While Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills is easily the best quarterback in the AFC East, the rest of the division will have question marks surrounding their starting signal-callers heading into the 2021 season. The Jets will be rolling out rookie Zack Wilson while Miami will be employing Tua Tagovailoa for the first time as a Week 1 starter in his sophomore campaign.
This leaves us with the New England Patriots, who struggled to replace Tom Brady in the club’s first season without arguably the best quarterback of all time. The oddsmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook have posted that veteran Cam Newton will be the starting quarterback in Week 1 at prohibitive odds of -305.
The 2011 No. 1 overall pick earned league MVP honors and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance back in 2015. However, fans in Foxboro only witnessed flashes of Newton’s ability as the Patriots finished below .500 (7-9) for the first time since 2000 under Bill Belichick.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Cam Newton (-305)
Newton has missed 17 games over the past three years due to injury after missing a total of just three in his first seven NFL seasons. As of now, the oddsmakers at DraftKings Sportsbook strongly are projecting that Newton will be the Week 1 starter at home against Miami. Obviously, for Newton, it all starts with his running ability, as Newton rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. However, his production in the passing game was less than stellar, to say the least, finishing with an 8:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. As my colleague Michael Fabiano astutely pointed out, “with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith now in the passing attack, look for OC Josh McDaniels to run a ton of 12 personnel.”
Mac Jones (+225)
Mac Jones, who was drafted No. 15 overall in the past April's NFL Draft, will have a great opportunity to fill the void left by star quarterback Tom Brady as the future of the Patriots franchise. You can bet that Bill Belichick will have a short hook with Newton if the Patriots struggle in the preseason. Jones is widely expected to compete with Newton in a legitimate training camp battle to be the team's Week 1 starter.
The former Crimson Tide standout took over for an injured Tua Tagovailoa in Tuscaloosa in 2019 while only playing one full season as Alabama's full-time starter last season. Jones threw 41 touchdowns in only 14 games - culminating with a 52-24 National Championship win over Ohio State. Jones was electric on the collegiate game's biggest stage, throwing for 464 yards and five touchdowns.
My colleague Shawn Childs believes Jones' challenges "will be his decision-making and success when given a smaller passing window. Jones needs to prove he can beat the blitz with a weaker core of receivers, never mind the expected downgrade on the offensive line."
Jarrett Stidham (+2000)
Stidham, the former Auburn Tiger standout, was beat out by Newton for the starting job last season. Stidham has yet to make a start in the NFL while attempting just 48 passing attempts in two seasons. When Stidham has been handed reps, he has failed to earn the praise of Belichick and the New England coaching staff. His massive 20/1 odds should not entice any bettors to invest in the former SEC star.
The Patriots were uncharacteristically big spenders in free agency in the offseason, signing TEs Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, plus WRs Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.
Newton was surrounded by an awful offensive cast last season, and that will not be the case in 2021. In addition, Newton was also inflicted with COVID-19, which also helped contribute to his lack of production in his first season with the Patriots. Newton loves to utilize his tight ends (see Greg Olsen), and now armed with both Smith and Henry - combined with a better grasp of the New England offense, he will no longer have any excuses.
As we always stress, laying prohibitive odds is not wise bankroll management. There have been strong rumors that Jones has been impressive thus far this offseason. What every bettor should take away from the rumblings is that Belichick may very well hand the ball to his new prized quarterback sooner than most are expecting.
Although Jones could take over sooner than most anticipate, the veteran will not be the one holding the clipboard on the sidelines in Week 1. The potential storyline of Tagovailoa versus Jones would be amazing to kick off the 2021 NFL season, but it is simply not going to happen. The sharp money, despite New England's first-round investment, continues to steam a line that opened at -260 and quietly has risen to -305 since the NFL Draft.
SI PRO LEAN: Cam Newton -305