Is there a quarterback controversy in New England? Gee, what do you think?
BetOnline customers watched last Monday night as Mac Jones – who had partially recovered from a high ankle sprain – made the start, led the team through two ineffective series, then threw an interception, and was promptly yanked. Bailey Zappe, who had become the darling of Gillette Stadium fans, took them through the highs and lows of being a golden boy, leading the team to two touchdowns on two drives, then enduring a scoreless second half. In the end, he had turned the ball over three times (two INT’s and a fumble).
After the 33-14 loss to the Chicago Bears was over, players expressed surprise at the wisdom of the quick switch. Wide receiver Jacobi Meyers sympathized with Jones, saying “it’s tough as a man to see somebody who worked so hard to get that kind of treatment.” Part of that involved the crowd chanting for Zappe after the first two series, calling it “an ugly situation.”
As this is being written, coach Bill Belichick was not ready to name a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets (1 PM ET). Maybe he will do what he did on Monday night. What we found out – and what most of the players did not know – was that he intended to use both quarterbacks. Why would he create confusion? Who knows.
Does it matter who starts? Well, stylistically and strategically, yes. Zappe was put into a more controlled scheme, and he had been second in the league in completion percentage and first in QB rating coming into the Chicago game. Jones is a guy who stretches the field more, having the highest percentage of deep throws in the NFL coming out of his injury. Ironically, it was Zappe who completed a couple of deep throws early, before the Bears took over. Still, there are a lot of screen passes with Zappe, and not a lot with Jones.
Of course, none of this matters if the Pats allow teams to run over them, as was the case against the Bears. We’ll explore that in a second.
Right now, here are the NFL betting odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline:
New England Patriots -2.5
New York Jets +2.5
Over 40.5 Points -110
Under 40.5 Points -110
Remember that with Odds Boosters, you can get a tremendous value payout on pre-selected parlays – and that’s offered every day of the week!
The Patriots gave up 243 yards on the ground to the Bears, who averaged an NFL-second best 170.7 rushing yards. Justin Fields had 82 of those yards, with two running backs having over 60 apiece. New England had not surrendered that much on the ground in a dozen years.
That kind of effort will be fatal against the Jets, who also fashion themselves as a run-first team. But the question is whether the Jets can actually out that kind of threat together.
Breece Hall was looking very much like a front-runner for Rookie of the Year honors. He supplied a bonafide explosive element for the offense. But now he has torn his ACL and is out for the year. Under normal circumstances, that would leave Robert Saleh’s team with Michael Carter as the top option at tailback. But they made a quick trade with Jacksonville for James Robinson. Carter has averaged just 3.5 yards a carry. At times, Robinson carried the Jags’ offense, and gained 2059 yards the last two seasons. But he is seen as a guy with a lot of mileage on him, even at a young age, and he was demoted to #2 behind Travis Etienne. Robinson’s attempts have been “stuffed” (held to no gain or thrown for a loss) 28.4% of the time.
So maybe, to an extent, they don’t have the same kind of ground game without Hall in there. Add the fact that they are without right tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker for the rest of the season as well, and have suffered through attrition at the other tackle spot. AND keep in mind that Zach Wilson (121 yards last week) has one TD pass, and can not do damage on the ground like Fields can, and there is the kind of setup that could definitely favor a New England team that is not likely to lie down and roll over again. So maybe – just maybe – Belichick wins his 13th straight meeting with the Jets, a team he once coached (if you went to the refrigerator, you may have missed his whole tenure).
And it won’t matter who he starts at quarterback.
We’re laying the small number on the road.
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