Does 'Dramatic Improvement' by Mac Jones Mean Patriots Win More than Eight Games?
When New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick talks – grudgingly answers questions? – NFL scribes write about it, and then others read into it.
Well, Bill was as positive as he can be Tuesday when he offered his analysis of Patriots starting quarterback Mac Jones, saying he saw “dramatic improvement” this spring from Jones, who is preparing for his second NFL season.
"He's made tremendous strides," Belichick said, the day before the Patriots' first official practice of training camp.
"He did a great job last year, but he's starting from a much, much higher point this year from where he started last year. His offseason work has been significant, and I think everyone recognizes how well he prepares and how much further along he was a year ago."
As a rookie last season, all Jones did was: Take over for the departed Cam Newton as the starting QB, finish the season with 3,801 yards on 352-of-521 passing, threw 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and lead the Patriots to a 10-7 record and a wild-card berth against the Bills (a 47-17 stampeding loss to Buffalo, but still.)
So a solid rookie campaign. Does that mean he’s going to have an even better sophomore season, after an impressive offseason, according to observers, that included workouts with renowned throwing coach Tom House, Tom Brady’s throwing guru?
But the biggest questions are:
How will he fare without Josh McDaniels, his offensive coordinator and mentor last season, who departed New England to become the new head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders? Also, nobody seems sure who’ll be calling the plays this season, although former New York Giants head coach Joe Judge is listed as the team’s offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach. But former Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, listed as senior football adviser/offensive line coach, has returned to the Patriots and called most of the plays during spring practices. Belichick has not named an offensive coordinator (uh-oh) and has hinted he may call the plays.
How will that affect Jones’ development in crucial Year 2?
Then there’s the fact that the AFC is tough, particularly the Patriots’ AFC East division, in which the Dolphins made significant upgrades, the Super Bowl favorite Bills somehow got better and the Patriots … didn’t do much.
Their offseason grades, after ho-hum free agency moves, losing several veteran players, and a head-scratching draft, were given solid Cs – or lower.
All of which gets us to this: How many games will the Patriots win in the 2022-23 season? The Pats are always polarizing with pundits and some are saying that it appears the Patriots have gotten worse and that New Englanders should prepare for a long, lousy, losing winter.
Why then, did the Patriots’ win total go up on some sports wagering sites? Because people believe in Belichick and Jones. Bet365, one of our favorite sites, which, for new customers, will match your first-time deposit up to $1,000 (sweet!), initially had the Patriots listed at 7.5 wins. But as money poured in on New England, the site had to match what BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and others had already done – push the Pats to 8.5 wins, which means 9.
When you look at their schedule you see winnable games: at Pittsburgh, vs. Baltimore, vs. Detroit, vs. Chicago, both games against the Jets, and possibly both games against the Dolphins.
But let’s say they lose two of those. That’s six wins.
Then there are toss-ups (honestly, almost all of the Patriots’ games this season will have spreads of +4/-4 or less): at Cleveland, vs. Indianapolis, at Minnesota, and at Arizona.
Two wins there, you say? OK. So you’re at 8. Heh. Cute.
So can they win one of these: at Green Bay, at Las Vegas, vs. Cincinnati, or either game against Buffalo?
Yeah, in the end, I think this line is right on the button. The Pats won’t win 10 again, but they’ll also win more than eight.
Let’s call New England’s final record 9-8, which won’t get them into the wild-card round this year.
Finally, if you’re really feeling frisky and risky, you could take Jones at +7500, via Caesars Sportsbook, to win MVP – silly, but he’s a much better bet than Mitch Trubisky (+8000).