94 seconds, four snaps, and one drive. That's all the New York Jets got out of Aaron Rodgers in year one due to a freak Achilles tendon rupture in his much anticipated Jets debut. Now, they find themselves in an all too familiar spot with Zach Wilson back under center, mediocrity. Bad quarterback play, zero protection, plus an elite opposing pass rush equals a recipe for disaster, and that was the case for them in Dallas last Sunday.
Despite the dire straights the Jets find themselves in, they come into this weekend with a win since Buffalo did everything in their power to snag defeat from the jaws of victory in Week 1. The same can't be said for the Patriots, who've had two good chances to beat arguably two of the three best teams in the NFL in the form of the Eagles and Dolphins, blowing both. Now, their season is very much on the rocks, not even a month into the season, hoping to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2000 and stretch things to 15 straight victories over the Jets.
Date: Sunday, September 24
Start Time: 1:00 EST
Location: East Rutherford, New Jersey
Stadium: MetLife Stadium
TV Info: CBS (Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the call)
Patriots Uniform Info: White Tops, Blue Bottoms
Players Already Ruled Out Before Sunday
New York Jets: Duane Brown (OT), Tony Adams (SAF), Wes Schweitzer (IOL)
New England Patriots: Jonathan Jones (CB), Sidy Sow (OT/IOL)
New York Jets
While the Jets bent a ton as a group this last week, they've allowed just three touchdowns through two games, none of which have come on the ground. The Bills running game not doing much wasn't a big shock, but Tony Pollard had to fight to get to 72 yards on 25 carries. Not great news for a Patriots rushing offense that has got nothing done on the ground two weeks into the year. Give much of the credit there to Quinnen Williams, who's been as advertised since signing his monster extension.
While the Jets' secondary is one of the league's best, they'll be without a lesser-known piece nationally in the form of safety Tony Adams. He played in all but two snaps against the Bills and was likely on pace for another high usage rate outing against the Cowboys before a second-quarter hamstring injury knocked him out for the day. That makes former Green Bay Packer Adrian Amos the next man up, and he got about 50 snaps worth of run in Dallas. Good on the Jets for getting him when they did after Chuck Clark tore his ACL. Would've been a near-nightmare scenario had they not.
Now Dallas, while not having a huge game through the air, may have given the blueprint to attack this Jets team in the passing game. CeeDee Lamb picked up 11 catches for 143 yards. 75 percent of his total snaps came in the slot, and I had him down for six catches on seven targets for 71 yards. I bring this up because Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed don't travel into the slot. Sauce hasn't at all this year, and Reed has just one (1) slot snap to his name through two games. If the Jets aren't willing to take their two best cover guys and move them into the slot, make them pay for it. It did wonders for Lamb as you can see on his 11th and final grab.
And while the Jets haven't given up many yards to tight ends (yet), it was a big issue for the Jets last year, and they're one of just four teams to allow more than 10 catches and multiple touchdowns to tight ends so far this season. And the Patriots have played two of those four defenses already this season.
If you want to know if Bill Belichick thinks an opposing quarterback is not good, wait for him to say something along the lines of "he can make all of the throws", but nothing beyond that. Patriots defenders have been saying that this week, which Belichick has done for years now, with guys like Jared Goff and Sam Darnold, for example, plus Wilson in the past. So yeah, safe to say they don't think too highly of the BYU product inside the walls of Gillette Stadium, and based on his four games against the Patriots as well as against the Cowboys, it's easy to see why.
Against a game plan that dared Wilson to win, he did anything but. His lone touchdown in this game came off a missed tackle on a 68-yard score by Garrett Wilson, which accounted for nearly half of his passing yards on the day. Dan Quinn just loaded the box and let his front seven go to town, and that was just about the end of that. Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall failed to hit 10 yards rushing with four carries each. Not exactly ideal.
The only Jets pass-catcher to make any impact was Tyler Conklin, who hauled in five of his six targets for 50 yards. Guys had a hard time getting open, and Wilson was well below average, which didn't help. Not to mention, Garrett Wilson having eight targets but just two catches (see the above incompletion). Given how teams can play this offense with Rodgers out of the equation now, these down-the-depth chart guys must find ways to get open moving forward. It can't come down to Wilson every week to carry the pass-catching load.
Despite Jets' GM Joe Douglas all but lying under oath that they were not worried about their offensive line at the end of August, they probably should be right now. Two weeks into the season, Wilson has been pressured the fifth most per dropback despite facing the second least amount of blitzes in the league with 10. Playing the Cowboys can do that, but this offensive line had abundantly clear holes going into the year, and you're seeing those on full display. Making things worse is left tackle Duane Brown already being ruled out. Regardless, Jets head coach Robert Saleh doesn't seem keen on changing things yet. I'm Interested to see if there's a change of tune after Sunday.
New England Patriots
The frustrating thing about the start of this season is how the Patriots defense has been playing well in totality. They held Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa to under 250 passing yards each and held the Dolphins and Eagles to a combined 42 points. They've also forced the third most three and outs of any team in football, and considering the competition in front of them so far, that's wildly impressive.
The one area where the Patriots have started slower than expected is in the sack department. They have just four as a team through two games, which puts them about a half dozen behind some of the teams they were in line with a season ago by the end. I don't think it's lack of effort, especially by guys like Josh Uche, Christian Barmore, and Keion White, who have all looked great as pass rushers two games in, so it may be a matter of finding the right team, and there may not be a better opportunity to get things going than this weekend.
As far as how they'll play things, I think it's simple in theory. More or less, I'm doing exactly what Dallas did last weekend: Lots of heavy fronts, do not allow Breece Hall or Dalvin Cook to take over, trust your defensive backs to take care of things and make Zach Wilson beat you. Had Jonathan Jones not gotten ruled out just hours ago, I would have advocated for him to travel with Garrett Wilson and Gonzo to go with Allen Lazard to make up for the size gap, but that's out of the question now with his injury and Marcus Jones going to IR.
If there's any solace to the Patriots' offensive line health woes, things are taking a turn for the better. Trent Brown should hopefully be good to go after getting a contract incentive bump earlier this week, and this will be his first game with the IOL fully intact. I wonder if the Patriots would consider benching Calvin Anderson to go with Vederian Lowe at right tackle. It's hard to get on Anderson too much since he missed all of camp with some sort of sickness, but the bottom line is he hasn't been good enough through two games. Let him get a week off to reset, and then you re-evaluate from there. Especially since the Jets love to send four, you can afford to give him some help for the most part.
Hard not to tie the offensive line with the running game, and it's been brutal, to say the least. Rhamondre Stevenson's yards per carry average has nearly been cut in half from 5.0 last year to 2.8 despite getting one more carry per. Bill O'Brien made no excuses over how things have started on the ground, and it may not translate this week because of the matchup, things have to get better sooner or later. You can't have Mac Jones throwing for nearly 50 times a game every weekend.
Circling back to the slot being a point of emphasis against the Jets, let's talk about Pop Douglas. All week we've heard his teammates and coaches talk positively about him after his fumble, and hopefully, that translates to him not being in the doghouse again. Bill O'Brien stated, "I have a lot of confidence in Pop Douglas." The Patriots don't have anyone else they can use like him with these Tyreek Hill-esque pre-snap motions, and he plays with a ton of juice. Put him in the slot against Michael Carter and let him go to work.
Points Spread: NYJ +2.5 (-105) | NE -2.5 (-115)
Moneyline: NYJ (+128) | NE (-152)
Over/Under: O 36.5 (-105) | U 36.5 (-115)
Lines via FanDuel as of Saturday, September 23
Straight to the point, Patriots outright, ATS, and under in this one. I would be stunned if this game goes over with the pair of defenses involved and the fact that the Jets are having a hard time finding their offensive rhythm with Zach Wilson.
For as many flaws as the Patriots have right now, I agree with Matt Judon with his sentiment that this is not a bad football team. Not to mention that the Jets are a more flawed team right now with an even worse offense. We could be sticking a fork in the Patriots playoffs hopes soon if these woes continue, but Sunday will not be that day. It'll probably be tight for longer than you would want, but Patriots by 10 feels like a reasonable outcome. Feed me Fireman Ed's tears.
Final Score: New England Patriots 20, New York Jets 10
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