Much of the attention surrounding Sunday night's Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New England Patriots game at Gillette Stadium has focused on Tom Brady, and rightly so.
But there's one player who could have a larger impact on the outcome of this game than Brady, and that's Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
If the Patriots are going to match the firepower of the Bucs offense -- a unit that has scored the second-most points per game (34.6) this season -- Jones needs to play much better than he has through three weeks.
It's a big spot for Jones, but seemingly everyone is confident he's capable of handling the pressure and not letting it negatively affect him.
Even Bucs head coach Bruce Arians praised Jones' ability to deal with pressure earlier this week.
“I loved him coming out (of the draft),” Arians told reporters in his press conference Wednesday. “(He’s) smart, a pocket player who’s going to get the ball out and very accurate. Obviously, pressure doesn’t bother him. He played in some big games (for Alabama). He led his team to the championship so, yeah, he’s legit.”
Jones' lack of eye-popping stats aren't entirely his fault.
The pass protection has been pretty lackluster, especially at right tackle. He was hit 10-plus times in both Week 1 and Week 3, and New England unsurprisingly lost both games. Two of the team's major offseason additions in free agency, tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, have been non-factors in the passing attack so far.
If the Patriots give Jones time to throw Sunday night, there's a pretty good chance he'll move the football. The Bucs secondary is struggling, and one of the reasons is injuries. It's a banged up unit, one that has allowed the second-most passing yards and the most passing touchdowns in the league entering Week 4.
Jones has the talent and vision to pick apart this Bucs defense, he just needs the opportunity to step up in the pocket and find the open receiver. His performance Sunday night could easily be the biggest factor in which team emerges victorious.