Mac Jones is no stranger to playing under the bright lights dating back to his days at Alabama, but his first taste of primetime in the NFL is going to be a spectacle unto itself.
Just like in Tom Brady's first primetime game nearly 20 years ago the St. Louis Rams, Jones is going to be welcoming in a former league MVP and a high-flying offense with a recent Super Bowl win under its belt to Foxboro.
Thing is, Jones and the New England Patriots are playing host to Brady himself, a quarterback who's won seven Super Bowls, been to 10, and won three league MVP awards since that first primetime spotlight on Nov. 18, 2001.
So you might say that the stakes are a little bit higher for Jones than they were for Brady when he and the Patriots hosted Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the Greatest Show on Turf Rams for Sunday Night Football at old Foxboro Stadium, the lone primetime game the team played in during the regular season in 2001.
Brady's legend really took shape later on in the 2001 season, but entering the showdown with the 7-1 Rams, the Patriots were still a modest 5-4 operation, more exciting than they'd been in several years but still incomplete in terms of what they were bound for.
The same was true for Brady, whose first primetime game wasn't necessarily a clunker but certainly a far, far cry from what was to come.
Entering the game, Brady had thrown 11 touchdowns against five interceptions in relief of Drew Bledsoe, completing 63 percent of his passes for 1,426 yards over eight games (seven starts). But against St. Louis that night, Brady threw one touchdown and two interceptions, completing 19 of 27 passes for 185 yards in a 24-17 loss.
"It's not like they stopped us," Brady said after the game, via ESPN. "If anything, we're just stopping ourselves. We played against a real good team and I think we were right there with them."
Like in the Super Bowl to come, the Patriots' defense more than held its own against Warner, picking him off twice -- including a pick-six from Terrell Buckley -- but trailed 24-10 in the fourth quarter. Brady threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to David Patten with 7:52 remaining to slice the deficit to seven, but the Rams wouldn't give the ball back to New England, picking up four first downs to run out the clock.
That setback would, of course, be the final time New England lost in 2001, as the team reeled off six straight wins to close out the regular season, won its first two playoff games and ultimately knocked off those very same Rams to capture Super Bowl XXXVI.
Surely, expecting Jones to run the table regardless of what happens against Brady is unfair, especially given just how early in the season it is.
Still, we could learn a lot from the outcome of the game -- not necessarily in winning or losing, but seeing how Jones fares in primetime against the best team he'll likely face as a rookie, with the 20-year weight of the dynasty which preceded him staring him down from across the field.