
Patriots legendary head coach Bill Bellichick clearly knew he drafted a winner right away. It was a rough start for Jones after the week one loss to the Miami Dolphins 17-16. The Patriots went 1-3 to start the season. Bellichick never waivered and the Patriots stuck with their quarterback. It was easy to tell that everyone believed in Jones and the early losses weren’t a bad omen.
The Patriots won five straight games after the Thursday night win over the Falcons. This team is on fire and the Patriots proved a point: stick with the winning rookie quarterback and expect early growing pains. Patience paid off.
The Patriots will still fall short of winning the AFC East but this team is looking like a potential playoff dark horse. However, with about four more wins, this team could be the fifth seed in the playoffs behind the division winners. The Patriots look like a lock for 6th place at worst. However, an AFC East title is definitely not out of the picture.
Likely finish: 11-6, second place AFC East, Number 5 seed in the Playoffs.