The 2021 quarterback class was billed as not only one of the deeper groups in recent memory but also one that has a tremendous ceiling. A big reason for that comes thanks to the signal-caller that the New England Patriots will be hosting on Sunday when the Jaguars come to town in Week 17 with Trevor Lawrence. Bill Belichick even said himself this week that there’s a chance Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick this past spring and the most hyped quarterback to come into the league since Andrew Luck, could be great.
While Lawrence has plenty of promise, so far New England’s first-round pick in Mac Jones has enjoyed a much more productive start to his pro career, despite being the last of the five quarterbacks taken in the opening round.
Jones has his classmates beat almost across the board in passing statistics, and that’s partially thanks to the situation the Alabama product has found himself in. The culture around Jacksonville and the recent firing of Urban Meyer has slowed Lawrence’s development, the Bears are on the doorstep of a head coaching change as they begin the Justin Fields era, and New York is still building its foundation with Zach Wilson under first-year head coach Robert Saleh. As for Lance, he hasn’t seen the field much with former Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo still atop the depth chart.
The fact that Jones landed in arguably the most stable situation in the NFL under Bill Belichick certainly makes life easier entering the pros. That said, he’s also flashed potential this season that should have those around Foxborough confident that they have a franchise cornerstone to build around for the foreseeable future.
So while there has been talk of Jones hitting a rookie wall as of late, it does seem wise to look at where he is among his contemporaries as a reminder of how he has gotten off to a much stronger start that the rest, especially with him set to square off against Lawrence for the first time in their young careers.
Here are all the permutations for the Patriots to clinch a playoff spot in Week 17:
- NE win + MIA loss or tie OR
- NE win + LV loss or tie OR
- NE tie + MIA loss + LV loss + LAC loss or tie OR
- NE tie + MIA loss + BAL loss or tie OR
- NE tie + LV loss + LAC loss + BAL loss + PIT loss or tie OR
- NE tie + LV loss + LAC loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + MIA win + BUF win
Note: There are other clinching scenarios for New England that involve multiple tie games.
Will Mayo’s stock continue to rise?
CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported last week that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is garnering head coaching consideration once again. With teams now able to put in interview requests for their open head coaching positions, it seems like only a matter of time before a club looks to chat with McDaniels.
While he has been a key name to watch during hiring cycles for years now, it will also be worth monitoring how much buzz inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo receives this year. Mayo — who has been on staff since 2019 and played nine seasons in the NFL — did interview for the head coaching gig with the Philadelphia Eagles last year, so he does seem to be on teams’ radar. With New England’s defense coming into Week 17 No. 3 in the NFL in DVOA, Mayo does seem to be putting together a strong résumé.
Fines come in from Bills showdown
Last week’s tilt with the Buffalo Bills was a particularly chippy affair by both AFC East clubs and it has now hit some players in the wallet. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, three fines were handed out between the two clubs combined that totaled out to $27,544.
Buffalo defensive end Efe Obada was fined $6,944 for a late hit on Mac Jones, but Jerry Hughes was not fined by the league for his controversial takedown of the quarterback on the following play for a flag was picked up. Meanwhile, Patriots’ Trent Brown was fined $10,300 for his unsportsmanlike penalty that was called in the aftermath of the Hughes play.
Later on in last Sunday’s contest, Bills linebacker Matt Milano was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty as he hit a sliding Jones. He was not fined for that infraction, but Patriots center David Andrews was hit with a $10,300 fine after he came in following that play to defend Jones.
Belichick on Madden’s impact
The NFL world continues to mourn the death of football icon John Madden, who passed away at the age of 85. On Wednesday, Bill Belichick paid tribute to Madden as he opened up his press conference by speaking at length about his impact to the game of football as a coach, broadcaster and video game pioneer.
“It’s a huge loss for the NFL and professional football,” said Belichick. “John is just a tremendous person to be around. I think we all, probably, set out to try to have a good professional career. John had about five of them.”
Belichick also revealed that one of his fondest memories with Madden came during the Top 100 conversations leading up to the league’s 100th season. Belichick and Madden were part of a small group of people who watched players from the 20s, 30s, and 40s.
“We had a lot of great conversations about the games that we saw, the players that we saw, the way the game was played, comparisons, comments, and so forth,” said Belichick.
As he commemorated Madden, Belichick also did reveal that he has played the famous Madden video game.
“I haven’t played in quite a while,” he said. “I know when my kids were growing up, they would play it. I’d watch them and they’d beat me.”
Richard Seymour finalist for Hall of Fame
Earlier this week, Patriots legend Richard Seymour was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Seymour has been knocking on the door of Canton for quite some time as this is the fourth consecutive year that he’s been named a finalist. As he made a bid in the past, Bill Belichick has championed his potential enshrinement and even made note that he should be a Hall of Famer earlier this season as he entered the Patriots Hall of Fame.
“Richard was a tremendous player,” Belichick said back in October. “He had a tremendous skill set. He had great length. Explosive. Very quick for his size. He could do everything. … We won a lot of games with him. He was a great player. He certainly deserves to be in the Patriot’s Hall of Fame and the NFL Hall of Fame. Hopefully, that’ll be coming shortly for him as well.”
Seymour won three Super Bowl titles with the Patriots and was a first-team All-Pro from 2003-2005. He’s also a member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.