NFL Preview Monday: Looks like Mac is back for the Patriots


Second-year Pats QB Mac Jones would get the starting go-ahead on hot rookie Bailey Zappe against the helpless passing Bears

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Looks like Mac is back.

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Mac Jones, the New England Patriots starting quarterback who hasn’t played since Sept. 25, will be back this week Monday night football game against the visiting Chicago Bears.

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This, according to a Sunday morning report in TheAthletic.com.

The game between the Patriots 3-3 and the Bears 2-4 will start at 8:15 p.m. EDT (TSN via ESPN).

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Jones suffered a sprained ankle at the end of a Week 3 loss to Baltimore. Top substitute Brian Hoyer replaced him for less than a quarter before suffering a concussion in Green Bay. Rookie Bailey Zappe finished that game admirably for the Patriots and has been even more impressive in his two starts since then – two resounding wins in New England, against Detroit and Cleveland.

But Jones will apparently return against the Bears. He himself indicated on Friday that he hoped to be able to play in that prime-time game, and later that day it was listed as questionable.

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Head coach Bill Belichick – who provides injury information above the minimum requirements about as often as Mick and Keith compliment late Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones – last week would only smile shyly and say that the status of Mac Jones is day to day.

But is it really an advantage for New England if the rusty Jones does indeed start on the hot rookie?

Jones should have one of the best outings of his two-year career to match what Zappe did in last week’s impressive 38-15 win at Cleveland. In that game, the fourth-round draft pick threw 71% of his 34 throws, for 309 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. That more than made up for a rushing New England offense that gained just 98 yards – 40 yards below its season average.

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« We see these quarterbacks as a similar style, » Bears head coach and chief defensive architect Matt Eberflus said. « For a young player, (Jones) has a very good balance in the pocket, he delivers the ball on time, he is very precise, he is tough… His last year as a rookie was amazing, so that is a great talent. »

The Patriots drafted Jones 15e in total a year ago in April — four picks after Chicago took on their current starting QB, Justin Fields.

Belichick, one of the best defensive brains in NFL history, is renowned for his downright embarrassing first- and second-year passers. Fields is struggling as much as any QB a Belichick defense has ever faced. The Bears’ passing offense is so dismal with Fields at the helm that:

  • He ranks dead last in the NFL in throwing in just 122.8 yards per game.
  • Chicago is the only team to average more yards rushing than through the air, and the Bears’ yardage isn’t even close (170.7).
  • Fields makes just 55% of his throws, and for more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four).
  • Fields also took a league-leading 23 sacks.

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Perhaps Toronto wide receiver N’Keal Harry is set to make his debut in 2022, after being activated off IR (sprained ankle). Chicago got Harry from the Patriots in a July trade.

Belichick generally tries to pull off what any offense does best. In the case of this game, the Bears are rushing to attack. And Bears players expect the same.

« We have to win our 1-on-1s and make contested catches, » Chicago tight end Cole Kmet said. « Justin is going to do the throws for us, and we just have to come down with the ball and move the chains that way. They’re going to challenge us like that. They’re going to try to stop the running game, but we have to be able to do field games.

Weather-wise, winds are expected to be negligible, but rain all day and night is forecast, with a temperature of 14°C during the match.

John Kryk writes a weekly newsletter on NFL matters. This is where you can first see his direct picks each week. You can receive the newsletter automatically in your inbox on Wednesdays by simply signing up – for free – at https://torontosun.com/newsletters/

JoKryk@postmedia.com

@JohnKryk

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