After a month of middling performances and untimely injuries, the New England Patriots enter Week 6 with a rookie quarterback at the helm and a young defense that is impressing the league. Sound familiar?
Although Bailey Zappe is outperforming expectations and limiting his mistakes, let’s pump the brakes on the comparisons to 2001; Tom Brady is a one-in-a-million situation that might never happen again in the modern football era. Sure, Zappe has the tools to carve out a nice career for himself in the NFL, but I don’t think he’s breaking any rookie passing records this season. Nevertheless, I don’t think even the most optimistic Patriots fan imagined the sudden rise of Zappe. He looks poised in the pocket, evades pressure when needed and limits his mistakes. To everyone’s surprise, he’s looked far better than Mac Jones from the limited action he’s been a part of.
You could argue that the small sample size is benefiting the “Zappe will become the next franchise QB” argument, but I believe he’s got legitimate talent as well as the confidence to notch a few more victories in 2022. I wouldn’t go so far to say that Zappe will outduel Jones for the QB1 spot (which I don’t think is a blasphemous take), but the Patriots system coupled with a solid offensive line is setting Zappe up for future success these next few weeks. Not to mention, the Patriots’ schedule is relatively light up until Thanksgiving, where their defense can possibly win them some games (I’ll get to them in a moment). Even if my hope for Zappe might be too astronomical compared to his athletic capability, it’s exciting as a Patriots fan to witness a confident pocket passer finish red zone drives.
Although their rushing defense is prone to assignment breakdowns and may allow for chunk plays, the Patriots play with an assertive swagger that us fans haven’t witnessed since 2018. Rookie Jack Jones is one of those aforementioned players, who has the top coverage grade amongst all defensive backs, according to Pro Football Focus. More recently, this defense pitched a shutout against the top offense in the NFL and made Aaron Rodgers look mortal at Lambeau Field. By the end of the season, I would be unpleasantly surprised if this unit is ranked outside of the Top 10 for NFL defenses.
Not to keep harping on the game’s greatest players, but one of Brady’s biggest tools in his game was the confidence he possessed during stressful situations. He might not have been the most athletic quarterback, but his poise during a two-minute drill seemed to carry more value than a stronger arm. Confidence goes a long way in the NFL, and Bailey Zappe currently possesses a fair amount of it. Additionally, this defense is criminally underrated amongst football pundits; I see this defensive unit stealing some games in the future due to critical forced turnovers. My expectations might be too high due to a confidence bias from two decades of dominance, but a playoff berth is not out of the question for this squad.