Week 1 simulation: How Jones, Newton fare in Patriots-Dolphins


The New England Patriots open the 2021 NFL season against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 12 at Gillette Stadium.

All eyes are on the quarterback position for the Patriots because we still don't know which player will start under center.

The QB competition between Mac Jones and Cam Newton has been one of the most watched roster battles in the league over the last month.

Jones' performance, over the majority of practices and two preseason games, has been better than Newton's. That said, it's still possible Newton starts Week 1 given his experience. He also went 3-1 last season against the Dolphins and Jets -- New England's first two opponents in 2021.

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How would Patriots-Dolphins turn out with Newton or Jones under center? Our friends at Strat-O-Matic simulated the game, once with Newton and once with Jones.

The results were pretty interesting...

If Mac Jones starts

The Patriots win 13-10 thanks to a 32-yard game-winning field goal by Nick Folk as time expired in the fourth quarter.

Jones completed 18 of 29 pass attempts for 181 yards with one touchdown and zero turnovers. He outplayed Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who completed 22 of 38 attempts for 206 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Damien Harris led the rushing attack for New England with 82 yards on 19 carries. James White chipped in 49 rushing yards, too.

Mac Jones vs. Dolphins Week 1 stats
NBC Sports Boston Illustration
The Patriots grind out a low-scoring win with Mac Jones at QB.

Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers was the top pass-catcher for the Patriots with six receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Newly acquired tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry combined for six receptions and 67 yards in their Patriot debuts.


The Patriots also struggled on third downs, converting just three of 13 attempts, but it didn't hurt them in the end.

If Cam Newton starts

This game was a lot more exciting, but the outcome ultimately was the same. Rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson capped off a 42-36 overtime victory with a 2-yard touchdown run with 3:29 left in the extra period.

Newton completed 13 of 29 pass attempts for 201 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 54 yards on 11 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. His touchdown pass to Meyers, plus Stevenson's two-point conversion with 2:41 remaining in the fourth quarter tied the score at 36.

Cam Newton vs. Dolphins Week 1 stats
NBC Sports Boston Illustration
The Patriots earn a wild OT win with Cam Newton under center.

Harris impressed with 92 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Newly acquired wideout Nelson Agholor led the Pats with three receptions for 108 yards. Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers each caught touchdowns. Both Smith and Henry tallied one reception for 17 and 16 yards, respectively.

Tagovailoa completed 25 of 42 pass attempts for 363 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.