The New England Patriots are starting to play their best football as we hit the halfway point of the 2021 NFL season.
They're riding a three-game win streak after their dominant Week 9 victory over the Carolina Panthers. With their 24-6 win and the Buffalo Bills 9-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Patriots find themselves in the mix for the top spot in the AFC East.
New England's defense deserves a ton of credit for the team's recent success, but the play of rookie quarterback Mac Jones certainly hasn't hurt. The 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft currently leads his fellow first-round QBs in passing yards (2,135), touchdown passes (10), completion percentage (68.0), and passer rating (89.8).
Can Jones keep up this impressive pace? Will the Patriots stay hot and clinch a playoff spot? Our partners at Strat-O-Matic simulated the remainder of the 2021 NFL season to find out.
Mac Jones makes case for Offensive Rookie of the Year
Jones hasn't been perfect through the first nine weeks of his rookie campaign, but the 23-year-old has given Pats fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future. According to Strat-O-Matic's simulation, we should expect that to continue in the second half.
Strat-O-Matic has Jones finishing with the most passing yards (4,327) and highest completion percentage (67.3%) of the five QBs taken in the first round of this year's NFL Draft. His 22 touchdown passes tie New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson for the most in the group.
In the second half, Strat-O-Matic has Jones completing 170 of his 256 passes (66.4%) for 2,197 yards, 12 TDs and seven interceptions. As encouraging of a season it was for the young QB, it wasn't enough to propel the Patriots into the postseason.
Patriots miss out on playoffs
Despite Jones' best efforts, the Strat-O-Matic simulation has New England failing to clinch a postseason spot for the second straight year
The Patriots go 4-4 the rest of the way to finish with a 9-8 record, four games behind the division-winning Buffalo Bills. The sim has Buffalo wrapping up its final nine games of the regular season at 8-1.
For the sake of comparison, the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers also finished with a 9-8 record in the simulation. The latter three teams were able to sneak into the playoffs.
Lamar Jackson outduels Tom Brady in Super Bowl
The Baltimore Ravens emerged as the top seed in the AFC with a 13-4 regular-season record. They matched up against the Cleveland Browns in the Divisional Round, then went on to defeat the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship to advance to Super Bowl 56. Other AFC teams to make it into the simulated postseason included the Bills, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders.
In the NFC, it was the Los Angeles Rams finishing with a 14-3 record to earn the No. 1 seed. They were upset in the Divisional Round by the New Orleans Saints, 22-16. Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers advanced to their second straight Super Bowl after taking down the Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional Round and the Saints in the NFC Championship.
Brady and the Bucs were unable to defend their Super Bowl title as Lamar Jackson and the Ravens were crowned champions following a thrilling 38-31 victory.