Debate over: Belichick chooses Mac; Pats release Newton, elevate Hoyer

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton leaves the field after a loss last year.

I get it. It’s early. But in some respects it isn’t early.

Teams have known for months what was up on their ledger for Week 1. There was a lot of time to figure out a game plan.

Well, it is only one game, but a lot of clarity may have come through.

There were winners and big winners. and there were losers and big losers.

We touch on the big ones. For both.


Mac Jones

The New England Patriots have found a potential franchise quarterback. Am I jumping the gun early? No. I’m saying potential and what he did in his first start wasn’t normal. He was arguably the best player on the field. Jones wasn’t great, but he was good and was poised. He looked like he had been reading NFL defenses before.

Mike Tomlin

Doubting (Mike) Tomlin may be a mistake. The Steelers sent a message on opening day in Buffalo by beating a legit Super Bowl finalist. It wasn’t pretty, but that is Steelers football. QB Ben Roethlisberger made a few big third down passes. The running game was solid. But the Steelers defense helped get the lead in the fourth quarter and shut down the Bills.

Jameis Winston

Speaking of dominating in all facets, the Saints’ new quarterback was on his game and makes us wonder if Drew Brees hung on for an extra year at their expense. Winston was fabulous and sitting on the bench for a year may have been a blessing. The Saints are equally the winners as Winston is, with their better-than-advertised defense

Kyler Murray

The real deal. The third year, for all intents and purposes, is the year. Can you lead a team to becoming a Super Bowl contender. Murray has shown the athleticism his first two seasons, but not in the standings. He was very efficient (21-for-32) and electric (4 TD passes). The rest of the team was equally dominant (Chandler Jones 4 sacks). But Murray’s presence lifts the rest of the team.

Derek Carr

This is his year. If the Raiders squeak into the playoffs, he’s the man. If the Raiders go 8-9, which seems plausible, then it’s time for Marcus Mariota Experiment. Well, Monday Night Football was Carr’s shining moment, even with the botched attempted touchdown-to-interception earlier in OT. Completing 34 of 56 passes for 435 yards is special when you win. The Raiders beat a pretty good Ravens team (more on them next week).

Russell Wilson

It’s not a big deal when Russell Wilson has a big game, which he did on Sunday with four TD passes while completing 18 of 23. The fact that he did it on the road, against the playoff-possible foe, Indianapolis, is meaningful. The Seahawks are a team without an identity. At least that’s been the case the last half-dozen years as their defense-first team has disappeared. Basically, this is Wilson’s team and that might not be a bad thing.


Cam Newton

Poor Cam. I like the guy. I thought he’d be the guy to start the season. But while the Patriots lost there was no doubt that the guy that replaced Cam, Mac Jones, was the right choice. It probably wasn’t easy watching Jones, whose touch borders on elite, running the offense so smoothly. Cam believes he should be a starter, but unfortunately, the truth is he’s a backup, with limited throwing ability. Anyway, the Patriots made the right choice. That has to hurt.

Aaron Rodgers

It isn’t often that Rodgers is in the “loser” category, unless of course we’re talking January, but this was a big-time dud from the superstar QB. He talked a lot about being disrespected last year and really this year with an apparent “out” in his contract if he’s not happy. We assumed another 12-win season and Rodgers would decide at some point his future. Well, he and his entire team was abysmal on Sunday.

Mike Vrabel

The former Patriots’ star is in a little slump as a coach. The 2020 season ended in a blown 10-0 lead in a loss to the Ravens in the Wild Card game. Many people had them pegged for an AFC title showdown with Kansas City. But it never happened. and to start this season, with so much promise after adding Julio Jones look like a complete disaster on Sunday after Jones’ dumb unsportsmanlike penalty and then two drops. Anyway, the Titans defense was a mess last year and nothing appears to have changed. ‘


The Vikings aren’t really a team on anybody’s radar, but if they were to make a run at the playoffs, they had to go to Cincinnati and beat the upstart Bengals. They fought back, but it wasn’t enough, losing 27-24 in OT. This Vikings team just can’t play with any consistency. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is a middle of the road guy. The defense, which looked to be great under coach Mike Zimmer early in his time there, is pedestrian. I’m basically writing the Vikings off. See ya.


Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t bad. But he wasn’t very good either. While he won the game and made a few nice plays, his decision-making leaves a lot to be desired. It wasn’t a good look seeing him outplayed by his former understudy Mac Jones Sunday night. He needs a great team around him and the Dolphins are only “good.” My guess is Dolphins go all-out for Deshaun Watson soon.As for Tua, he’s not going to win you a Super Bowl.


Ryan Fitzpatrick is no franchise QB, but he was good enough to compete in the NFC East, possibly stealing a division title. That won’t happen now after his injured hip flexor. Washington appeared ready to make a jump above mediocrity, but it can’t happen with a C-minus QB. They aren’t talented enough.

N.Y. Giants

I could’ve made the Denver Broncos winners this week, but I’m not ready for that. I am ready to say the Giants are already in trouble. They had to win this game on Sunday. Had to. They have an explosive group of skill guys on the team, headed by the return of Saquon Barkley. But Teddy Bridgewater & Co. were much better than Daniel Jones & Co. It was disappointing for the Giants to open at home and lay an egg like they did, losing 27-13.


Ouch! The Ravens needed an opening week win badly as their Week 2 opponent is the Kansas City Chiefs, which has been kryptonite for Lamar Jackson. This is Year No. 4, a big year for him, and the Ravens are already in must-win mode entering Week 2. Jackson looked like himself for most of the game, but twice lost fumbles while running the football. This is the apparent preferred method of gaining yards for the Ravens, but it might finally catch up to them. The Ravens have a tough schedule especially in December and January when six of their last seven games will probably be against playoff teams.

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