New England's Mac Jones was the last of five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but he had the best individual and team season of any of them as Jones is the only one in the playoffs. History says winning Super Bowl 56 isn't happening for Jones and it also says that it's very unlikely that the Patriots win in Buffalo on Saturday night on Wild-Card Weekend. The Bills are 4-point favorites at Caesars Sportsbook.
To win the Super Bowl, New England is a +2000 long shot and no rookie quarterback has even gotten his team to the big game as a full-time starter. Yes, the Pats' Tom Brady won a Super Bowl in his first season as the team's starter in 2001, but he was in his second year in the NFL. Kurt Warner of the Rams also won a Super Bowl in his first season as a starter but also wasn't a rookie. New England is just 1-3 in its past four games and Jones has five interceptions and a costly lost fumble in those.
On Saturday, Jones, the No. 15 overall pick out of Alabama, is bidding to become just the fourth rookie quarterback this century and first since Seattle's Russell Wilson in 2012 to go on the road and win his first NFL postseason start.
Believe it or not, this is the first time New England is a Wild-Card team under Bill Belichick. The Pats played on Wild-Card Weekend four times under Belichick (2005, 2006, 2009 and 2019), but those were all as the division winner and thus at home. New England's home Wild-Card loss to Tennessee following the '19 campaign was Brady's final game with the team.
This will be the seventh time in team history that the Patriots will play a division foe in the postseason and the first time since the 2010 season. New England is 5-1 in the previous six.
There are two key injuries to note for Belichick's club: Left tackle Isaiah Wynn (hip/ankle) is questionable, while starting cornerback Jalen Mills landed on the COVID list this week -- but with the new protocols he might be back in time for Saturday. The team is a bit thin at the position after trading former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore to Carolina earlier this season. Third-year Joejuan Williams likely would start if Mills is out. When Mills missed Week 5 in Houston with an injury, Williams gave up two catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Rather amazingly, Buffalo doesn't have a single player listed on the injury report. The Bills finished the season No. 1 in scoring defense and the Patriots No. 2. It marks the first time in a Wild-Card round game that the top two scoring defenses face off.
These teams split two late-season games, each winning on the road. The weather will be brutally cold in Buffalo on Saturday night with a low of 4 degrees and wind chills up to 20 below zero. Winds are forecast to be between 5-10 mph and snow isn't in the forecast. The cold is why this writer is leaning Under 44 points.
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