Mac Jones and the New England Patriots have suffered two straight losses to open their 2023 campaign, and they will be looking to right the ship in Week 3 against the New York Jets. There's no shame in losing to the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins, but it's clear that there's a sense of urgency to get in the win column in Foxboro right now.
Through the first two games of the season, the Patriots have shown signs of encouragement, but have remained a team that is only capable of keeping games close, not winning them. In order to become a real playoff contender again, the Pats need to figure out a way to win games that are there for the taking. Against the Jets, that's precisely what is going to need to happen.
At 0-2, New England's playoff hopes have already taken a fairly big hit, even if they weren't exactly favored to win either game. But in order to remain relevant throughout the season, the Patriots need to get in the win column. It's only Week 3, but it's clear that Jones and the Pats need to beat the Jets, or else things could spiral out of control.
Why Week 3 is must-win for Mac Jones individually, and the Patriots as a whole
New England has only lost to a pair of Super Bowl contenders in the Eagles and Dolphins by a combined total of 12 points. But at the end of the day, losses are losses. The Patriots are one of only eight teams left who haven't won a game this season, and of those teams, they are among the worst of the group.
Despite that, this team has offered reason for hope in those losses. Jones and the offense have been able to move the ball consistently enough that these games are staying close; the problem is they cannot put together a full game of good work. The defense is doing everything in their power to give the offense a shot to win, but so far, it hasn't yielded the desired results.
This game is clearly huge from a New England perspective, as no team wants to fall into an 0-3 hole to start the season. But for Mac Jones, it's beginning to become put-up or shut-up time. We already noted that, at some point, he's going to have to lead New England to wins in close games that are there for the taking, and there may be another one of these games on his slate against the Jets.
On paper, the Patriots should be able to beat the Jets in this one. New York is without their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers after he tore his Achilles four snaps into his debut with the team, which means that Zach Wilson is back under center. Wilson was more or less gifted a win against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 before he got throttled by the Dallas Cowboys high-powered defense in Week 2.
The Pats defense has had tons of success against Wilson early on in his career, and playing in what could end up being torrential rain (which is currently in the forecast for MetLife Stadium) would surely help them out. The problem is that New York boasts a similarly strong defense, and Jones will be subjected to the same poor weather conditions as Wilson, which could immediately shrink the gap between the two passers.
If this contest comes down to the ground game, New England could be in trouble. On defense in Week 2, Raheem Mostert torched the Pats for 121 yards and two touchdowns on just 18 carries. In New York, while Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook were shut out against the Cowboys, largely due to the script of the game, they combined for 160 yards on 23 carries in Week 1 against the Bills.
On the other side of the ball, New England has only managed to run for 164 total yards through the first two games of the season. The offensive line has looked completely out of sync in the run game, and against a stout Jets front seven, they could be in trouble if they are forced to rely on their rushing attack.
Once again, that puts the spotlight on Jones here. He could end up being tasked with leading New England to victory in tough rain conditions with no run game to speak of and a strong defense on the other side of the ball. Is Jones capable of producing such a victory? To this point in his career, he hasn't exactly proven that to be the case.
Chances are Jones will get some help, whether it be from his defense or the ground game, throughout this game, but the ball is likely going to be placed in his hands with the game on the line. As an individual, Mac Jones needs to prove he can win tough games, and whether or not he can overcome his own personal roadblock could end up saving or completely ruining New England's 2023 campaign.