Ever since Bill Belichick used his first round pick on a quarterback, there’s been one question on everyone’s minds: When will Mac Jones be the Patriots starter? And given the “Final Season of Game of Thrones” level bad taste Cam Newton left in fan’s mouths last season, fans want a change. But even with the horrendous season Cam had last year, there’s optimism for a better outcome this year. With a restocked offensive cupboard and a full off-season to learn McDaniels’ offense, Newton may surprise some people.
That being said, I wouldn’t expect Cam to start every game this year. Even with a team built for him to succeed, I simply don’t see Newton playing consistently well enough all season to hold onto the starter job. But if Cam’s play slips, where would it happen and when would Mac take over? If Belichick makes the switch to Jones, he’d ideally want to ease him in. So assuming Newton stumbles and he loses his job, when would the changing of the guard happen? Let’s see.
Mac Jones may be the Patriots starter Week 1, but that’s very unlikely. Let’s assume Cam gets the nod to start the season.
The Patriots play the Dolphins at home Week 1. Tua hasn’t lived up to expectations for the Dolphins so it’s easy to see the Pats D winning them that game. And with the Patriots defense looking like they will be a force this season, Cam won’t have to score a ton against a pretty solid Miami D. Start the season with a win over a division rival and some confidence.
Next are the Jets and I’m sorry, but even in NY this is a layup. While Zack Wilson may very well turn out to be great, rookie’s rarely do well against a Belichick coached team. Their defense was ranked in the bottom of the league at almost everything last year as well, so this is another week where Cam should show up, show out and eat a W.
Speaking of eating W’s, it’s Jameis Winston and the Saints in Week 3. While Winston under center who doesn’t scare you whatsoever, New Orleans has a good defense, so Newton may struggle. But even if Cam has the worst game of his life, there is a 0% chance Mac Jones would be the Patriots starter in Week 4 with who the opponent is.
Tom Brady comes to town that next week and if you think Belichick is going to throw his rookie into that fire, you’re crazy. This will be Newton vs Brady. A horrible game here by Cam would help Jones’ chances of starting, but would Belichick pull the cord on Newton for losing against the defensing Champs? That’s a tough decision. And given the confidence he’s already shown in the former MVP, he’ll likely keep him in moving forward regardless of how this game turns out.
Week 5 at Houston shouldn’t be too tough. The Texans currently have a big question mark at QB to go along with a not so great defense. Newton shouldn’t struggle this week, but Jones would fit in nicely here as well if a change is made. But that change only happens if it’s coming off the heels of back to back bad weeks by Cam and Belichick really lost all faith. This would just be so early to pull the plug on Cam though. Unless Newton showed zero signs of improvement the last couple weeks, he’ll likely be lining up under center. So the waiting game would continue for Jones. Plus, Belichick may want to give Newton a chance to gain some confidence going against a bad team like the Texans and see if that propels him forward.
The next two weeks are at home against the Cowboys and Jets. The Cowboys aren’t bad, but they’re not really good either. And like I said, the Jets are the Jets. Cam is likely pulling out 2 wins here as the starter. The team stays in a good spot for the playoff hunt and Cam gains some more needed confidence. (I will say that if Mac Jones was the Patriots starter for these two games, he’d probably win too.)
Weeks 8 and 9
Week 8 is in LA against a really good Chargers team. It’s easy to see a Newton having a subpar game here. But while Justin Herbert is already a very good quarterback, Belichick may be able to force him into some turnovers which result in a New England win. Belichick won’t pull his QB after a win. Coming off 3 probably wins, you’re not pulling your QB after one bad game. Especially with an expected revenge game next.
Cam travels to a familiar stadium to play his former team, the Panthers. You would have to imagine Newton gets up for this one and puts on a good performance. You just have to. It’s not like Carolina is a great team anyway, so this’ll be a good week for Cam I think. So far Cam would have had a surprisingly decent season and kept his team in a good spot to make the playoffs.
These next few games, to me, will be make or break for Cam’s season and the Patriots as a whole.
Week 10 is at home against the Browns. These aren’t your Browns of old. Cleveland is a great team that some are saying may even make the AFC Championship game this season. It’s easy to see Cam playing poorly this week. But if the Patriots defense balls out like we assume they will, the Pats may pull this one out. If cam does play poorly in a loss, I still just don’t see Belichick having a knee jerk reaction and pulling him here. That’s not to say he won’t have his finger lingering over the eject button though.
Next is the Falcons in ATL and let’s be real here, Atlanta isn’t good. They just lost Julio and their defense is suspect. This MAY be a time to put Jones in if Belichick is done with Cam, but you have to think of where the Patriots as a team will be at this point too. They should be sitting somewhere around 7-3 or 6-4 at worst. That’ll keep them in playoff contention early on, so I don’t see Belichick pulling his QB while his team hasn’t played that bad and are still in line for a playoff spot. This is a win for Cam here if he’s starting. And, for what it’s worth, I think Jones would outplay Matt Ryan and pick up the W as well.
Week 12 may be the toughest matchup outside of the Bucs for the Pats so far. The Titans are a well coached, really good team. If the Pats run defense is caught sleeping, Henry may run all over them. That could lead to the Pats playing catch up. Newton could struggle big time here in a loss and if he does, expect the boo birds to come out in Foxboro. Remember the eject button I mentioned earlier? Belichick’s finger in no longer hovering over it at this point. He’s about to push it.
The road get’s even harder Week 13. The Bills are the defending AFC East Champs and still have a really, really good team. This is another home game for the Pats, and you can bet your overpriced beer that there will be no slack given to Cam by the fans here. Especially if it’s coming off a loss to Tennessee. If things go from bad to worse and the Patriots lose this game behind another poor Newton performance, the writing will be on the wall.
If the Pats lose 3 of these 4 games, they’ll be sitting somewhere around 8-6 at best. Their playoff hopes may be dwindling and a spark may have to be lit by starting the rookie. And with a Bye Week coming up next, this may be the perfect time to give Mac Jones a full week to practice as a starter and lead the team to a rejuvenated playoff push.
Week 14 – Bye Week
The name fits perfectly here as I believe this when we’ll be saying bye, bye to Cam Newton as the starter. I’d expect Mac to beat him out in practice and officially take the reigns moving forward.
Coming off the Bye, Mac Jones is finally the Patriots starter. New England will be going to Lucas Oil Stadium to play the Colts and new starter Carson Wentz. This wouldn’t be a horrible way to start your Patriots career if your Mac Jones. The Colts have a good defense, but if the Pats D can make Wentz look like he did in Philly, it shouldn’t be too tough of a game for Jones to win. If Cam is still the starter here, I can imagine he’d win here too. If not, then he’s definitely out.
Week 16 is another battle against the Bills. Listen, if Cam is still the starter here and he plays poorly, he’s done. A loss at home to Buffalo would likely bring on the loudest homefield boo’s we’ve heard in a while. The Pats playoff hopes would probably be clinging on for dear life if that happened, and that would likely force Belichick’s hand. But if Jones is the starter, this is a nice test for him. He’s officially taken over the team at this point, so let’s see how he does against his toughest opponent yet. If the Patriots win here with Jones under center, that would do major things for both his confidence and the Pats playoff chances. If he loses, hey, chalk it up to a rookie losing to the Division Champs.
The Jaguars come to town Week 17 and they’re a total wild card this season in my eyes. Trevor Lawrence may do really well or stumble his rookie year, so who knows. But there’s one constant to remember: Rookie QB’s don’t do well against Bill Belichick! This is a winnable game for Jones (and Cam if he’s somehow lasted this long).
To end the year, the Pats will be traveling to their own personal hellscape that is Miami. I find it hard to believe Cam is under center for this one. If he is, then this entire QB battle situation is a moot point because that would mean the Pats are likely in the playoffs and Cam has played well. But for the sake of this article, let’s assume the Mac Attack took over weeks ago. This is a very winnable game, especially if Miami has nothing to play for and the Pats do. But regardless of the teams record or the ramifications of this game, I believe Mac Jones will be the starter here.
Now you have to remember, this is just one way this season may go. The Patriots offense may flouring with their new weapons and Cam may have a good year. If that’s the case, Jones would obviously sit his rookie here and start 2022. On the other hand, if all systems fail and Superman turns into Clark Kent, Mac Jones is going to get in much earlier than I suspected. But those are two extremes in my eyes. I picture this season going how I planned it out. Cam Newton will start the year playing well. He’ll have a couple not so great performances, but the team will be doing well, so he’ll skate by. He’ll eventually stumble when he runs the Browns, Titans, Bills Gauntlet, and Mac Jones will come out the other side of the Bye as the full time starter.
Who knows how this season will go for Newton or the Patriots as a whole. There are so many new pieces to integrate and storylines to watch. Once the season starts, all eyes will be fixated on Cam Newton and if Mac Jones will take over and be the Patriots starter. But with so many things up in the air, one is for certain: Bill Belichick will do what he thinks is right for his team to win. And I think that eventually, that decision will be to ride with the rookie and start Dynasty 2.0.
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-Mike Sullivan (@msully5433)
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