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TMF Week 10: Mac Jones has Patriots soaring, Mahomes knew Chiefs would ‘find it’, Plus: 10 things from Week 10
Behind Mac Jones, Patriots have hope for this season and beyond, Patrick Mahomes knew the Chiefs would 'find it', Washington stuns Tom Brady, Buccaneers in upset. Plus: 10 things from Week 10.
In a week, and season, filled with upsets and stunners, Week 10 was eagerly similar to what has been a unique 2021 inside the NFL. Through ten weeks, no team in the entire league has less than two losses. Cam Newton returns home (Yeah, he’s a Panther again) to help the Panthers beat up the already beat up Arizona Cardinals. Washington beats Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a stunning upset.
And to top it all off, Jimmy Garoppolo looked so good last night that Matt Miller may have secretly bought his jersey after the 49ers stunning win over Matt Stafford and the LA Rams on Monday Night Football.
So, take a seat, put down your coffee, and brace yourself for this one – because the leading takeaway from Week 10 is indeed a blockbuster:
Mac Jones is more than just a ‘game manager’
Okay, okay, hear me out before subscribing below just to comment on how blatantly wrong you believe this take is. And trust me, we’ve heard and read all of the comments, opinions, and expert analysis on Mac Jones, the quarterback.
“It’s the system…”
“Anyone can make that throw with a clean pocket…”
“He’ll never be capable of pushing the ball downfield…”
“He needs elite weapons to succeed in the NFL…”
“Yeah but, he isn’t athletic…”
“He has a dad bod…”
Missing anything? Email me email@example.com and I’ll insert yours in as well.
Since throwing three interceptions against New Orleans seven weeks ago, Jones has thrown 11 touchdown passes to only four interceptions. The Patriots have also gone 5-2 in that same span. Coincidence? Or is Mac Jones rapidly improving past the narrative that he’s simply a ‘game manager’ quarterback?
The Patriots have now won four straight games and currently sit in a place where the two divisional games against the Buffalo Bills have colossal stakes to them. A month ago, you would have laughed if someone told you the Patriots could win the AFC East. Today, that’s not so bold of a take at all.
TMF Headline: Mac Jones is underrated, and the Patriots are better because of him
Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, no quarterback prospect was ridiculed more than Alabama’s Mac Jones. His 2020 numbers were flawless: 41 touchdown passes to just four interceptions. Alabama went 13-0 with Jones behind center, finishing the CFB season with a National Championship.
So, why was Jones, a winning quarterback prospect who just won a national title with Nick Saban’s glorious Crimson Tide, so scrutinized?
In today’s NFL, teams and fans alike look for the next best thing at the quarterback position. The NFL is very much a copycat league, and the facts suggest that is not really an opinion these days. Jones did not display any elite athleticism at Alabama, he didn’t showcase much eye-popping skillful plays, nor did he display the upside many want to see in a young quarterback coming into the league. Trevor Lawrence was a transcend highly coveted quarterback at Clemson. Justin Fields presented as an elite athlete who can also make all the throws while at Ohio State. And North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance showcased immense upside that could be uncapped if he could sit and develop slowly. Mac Jones seemingly had nothing special or ‘exciting’ to his game.
Jones is, however, a marvelous pocket passer who possesses a high level of mental processing. Those merits to Jones’ game are undoubtedly traits that translate well at the NFL level.
We’re beginning to see it unravel in New England.
Mac Jones can and will make challenging throws downfield
The throw Jones made to Kendrick Bourne in the second quarter, for example, is a throw a quarterback has to make if he wants sustained success in the NFL. Jones put the ball in a good spot for Bourne to make a play, and Jones’ willingness to challenge that tight window is an excellent example of the growth we’ve seen from Jones through ten weeks. In week two or three, Jones may not have made that throw, instead electing to checkdown to a short out-route or to his running back/tight end off a chip block. But on Sunday, he made the decision to take the tougher throw and challenge the opposition. And it resulted in his receiver – Bourne - finishing the play with a leaping catch for a touchdown.
With just over nine minutes on the clock in the second quarter, Jones and the New England offense faced a second and five on their own 23 yard-line. The route concept was a vertical concept to the left side: outside receiver’s going to run your go, inside receiver to break to the inside of the field, and the tight end (Hunter Henry) is going to motion to the left and run a deep out-route, almost resembling a corner route. Jones completes a difficult over-the-shoulder pass to Henry for a 19-yard gain – precision pass with a seamless trajectory and placement. Another example of Jones’ mental capacity to understand risk/reward while utilizing his precision to place the ball where it needed to be for his receiver to make a play on it.
"He was dialed in,” Henry said in a postgame interview with CBS Sports reporter Evan Washburn. “The kid works really hard and he's continuing to get better every single week."
It’s fair to question the ceiling of a player like Jones. Particularly when comparing him to some of the other young elite quarterbacks in the NFL, Jones is certainly not even in the conversation in terms of athletic ability. Does all of that even matter if he’s capable of making the big throws needed, when he’s asked to?
Ten weeks into the season, curiosity on what the most important trait, or traits, even are when evaluating quarterback prospects. Because if you watched Jones decimate a respectable Browns defense on Sunday, you’d be lying to yourself if you said you weren’t impressed.
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LEAD TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK TEN
Here come the Patriots!
At the start of the season, few were that surprised when a new-look Patriots offense struggled out of the gate. Between the new players added to this offense via free agency and relying on a rookie quarterback to develop on the fly, expectations were that this New England offense would need some time before things actually materialized.
The real shocker with the Patriots was just how average this defense looked the first few games of the season. If you remember, six weeks ago fans and media members alike were condemning Belichick and the Patriots for letting go of former DPOY cornerback Stephon Gilmore. At the time, the Patriots surely could have used a player like Gilmore. And especially after seeing some of the immediate plays he’s made in Carolina, the criticisms had warrant to it.
Over the last month, however, the Patriots defense have taken a giant step forward.
Matthew Judon and Dont'a Hightower sack Browns quarterback Case Keenum in the third quarter. Judon has 9.5 sacks on the season, a career high for him – and it’s only Week 10.
The last four teams to face the Patriots have scored a combined 50 points. If you despise math like me, that’s an average of 12.5 points allowed per game. Through ten games played in 2021, the Patriots defense is allowing 17.7 points per game.
Here’s a short list of other NFL teams points allowed per game:
New York Jets: 32.9 PPG
Jacksonville Jaguars: 25.8 PPG
Chicago Bears: 24.9 PPG
What do these three teams share in common with the Patriots? A rookie quarterback behind center.
Mac Jones has played spectacularly through ten weeks, and he’s still improving his game in several areas that many believed he was incapable of.
With Jones leading the offense, and the help of an ascending defense, the Patriots are back in the contender conversation.
This season and beyond.
The Chiefs are still a threat, and Mahomes is far from ‘broken’
Patrick Mahomes was spectacular in a 41-14 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. After the win in a Sunday Night Football divisional game, he spoke with the media and reiterated that he knew it would happen:
"We've done it before, we've done it these last few seasons; we were doing it at the beginning of this season.”
“We were moving the ball and making a lot of stuff happen, we were just turning the ball over. Then we kind of went through a little spell where we weren't making these drives and continuing these drives, but we were finding ways to win. I knew we were going to click back into it, I've been saying it for weeks.”
Mahomes clearly believes in this team, and it’s hard to argue behind his reasoning given the past success of this group.
“I was like 'we're going to find it.'"
The Chiefs surely found it on Sunday night. So no, Mahomes isn’t broken.
Washington stuns Brady, Buccaneers in shocking upset
Tampa Bay played a bad football game all around in Sunday’s 29-19 loss to Washington Football Team. The Buccaneers offense played sloppy with crucial mistakes throughout the game. Between bad drops and self-inflicted mistakes including costly penalties. The defense couldn’t make a stop when it badly needed one, particularly during that final possession of the game when Tom Brady badly wanted the football back to attempt a comeback we all believe he was capable of making.
Heading into Sunday, Washington’s defense ranked 29th in the NFL in scoring, and the reigning Super Bowl champions were only able to put up 19 points in a disappointing showing coming off a bye week.
Tampa Bay clearly misses Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown as both players hold crucial roles within this offense. And it’s also rather evident that Brady trusts both guys in critical moments, which is something we cannot say about other recievers on this Buccaneers offense.
It’s far too early to panic if you’re a Buccaneers fan, even though they’ve now lost two games in a row. Remember, the Bucs lost two in a row last November too.
10 THINGS FROM WEEK 10
Sunday’s 17-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers was the first time the Seahawks suffered a shutout in Russell Wilson’s 166 career starts.
The Patriots have won four games in a row – trailing only the Titans – who have won a league-best six in a row. Bill Belichick has to be excited about the strides this Patriots defense has made since the start of the season. And if Mac Jones and the offense can continue to get better, look out.
Dallas quietly destroyed the Atlanta Falcons 43-3 in what was the Cowboys largest blowout in 21 years. In a loaded NFC, Dak Prescott – and a rising Dallas defense – resemble one of the best teams in the NFC.
Ten weeks into the 2021 NFL season, and finally, the Detroit Lions didn’t lose a game. But they didn’t win a game, either. Sorry, Lions fans.
After a nice win last week over the San francisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals fell back to reality in Sunday’s loss to the Panthers. Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals need Kyler Murray back and healthy, ASAP.
Baker Mayfield could find himself playing for a new team in 2022. He’s obviously playing hurt, and there are certainly question marks with this Browns coaching staff. But at the end of the day, the NFL is a ‘what have you done for me lately?’ league. And unfortunately for Mayfield, Cleveland may move on if things don’t turn around rapidly.
Mike Vrabel doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s doing in Tennessee.
I was a fan of the Jets hiring Robert Saleh, but if we’re going to criticize Urban Meyer in Jacksonville, the same criticism should be given to Saleh in New York. Because we’ve seen the Jaguars players show fight and effort in crucial moments – something we cannot say about the Jets.
Sean McVay has some homework to do after Monday night’s loss to the 49ers. At 7-3, the Rams can’t afford any more questionable losses.
Cam Newton’s return to the Panthers is a great story. Will it change the narrative in Carolina? The next 7 games will tell that story.
ASK ME ANYTHING FROM THE WEEK
–What’s wrong with the Chargers? Is Justin Herbert seeing the sophomore slump we’ve all been fearing?
Our expectations for this Chargers team may have been in the wrong place, even if we believe Justin Herbert is one of the next great quarterbacks in the NFL. If we dive into the roster on both sides of the ball, I don’t believe the Chargers are a 12 or 13 win team. Sure, they need to play better than the past few weeks.
But unless they miss the playoffs entirely, I believe the Chargers are probably right where they should be based on roster talent alone. A wildcard contender who could potentially make some noise in the playoffs.
–Will Mac Jones stay hot and beat out Chase for OROY?
After Sunday’s performance, I definitely think it’s a real possibility. The last wide receiver to win OROY was Odell Beckham Jr. (2014). Do you know which quarterbacks were selected in the first round back in the 2014 NFL draft? Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater.
Yeah, I’d say Mac Jones has a good shot of competing with Ja’Marr Chase for the award this year.
–When Vic Fangio is ultimately fired in Denver, who do you realistically see the Broncos targeting?
Not because he would be my first choice, but Dan Quinn just feels like a hire Denver would make.
–Which quarterback should the Panthers target in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Anyone in rounds 2-7.
–Favorite 2022 draft prospect as of today?
We all know what Aidan Hutchinson is doing this season at Michigan, but his EDGE rusher teammate - David Ojabo - is a player that really pops when watching Michigan tape.
FOURTH AND LONG: FINAL THOUGHT HEADING INTO WEEK ELEVEN
Let your players celebrate making a positive football play.
A fan of fun, entertaining football.