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Patriots News 11- 21, Jones Rookie Ascension, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
November 21, 2021 at 5:00 am ET

Patriots News 11- 21, Jones Rookie Ascension, AFC East Notes(PHOTO: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Nov 21, 2021 05:00
🕑 Read Time: 9 minutes

Good morning and we hope everyone has a happy Sunday.  Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-21 and AFC East Notes.

The Patriots are now in a bit of a mini-bye after the Thursday night game before preparing for the Titans next Sunday. The Patriots are officially on a roll, winners of a five in a row, jumping from a disappointing 2-4 to 7-4, and (right now) are in a playoff position with the current #5 seed. 

But the next four games will tell us a lot of how good this team can be. The Titans, two games against the Bills, and the Colts are a big measuring stick for the Patriots. Splitting with the Bills and going at least 2-2 is the floor they should be looking at. A 3-1 or 4-0 sequence would put them right into the mix as a legitimate contender in the AFC. 

It will be a fascinating four games to watch. The rebuilding process is just a year in and while the feeling here it is still a year away, they seem far ahead in the process thus far. 

Have you checked out our sortable stats for the Patriots? It is a great resource for all of the players on the roster.  

Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Rich Eisen: Eisen was on his national podcast this week singing the praises of the Patriots during their 4-game winning streak (before TNF). Among the things Eisen was saying about the Patriots is that “they play tough defense”… and “they’re back to doing New England-type things even with a rookie QB.” 

But his best zinger was targeted against the Boston sports media, something that should have brought a big smile to our Patriots 4th & 2 co-host Russ Goldman. Eisen said that only in the Boston media, “they’re not happy unless they’re pissing on their own teams.” 

Kyle Van Noy: The Patriots’ linebacker had a huge game on Thursday night with 8 tackles, 2 sacks, and a pick-six that sealed the game with the Falcons, But on Friday, Van Noy was sent an envelope by the NFL that took all of the starch out of his heroics.

The envelope from the NFL said that he was being screened for a random drug analysis test after the Falcons game.

“Yoooo y’all won’t believe this…… I make a couple of plays last night and guess what happens??? The @NFL is drug testing me today,” he wrote on his social media account, “you can’t make this up!”

J.C. Jackson: The Patriots’ cornerback who intercepted a pass on Thursday and has six on the season and leads the NFL with 23 since he entered the league in 2018 as an UDFA, had some intriguing comments about the Patriots defense. 

“I feel like we played great defensively,” Jackson said after the Falcons game. “We didn’t give up no touchdowns, no points allowed. It don’t get no better than that. … The defense played outstanding. I can’t even describe. But we’ve got to keep it up. It’s going to get scary. It’s going to be scary.”

Matthew Judon: The Patriots’ crown jewel of free agency for the Patriots this year has excelled both on and off the field. Players and coaches have raved about his work ethic and locker room presence. 

He’s been quotable all season long and has continuously made himself available to the media, win or lose. On Thursday night, he had arguably his best quote of the season after the shutout win over the Falcons. 

Matt Judon and Adrian Phillips

Matthew Judon has been a homerun free agent signing. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“We kinda wanna be a-holes on the field, but good guys off the field,” Judon said. “Make sure we don’t get penalized. We play within the rules, but we are a nasty group. So, that’s how we like to play, and that’s how we gotta play in order for our team to win. And we enjoy it.”

And if Thursday was any indication, the Patriots fanbase would love to see them continue being a-holes for the rest of the season. 

4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. We’ll be getting together on Monday to do a post-game look at the Browns and an early glimpse at the upcoming Falcons game.

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

GM Bill and Coach Bill, We’ve Come Full Circle: 

For years we’ve been subjected to the tired “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill” mantra. And then last year it was the asinine “Was it Bill or Brady?” nonsense, as if one would have had as much success without the other. 

For the anti-GM Bill crowd, they can’t be liking what they are seeing transpire before them at all. The “Bill can’t draft” crowd didn’t particularly like the 2020 draft class with Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche (a pair of 2nd rd picks of all things), Michael Onwenu, and Justin Herron was a good haul. But the 2021 draft with Mac Jones, Christian Barmore (another 2nd rd pick who was “a bad guy” off of several team’s draft boards), and Rhamondre Stevenson has been a fantastic haul. All three players have played big roles for the team thus far. 

Belichick was ridiculed for spending so freely during free agency (they’re overspending for these guys!”) but thus far, the majority of their signings appear to be not only good ones but in some cases bargains. 

Matthew Judon has been the MVP of the Patriots’ defense and has already set a career-high with 10.5 sacks and has been a terror on the edge in stopping the run and rushing the passer. Hunter Henry is gradually working himself into having some great chemistry with Jones and the pair have hooked up for seven TDs. Kendrick Bourne’s role seems to grow week after week, and while Nelson Agholor’s production isn’t great, he’s stretching the defense, which allows the others to work underneath. Jonnu Smith is still trying to find his way in the offense, but Kyle Van Noy and Jalen Mills have provided solid contributions to the defense. Resigning Lawrence Guy now seems like a no-brainer. 

But arguably the most insane anti-New England rhetoric has now come completely full circle. When Tom Brady was first finding success with the Patriots and winning Super Bowls, the naysayers were yelling from the rooftops that Brady was nothing more than a game manager and the Patriots were winning “because of their system.” 

After Brady went on a two-decade tear through the league, winning six Super Bowls with New England and then another last year with Tampa Bay, the narrative changed… it was all about Brady, and without him, Belichick was a losing coach. 

In steps Mac Jones this year and the rookie (more of him below), and he’s played very well for a rookie QB and has already exceeded many expectations for Year 1. Now, the same people who excoriated Belichick, (please show us his record without Brady one more time), are telling us that Jones is a game manager and he’s only successful because of the “Patriots system”. And to quote Kyle Van Noy above, “you can’t make this up!”

Mac Jones’ Maturation And Development Ahead of Schedule:

Mac Jones

Mac Jones is far ahead of rookie expectations at this point of his young career. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in all of the talk about Mac Jones lately is that too many people are forgetting that he is…still a rookie who has played in a total of 11 games as a professional. How can we be truly discussing (as many have been doing) about his ceiling as an NFL starting QB after just 11 games? 

The bottom line is that nobody truly knows what Jones’ ceiling is going to be yet. It is far too early for any meaningful prognostications, but what we have seen thus far is that Jones is far ahead of schedule in terms of his development. 

He’s not playing like a rookie QB, something Eisen also added on his podcast during the Patriots season thus far. He’s making very few rookie mistakes, and when he does, he’s learned from them and isn’t making them twice. 

Yes, the Patriots aren’t asking him to do much, just manage the offense as best he can and protect the football while relying on the running game and the defense to get them through, and he’s done that. But he’s also shown great poise, the ability to make decisions quickly and get the ball out quickly and accurately. 

He’s been the best rookie QB by a wide margin during the first 11 weeks of the season. The Patriots are a perfect 5-0 on the road under Jones, only the third rookie QB to do so (Dak Prescott and Ben Roethlisberger). Although their next two road games will be tough against Buffalo and Indy. 

Jones has been efficient and cool on the field and attributes his early success as a team, not an individual achievement. “I think we have a great group of guys and early on, you’re just trying to figure your way out with me in there and I’m trying to learn as best I can,” Jones said Thursday night. 

“But these guys have all played tons of football and I trust everybody on our offense. I feel like I can play better to you know, help them too. They’ve done a great job all year staying positive, and we all believe in each other and that’s the most important part. It’s the best team sport there is and I think our offensive unit really has that family feel to it and we love each other and we play together and we play for each other so we just have to keep doing that.”

So, before we get too hung up on what his ceiling may or may not be, let’s ignore the noise and just enjoy the ride. We’ve all known that the team would have to find a successor to #12 someday and now that day is here. And just like Brady had to start with small steps (and we’re not saying he’s Brady), then Jones’ journey has to begin the same way. It has been a fascinating ride so far, and the last six games of the season should be even more intriguing to watch.  

Week 11 Predictions:

The slate of games for Week 11 and my predictions straight up for this week.

Thursday Night Football
New England over Atlanta  1-0

Sunday –
Baltimore over Chicago
Green Bay over Minnesota
Buffalo over Indianapolis
Cleveland over Detroit
Carolina over Washington
Tennesse over Houston
San Francisco over Jacksonville
Miami over NY Jets
Philadelphia over New Orleans
Las Vegas over Cincinnati
Dallas over Kansas City
Arizona over Seattle
Sunday Night Football
LA Chargers over Pittsburgh
Monday Night Football
Tampa Bay over NY Giants

Last Week:            7-7-1
Season:              99-51-1

Last Season:    169-86-1

2019 Season:   162-93-1

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Face Tough Test Against Indy and Jonathan Taylor:

The Buffalo Bills face a tough test against the Indianapolis Colts this week when the Colts travel to upstate New York to face the #1 defense in the NFL. Indianapolis is a tough physical team that likes to run the football and they have one of the best backs in the league in Jonathan Taylor. 

Taylor is leading the league, tied with Derrick Henry with 937 yards, and has nine rushing TDs this year. He’s has earned the respect of the Bills’ coaching staff. “If you could kind of build a back that way, he’s got size, power, vision, balance, home-run speed,” coach Sean McDermott said. “It’s hard to find all those traits in one back and he’s got them all.”

The Bills’ defense has been simply outstanding all season, not allowing an opponent to gain 400 yards in any game this season. The Bills lead the league in points allowed per game (15), yards allowed (274 per game) while third against the rush with 83.9 yards per game. 

Goedert Deal Should Be Good News for Gesicki:

During the past week, we saw that the Philadelphia Eagles signed TE Dallas Goedert to a four-year contract extension worth a reported $59 million dollars with about $35 million fully guaranteed. That new extension should be welcome news for Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022. 

Gesicki is currently 4th in the league among tight ends with 44 receptions. 529 yards and 2 TDs. But the Dolphins will have some difficult decisions to make as they have 19 unrestricted free agents on their roster for the 2022 season.

Both Gesicki and Goedert who entered the league at the same time, have virtually identical numbers. 

Former Jets HC Rex Ryan Slams Robert Saleh:

The Jets’ franchise has been a dysfunctional lot for a number of years. But Rex Ryan, who always had something colorful to say when he was the head coach of the Jets and was the darling of the NY media for a short spell when he seemingly turned things around before they turned on him, has done the same thing to new coach Robert Saleh.

Ryan slammed Saleh on NY radio’s 98.7 while speaking with Rick DiPietro this week. “Don’t ever compare this Robert Saleh guy to me,” Ryan said, adding that Saleh’s Jets don’t “want to play with any damn heart.”

Saleh decided to answer Ryan stating that he has never met him. “I don’t even know him, except for people know him throughout the league,” Saleh said. “Obviously, if it’s that personal for him, he knows where to find me.”


“We try to see what kind of person the player is on another level, how committed they are to football, what kind of worker they are, what kind of practice player they are, what they bring to the team, both on and off the field, and so forth. Each one of us has our own style, strengths, weaknesses, and all that. It’s not like one size fits all. That’s definitely not the case, but, fundamentally, you try to bring people in that you feel like would be a good fit for your team, whether they’re rookies, free agents, trades, or however you acquire them. That’s what you try to do. It doesn’t always work out that way, but hopefully, it does. That’s the intent.”

Bill Belichick’s comments when asked about how the team evaluates free agents before signing them.


“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones Matthew Judon Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL

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