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Predicting when Drake Maye will make his Patriots debut in 2024

Predicting when Drake Maye will make his Patriots debut in 2024 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Last year, just before the start of the season, we went through all 17 games on the Patriots schedule and tried to predict the score for each. A ridiculous exercise, to be sure. But still an entertaining way -- to me, at least -- to comb through the schedule and try to project how the journey will play out.

How'd it go? About as you'd expect. Flip a coin.

I successfully predicted the winner correctly for just eight of New England's regular-season games. And the scores? Um... well... let's not worry about the scores. Suffice it to say you weren't making a ton of money off of those predictions unless you happened to hop on the bandwagon in Week 13 and hopped off by Week 17, when I went five-for-five picking winners.

Unimpressive.

What, then, would be the harm in trying to execute the same exercise in futility not days but months in advance of the start of the 2024 regular season? And why wouldn't we simultaneously try to predict when rookie quarterback Drake Maye makes his debut as a starter with percentage odds based on no math whatsoever?

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Sounds like a fine idea.

With the regular-season schedule now released, let's get to it.

Week 1: Sept. 8 at Cincinnati Bengals

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 33 percent

I wouldn't rule out Drake Maye taking the starting gig in Week 1. Is it likely? No. Not in my estimation. But he's more advanced and "pro-ready" than some of the other quarterbacks in his class when it comes to his frame, his willingness (and effectiveness) throwing to the middle of the field, and his feel for pressure. He's also more accustomed to being in a less-than-ideal situation than guys like Jayden Daniels and J.J. McCarthy, both of whom could be Week 1 starters.

Still, with a capable player like Jacoby Brissett in the mix in Foxboro, it'll be a challenge for Maye to win the job outright in camp. That's why I'm guessing the veteran is the go-to guy against Joe Burrow in Cincy.

FINAL SCORE: Bengals 20, Patriots 17 (Patriots record: 0-1)

Week 2: Sept. 15. vs. Seattle Seahawks

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 0.1 percent

If Maye isn't starting in Week 1, it'd make little sense for him to get the starting nod in Week 2. If you're actually trying to get him ready to go -- and barring injury -- it feels like there's almost zero chance this is when Maye makes his debut.

It does feel like a good opportunity for the Patriots to get their first win of the season, however, against a beatable West Coast team traveling to the Commonwealth led by a rookie head coach.

FINAL SCORE: Patriots 17, Seahawks 13 (Patriots record: 1-1)

Week 3: Sept. 19 at New York Jets (Thursday Night Football)

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 1 percent

Again, why choose this as Maye's entry point for regular-season football in the NFL? Good defense. On the road. In prime time. And coming off a win with Brissett as the starter? Feels like a no-go for the rookie.

FINAL SCORE: Jets 23, Patriots 20 (Patriots record: 1-2)

Week 4: Sept. 29 at San Francisco 49ers

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 3 percent

As the schedule unfolds here, you get the sense that if Maye isn't starting in Week 1, it'll be a little while before he touches the field.

The Patriots could be 1-2 at this stage -- or even 0-3 -- and running Maye onto the field on the road against one of the best teams in football, featuring one of the best defenses in football, would look like a questionable decision. At best. Even coming off of a "mini bye" provided by the Thursday night-to-Sunday swing between Weeks 3 and 4.

FINAL SCORE: 49ers 26, Patriots 18 (Patriots record: 1-3)

Week 5: Oct. 6 vs. Miami Dolphins

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 35 percent

This game is when things start to feel more realistic when it comes to projecting Maye's debut.

The Patriots will have just gone through a difficult first month against a challenging slate of opponents. They'll be back at home. Against a talented division rival, but it's a team with which Jerod Mayo and DeMarcus Covington are familiar.

If Maye is clearly ready, and if the Patriots offensive line has shown it can protect him -- those seem like the two non-negotiable boxes that need to be checked before the No. 3 overall selection is inserted -- there's the potential that Maye takes the reins from here...

FINAL SCORE: Dolphins 31, Patriots 16 (Patriots record: 1-4)

Week 6: Oct. 13 vs. Houston Texans

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 45 percent

...Yet this one? This one feels like it could be an even more likely landing spot for Maye's first start than Week 5.

If the Patriots are coming off three consecutive losses, and if they have just one win under their belt, the masses will be clamoring for him. Maybe even ownership.

They'll be at home. Houston is a good team, coming off a surprising trip to the preseason 2023. The opponent isn't ideal. But -- particularly with the bye week coming in Week 14 -- this might make the most sense as a spot for a Maye midseason debut.

FINAL SCORE: Texans 29, Patriots 23 (Patriots record: 1-5)

Week 7: Oct. 20 at Jacksonville Jaguars (Wembley Stadium, London)

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 30 percent

There might be something to be said for playing in front of a relatively neutral crowd. If Maye were to get his first start here, he wouldn't have the pressure of performing in front of an eager home fanbase. He wouldn't have the challenge of dealing with hard-to-handle decibel levels on the road.

But there are enough in the way of oddities when playing overseas that this one just feels a tad odd as a starting point for Maye's pro career.

FINAL SCORE: Patriots 13, Jaguars 9 (Patriots record: 2-5)

Week 8: Oct. 27 vs. New York Jets

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 40 percent

The percentage odds we've cooked up here continue to drop, in part, because it feels as though there's a shot the Patriots are able to stymie Trevor Lawrence in London.

If that's the case, if Brissett is coming off a win, it still doesn't make all that much sense for the Patriots to trot out Maye against what could be one of the league's top defenses (third in yards allowed in 2023).

Let Quinnen Williams chase the veteran around. Bide your time. And if the Patriots are able to muster a split against Aaron Rodgers, then the team can continue to allow Maye to marinate behind the scenes.

FINAL SCORE: Patriots 23, Jets 16 (Patriots record: 3-5)

Week 9: Nov. 3 at Tennessee Titans

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 20 percent

This game could represent New England's best opportunity to go on a veritable win streak in 2024.

On the one hand, the Patriots may like to get Maye a shot against a softer opponent -- even if it's on the road. On the other, if Brissett keeps winning, and if the Patriots are sniffing .500 midway through the season, it feels as though there's a low likelihood of Jerod Mayo and the rest of the organization opting to trot out their young Tar Heel.

FINAL SCORE: Patriots 28, Titans 14 (Patriots record: 4-5)

Week 10: Nov. 10 at Chicago Bears

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 10 percent

At Chicago. In November. Against a talented defense.

It shouldn't matter to the Patriots that this would be an entertaining matchup between rookies taken in the top three if Maye was slated to start against Caleb Williams. This would not qualify as a soft landing spot. Another good one for the veteran to shoulder as the Patriots get into the stretch run of their season.

FINAL SCORE: Bears 27, Patriots 26 (Patriots record: 4-6)

Week 11: Nov. 17 vs. Los Angeles Rams

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 42 percent

We haven't had a fugazi Perry-generated percentage chance of Maye starting that was this high since the Texans in Week 6. The reason? The Patriots may have seen a potential hot stretch go cold in Chicago. And while the Rams are the better team with the more potent offense, they have oodles of questions defensively.

The combination of the Patriots slowly working their way out of legitimate contention, being at home, and going against a less-than-imposing defense... Could make for a good opportunity for Maye to take his first meaningful snaps.

FINAL SCORE: Rams 20, Patriots 13 (Patriots record: 4-7)

Week 12: Nov. 24 at Miami Dolphins

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 25 percent

While the Patriots' record might have taken a hit against the Rams, the odds of Maye starting on the road against a divisional opponent -- in a spot that has been a house of horrors for them for some time -- also drop here.

If he's gotten this far without starting, maybe wait another week to get him out there. Little upside to making it happen here against Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb, Jalen Ramsey, Jevon Holland and rookie first-round pass-rusher Chop Robinson.

FINAL SCORE: Dolphins 24, Patriots 20 (Patriots record: 4-8)

Week 13: Dec. 1 vs. Indianapolis Colts

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 60 percent

This right here? This would be the date I have my eye on if I'm the Patriots. First, you're going to want to make sure you've answered those two questions we mentioned above: Is Maye ready? And can they protect him? If the responses to both are "yes," then they could be off and running.

The Colts aren't world-beaters. The Patriots may be out of legitimate postseason contention, but they'll be at home, and they'll be staring at a bye the following week.

That time off could give Maye, and his coaching staff, a lengthy opportunity to dissect all that they were able to learn from Game 1. Then they can take what they've learned and apply it to the final month of the season. Feels like a healthy launching point for the career of a highly-drafted rookie quarterback.

FINAL SCORE: Patriots 19, Colts 12 (Patriots record: 5-8)

Week 14: BYE

Week 15: Dec. 15 at Arizona Cardinals

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 55 percent

If it hasn't happened yet, it could happen here.

Fresh off a bye week, with potentially little to play for in the standings, going to Phoenix in a climate-controlled situation against an up-and-coming but not-yet-great team? Wouldn't be a bad place to give Maye the nod.

FINAL SCORE: Cardinals 27, Patriots 23 (Patriots record: 5-9)

Week 16: Dec. 22 at Buffalo Bills

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 5 percent

Feels like a less-than-ideal place to give Maye the nod. In Buffalo? With who knows what being launched in his direction from the stands? Against a team that could very well be fighting for seeding? This one would make little sense.

If the Patriots are set on getting Maye a taste of regular-season football but they don't want him to gorge himself on it, waiting a week here would make a lot more sense than letting him try to get his bearings in Orchard Park, New York against Josh Allen.

FINAL SCORE: Bills 34, Patriots 21 (Patriots record: 5-10)

Week 17: Dec. 29 vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 37 percent

We're not exactly sure when this game will be played, but it wouldn't be the worst time in the world to give Maye a little bit of game action. Even if it would come against the modern-day NFL quarterback to whom Maye has been most compared.

The Patriots have been able to keep Justin Herbert in check -- he has a 59.7 quarterback rating in three career games against New England -- in the recent past so as long as they're able to keep that up, and as long as Maye can manage the game with all the information he's gleaned over 16 regular-season weeks as a spectator, this could end up a nice little home win in Maye's first game if that's how it plays out.

FINAL SCORE: Patriots 13, Chargers 10 (Patriots record: 6-10)

Week 18: Jan. 4 or 5 vs. Buffalo Bills

Odds of Drake Maye starting: 28 percent

This would qualify as the Patrick Mahomes Plan, if it plays out this way.

Two very different situations, to be sure. Mahomes watched one of the league's most productive passers at the time, Alex Smith, help the Chiefs to the postseason in 2017. They had nothing to play for in the season-finale that year.

Maye, meanwhile, could be on a team that's out of the playoff mix well before this point. But the idea would be similar: A talented quarterback in need of seasoning spent almost an entire year on the bench, but less than one calendar year before he takes over as the clear-cut starter, he gets some game experience upon which to build with a long offseason approaching.

Right now, just based on how highly-drafted quarterbacks are handled when taken by non-playoff teams, it seems likely that this will not be Maye's first game. But if it is, that might mean Brissett and the Patriots have surprised with their performance, allowing the future face of the franchise to take his time as his teammates do what they can to keep their playoff hopes alive for as long as possible.

FINAL SCORE: Bills 19, Patriots 16 (Patriots record: 6-11)