Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe for the starting QB spot? That is the pressing question being asked by not just fans of the Patriots, but across the NFL. After sustaining a high ankle sprain in Week 3’s 37-26 loss against the Baltimore Ravens, Jones has been forced to sit on the sidelines. At first, New England was devastated over losing their starting quarterback after starting the season 1-2 and had to resort to playing their backup QB Brian Hoyer in Week 4’s contest away to the Green Bay Packers. To make things even worse, Hoyer was forced to exit the game in the first quarter due to a concussion, and third-string rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe had to step up.
Rather than the talk about the Patriots being negative and claiming they have no shot at the playoffs due to Jones’ injury, Zappe has built another narrative to be debated: Who should be the starting QB? Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe?
The Rookie from Western Kentucky
If someone had told you going into the start of the regular season that fourth-round draft pick Bailey Zappe would be pushing Mac Jones for his starting place, you would have laughed right in their faces. However, Zappe is the one laughing now. The rookie from Western Kentucky has made a big name for himself since coming in for injured QBs Jones and Hoyer and has even made history. He is the first quarterback in NFL history to win and post a 100+ QB rating in each of his first two starts.
Last week’s matchup against the Cleveland Browns was Zappe’s most convincing performance. The fourth-round draft pick threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, completing 24-34 pass attempts and posting an impressive 118.4 QB rating.
Against the Browns, Zappe was trusted to throw the ball significantly more than in his prior matchups against the Packers and the Lions. At Green Bay, Zappe threw only 15 passing attempts, and at home to Detroit, the rookie had 21 passing attempts. The clear progression of passes demonstrates that the coaching staff is starting to trust Bailey Zappe to handle the football, which could be bad news for Mac Jones.
What About Mac Jones?
According to Jordy McElroy of YahooSports, Mac Jones is currently “85-90 percent” with respect to his injured ankle. Let’s not forget just how promising Mac Jones was last year in his rookie season. During a major reconfiguration of the Patriots roster, with several new free agent signings such as tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, Jones proved to be very consistent and helped get the Patriots to the playoffs. He had thrown for 3,801 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and posted a QB rating of 92.5 and a completion percentage of 67.6%.
However, this season has not been so kind to the second-year quarterback out of Alabama. Before suffering his high ankle sprain, Jones was having a difficult start to the year. Over the first three games, Jones has thrown for 786 yards, two touchdowns, five interceptions, a completion percentage of 66.0%, and has a QB rating of 76.2 so far. In comparison, over three games Zappe has thrown for 596 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, a completion percentage of 72.9%, and an exceptional 111.4 QB rating.
Who Gets the Starting QB Spot Against the Bears?
Now that Jones is nearing a return from injury who should start against the Bears? Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe? If the reports are true that Mac Jones is only 85-90 percent healthy, it would be foolish to start him against the Chicago Bears at home on Monday Night Football. The Bears are 2-4 so far this season and have lost three games in a row. Last week against the Commanders the Chicago Bears only put up seven points, highlighting their issues on the offensive side of the ball, and should be a winnable game for the Patriots.
The sensible thing to do is rest Mac Jones one more week to ensure he is 100% going into the rest of the season and start Bailey Zappe against the Bears. Though this may not be the best news for Jones, it is great news for head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots that they can rely on their backup to get the job done. Even without their starting quarterback, New England should see their winning streak continue to three in a home matchup against a struggling Bears side.
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