Losing Mac Jones For Any Amount Of Time Could Be Death Blow For Patriots

New England needs every win it can get

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September 25

FOXBORO, Mass. — Mac Jones might suit up next Sunday when the Patriots visit the Green Bay Packers. As he did after injuring his back in Week 1, New England’s tough-as-nails quarterback could gut through the ankle injury he suffered Sunday afternoon and not miss a game.

Initial X-rays on his left ankle reportedly were negative, after all.

But Jones appeared to be in excruciating pain while leaving the field late in the Patriots’ 37-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3. Moreover, Jones wasn’t made available to reporters after the game and is set to undergo an MRI on Monday. The Patriots reportedly fear the 24-year-old suffered ligament and/or tendon damage.

So, we must account for the possibility of backup QB Brian Hoyer suiting up next Sunday — and potentially beyond. With all due respect to Hoyer, who is a capable backup and knows New England’s offensive playbook as well as anyone, his insertion into the starting role could deal a death blow to the Patriots’ playoff chances.

First and foremost, it would be hard to imagine the Patriots picking up a Week 4 win against Aaron Rodgers in his own stadium. New England would be an underdog even with Jones under center, but the odds of Bill Belichick’s team pulling off an upset would be even slimmer with Hoyer at quarterback.

You might recall the 36-year-old Hoyer’s last NFL start, which came against the Chiefs in 2020. The veteran quarterback, filling in for Cam Newton (COVID-19) completed 15 of 24 passes while committing multiple errors, most notably an egregious gaffe on the final play of the first half. Hoyer later was benched for Jarrett Stidham as the Patriots suffered a 26-10 loss in Kansas City.

It was ugly.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Hoyer would be similarly undisciplined next weekend against the Packers. But a loss of any kind would leave the Patriots 1-3 after four games for the second consecutive season.

In NFL history, 483 teams have begun a season with a 1-3 record. Only 44 — including the 2021 Patriots — went on to make the playoffs, good for just over 9%, according to Sportradar.

The Patriots will follow up their Packers matchup with a Week 5 home game against the Lions, who are 1-2 following Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings but have a young, explosive offense. You could’ve talked yourself into a Detroit win before Jones got hurt.

A loss in that game would leave New England a disastrous 1-4 through five games. Only 15 of the 315 teams that have started seasons 1-4 have gone on to qualify for the NFL postseason (4.8%), per Sportradar.

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However, it’s not just about wins and losses and playoff percentages. You can’t rule out a Belichick-coached team winning a game or two without Jones, regardless of the opponent.

Equally concerning is what the loss of Jones could mean for the overall progression of New England’s offense. The revamped, Matt Patricia-led group struggled throughout the summer and has been inconsistent at best through three games. The Patriots had impressive moments in scoring 26 points against the Ravens on Sunday, but Jones (three interceptions) was careless with the ball and Nelson Agholor fumbled for the second time this season. Ill-timed penalties also remained an issue for the Patriots offense, which has a perilously slim margin for error.

New England needs Jones to be at quarterback, with the group as a whole building upon the good things it did against Baltimore. If you squint hard enough, you can find plenty of silver linings in what New England’s much-maligned offense did in its home opener. DeVante Parker, for one, had his best game as a Patriot.

But it’s fair to wonder whether losing Jones for any amount of time, especially a long period, would erase any gains made over the first three weeks of the season. The Patriots offense could be going backward at a time when it must be going in the opposite direction.

Yes, these are a lot of “ifs,” but the speculation is warranted. The Patriots now are a middle-of-the-road AFC team, and losing their starting quarterback for one or two games absolutely could mean the difference between making and missing the playoffs — for a variety of reasons.

Thumbnail photo via Bob Breidenbach/USA TODAY Sports Images
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones
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