Patriots, Mac Jones look fraudulent as Colts run right through them

Riding high and as one of the AFC leaders, the Patriots got smacked in the mouth by the Colts and raised questions about just how much they can contend.

Heading into Saturday night’s matchup against the Colts, everyone was buying into the New England Patriots — a familiar place for the NFL to be. But rather than keep rolling under Bill Belichick and with rookie Mac Jones at quarterback, things took a drastic 180 in Indianapolis.

Jones looked as shaky as he has at any point in his first season with the Pats, hesitating on throws that resulted in turnovers and just not making the right plays. Meanwhile, New England was getting dominated in the trenches, so much so that Carson Wentz only had to throw 12 times with just five completions.

And despite that, the Colts ran away to a 27-17 win that drops the Patriots to 9-5 on the season and begs some serious questions about what this team is heading into the home stretch of the regular season and eyeing the playoffs.

Patriots: Contenders or pretenders?

It’s hard to look at a performance such as this and think that the Pats are actual contenders.

Yes, this team is miles better than the one we saw led by Cam Newton last season. Having said that, Mac Jones still has his limitations and, more importantly, is still learning how to navigate that week-in and week-out at the pro level. Moreover, the skill position weapons are improved but still not where they need to be.

With a 1.5-game lead over the Bills, New England still controls their own destiny. But if Buffalo were to win on Sunday, that would make the rematch in Week 16 hold a ton of weight in deciding the AFC East champion. And if the Patriots were to lose that one, then they would then find themselves in the AFC Wild Card dogfight where anything could happen.

On the scale of contenders and pretenders, though, seeing a performance like the one on Saturday night is far from inspiring. As teams like the Chiefs are hitting their stride, there aren’t many worlds where New England can seemingly hang with that type of attack.

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