For the first time in forever, the New England Patriots will play a meaningless Week 17 game, and not because they’ve already locked up prime playoff position. Bill Belichick’s team will face the New York Jets this weekend, with neither team playing for much beyond pride and, in a sense, NFL Draft positioning.
Last night was one of the most lopsided losses we’ve ever seen by a Belichick-coached Patriots team. The club was absolutely bludgeoned by the AFC East champion Buffalo Bills, who swept the Pats for the first time since 1999. Josh Allen and company ran away with a 38-9 win.
Quarterback Cam Newton was very ineffective, completing just 5-of-10 throws for 34 yards and running for a touchdown. It wasn’t overly surprising that he was replaced by Jarrett Stidham with the game out of hand a few minutes into the third quarter. The younger former Auburn quarterback didn’t fare any better, going 4-for-11 for 44 yards.
Belichick is playing coy with who will get the start on Sunday against the Jets. After the game, he said he hadn’t “made any plans” at the quarterback position, citing the recency of Monday night’s game.
On his plans for who’s starting at QB next week
Belichick: The game has been over 10-15 ago… I haven’t made any plans for next week. The game is 15 minutes old.
— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) December 29, 2020
Belichick has defended Cam Newton pretty consistently this year, even after some very poor performances. Newton has only thrown for five touchdowns this season, and the Pats have eight total passing touchdowns in 15 games. Still, it might make sense for Stidham to get the Week 17 start even if Newton is definitively the better player.
The New England Patriots need to figure out the quarterback position for next year and beyond over the next few months. The team should be picking around the middle of the first round in a draft that may have as many as six first-round quarterbacks, though the top four guys—Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, BYU’s Zach Wilson, and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance—are expected to be taken pretty early on. Alabama’s Mac Jones and Florida’s Kyle Trask are currently expected to be the next two off the board, with Jones getting mid-to-late first-round projections.
Stidham hasn’t done much that would argue that he should be heavily involved in the quarterback situation entering next season, but giving him a full game to see what he looks like might not be the worst idea. And if the Patriots lose, they’ve gotten a good deal of info about Stidham as a player, they’ve improved their draft position, and hurt a division rival’s, one that could also be taking a quarterback.
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