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The New England Patriots Season is On the Line Against the Jets

It has been a hot minute since a New England Patriots-New York Jets game has had some high-ish stakes. Even longer to where the Jets entered with a better record. The Patriots have to put their disaster of a Monday Night Football performance in the rear-view mirror and fast. Mac Jones is officially off the injury report and set to start once again. Even with the overwhelming support of the locker room behind him, this is the biggest game of the second-year quarterback’s pro career. How will he handle it going up against a New York team on a four-game win streak?


Game Info

Date: Sunday, October 30th

Start Time: 1:00 EST

Location: East Rutherford, New Jersey

Stadium: MetLife Stadium

TV Info: CBS (Ian Eagle and Charles Davis on the call)

Uniform Info: White Jerseys, Blue Pants


New York Jets

Defense

Not quite the Revis Jets defense, but Robert Saleh’s group is well on their way to becoming a top 10, borderline top five, defense in the league by the end of the season. As of now, the Jets rank top 10 in total yards per game as well as points, while just ranking outside in rush and pass yards allowed per game. In their current win streak, they’ve also allowed just 14 points a game on the dot. Granted those were against the Steelers, Dolphins with Teddy Bridgewater/Skyler Thompson, Packers, and Broncos, but they can’t control the order of who they play.

Ultimately, the big reason this Jets defense is in the position that it’s in is defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. The fourth-year veteran out of Alabama has been a one-man wrecking crew up front, with his five sacks, four tackles for loss, and force fumble (tie) all leading the team through four weeks. The 11-million-dollar fifth-year option for next year could end up being a fraction of what he’s going to make on his second contract at this rate. Others in the front seven who have picked up the slack this year include lineman Sheldon Rankins, Carl Lawson, and rookie Jermaine Johnson out of Florida State. Along with veteran linebacker C.J. Mosely.

The real star on this New York defense resides at cornerback, and he’s only seven games into his NFL career. Of course, I’m talking about Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner out of the University of Cincinnati. Just about everything you’re looking for in a perspective No. 1 corner, you have with Sauce. Stickiness in coverage, elite athleticism, toughness, and swagger, lots of it. PFF has him down for just one four-yard catch allowed since Week 4 on 13 targets. Have I also mentioned that he has NEVER allowed a touchdown as a cornerback? To say I was furious when the Jets got Gardner fourth overall in the draft would be an understatement. This is a guy who could very well be considered the best outright cornerback in football in short order, he’s that good.



Offense

It was not a good weekend for the Jets' offense and that has leaked into this week as well. The big news from Sunday was that rookie running back Breece Hall is done for the year with a torn ACL. Calling that a soul-crushing loss would be putting it lightly. The Iowa State product was just shy of averaging six yards a carry for 463 total yards. In addition to the fact that Hall is as of now, the Jets' fourth-best pass catcher in terms of both yardage and targets. From every angle, he was their offense. The good news is that GM Joe Douglass wasted no time in getting a stopgap option in the form of James Robinson. Hard to say how much of an impact he will have, but the combination of him and Michael Carter II should get them by.

Another season-ending injury for the Jets this weekend was with right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, who tore his tricep on Sunday. A huge loss, that now has the Jets down to just two of their expected five starters from training camp on the line. Additionally, Wideout Corey Davis is expected to be out this week with an MCL sprain, giving disgruntled second-year receiver Elijah Moore an opportunity to get back into the lineup. Rookie Garrett Wilson will also have the chance to hopefully do some damage here as well. The bulk of his production came with Joe Flacco in the first three weeks of the year. In that span, he had 18 catches for 214 yards and two scores, two-thirds of his production on the year.

Onto Zach Wilson now, who is 4-0 as a starter this year, but has just one touchdown and is averaging under 175 yards a game. Personally, I never got the hype with him out of BYU, which had him as the consensus No. 2 QB in last year’s draft over Justin Fields, Trey Lance, and Mac Jones. Last year the Patriots handed him his lunch money twice, picking him off four times in Week 2 last season. So far this year, he is also the second-worst quarterback in the league under pressure, only ahead of one Michael McCorkle Jones.


New England Patriots

Defense

Some great news for the Patriots is that Kyle Dugger returned to practice on Friday after leaving the Bears game early with an injury. The bad news is that Christian Barmore was seen doing conditioning work, and was ruled out later on Friday. New England got gashed in the run game against Chicago and should get to some plus fronts as they did against the Browns. Patriots are 0-3 when allowing over 5.3 yards a carry, and 3-1 when allowing under. More or less that could be the game.

The Patriots should also make it a mission to attack the right side of the Jets' offensive line. With Vera-Tucker and Mehki Beckton on the shelf, they should be ripe for the picking. New York has also given up at least two sacks in their last three games. With Matt Judon and Deatrich Wise playing scorching hot right now, they’ll hopefully get their chances.

Looking at the corner situation, the Patriots must do something about Myles Bryant’s playing time. Last week he took 44 percent of the defensive snaps, compared to Marcus Jones who got just 13 percent, the least of all defensive backs. Granted, some of that had to do with him slotting in safety after Dugger went down, but he has continued to get picked in coverage week after week. Based on what Marcus Jones has shown in coverage so far, I have a very hard time believing he doesn’t give the Patriots a better shot to win games over Bryant. Johnathan and Jack Jones on the outside, Marcus Jones in the slot with Jalen Mills as your primary floater, and you have a rock-solid group.

Furthermore, New York sits as one of the five worst third-down offenses in football and ranks as the second-worst team in time per drive. After getting bully balled on third down by the Bears, there is no excuse to be that bad two weeks in a row situationally, especially given the Jets' track record so far this season.


Offense

On Friday, Matt Patricia had one of his rare media appearances this year (He’s not the offensive coordinator by name, which means he isn’t obliged to do weekly media). During this, he stated that a trend of differing game plans for Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe comes down to the opponent and not the quarterback. In the words of the great Ron Burgandy “I don’t believe you”. Taylor Kyles does a great job explaining the numbers with Next Gen stats below, but the eye test also tells you enough, that simply is untrue. Ultimately, Patricia needs to do a better job of getting the offense in a good spot with Jones under center, and Jones doesn’t need to go for kill-shot passes on every drive. He’s gone deep, percentage-wise, more than any QB in the league this year, resulting in six interceptions. Don’t think that’ll fly against the Jets (pun very much intended).

Before abandoning the run game late on Monday, Rhamondre Stevenson was effectively shut down for the first time all year, going for 11 carries and under 40 yards. The Jets run defense has been a boom-or-bust unit in a sense, but without David Andrews in the middle of the line, things get difficult this weekend. Damien Harris only got three carries on Monday, so depending on how he is doing with the hamstring, might not be a bad idea to give the Jets' front some different looks

For the pass catchers, whoever ends up drawing Sauce Gardner could be in for a rough afternoon, but D.J. Reed has given up catches on over 62 percent of his targets, most of all defensive backs on the Jets. Look for Jones to perhaps test him early. Additionally, the Jets have had a good amount of trouble with tight ends this year so far. Not only does Matt Patricia need to get Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith more involved, but Jones must get them the ball in space. Based on games from guys like Mark Andrews, Pat Freiermuth, and Robert Tonyan, they should have plenty of chances on Sunday.


Betting Odds:

Points Spread: NE -2.5 (-114) | NYJ +2.5 (-106)

Moneyline: NE (-142) | CLE (+102)

Over/Under: O 39.5 (-106) | U 39.5 (-114)


Even with the injury to Hall, I was surprised to see that the Patriots opened as a favorite on the road earlier in the week, which has stuck. Worth noting however that the Jets are 1-2 both outright and ATS at MetLife Stadium so far this year, with the only cover/win coming against a Dolphins team without Tua Tagovailoa. Since Robert Saleh got the Jets job last season, the Jets are also 11-13 ATS, which further breaks down to 4-7 as a home dog. Worth noting that the Jets are undefeated outright and ATS to this point on the road, however.


For the Patriots, their blowout win in Cleveland pushed them to 2-1-1 ATS on the road this season, after going 5-3 a season ago. As it relates to this division rivalry, the Patriots have beaten the Jets by an average of 19.25 points since Tom Brady left, which includes a 2020 game that the Jets gagged away for a three-point loss. As well as a 41-point blowout in Foxborough last fall, which was the last time these two teams met. The average total of those last four games as well is 49.5 points, 10 over this weekend's O/U. I wouldn’t recommend touching this game with the uncertainty of both offenses. But if I had to choose, I’d say Patriots and under.



Prediction:

Don’t particularly feel great about either team entering this weekend for a variety of reasons. With that said, the Patriots should be entering this weekend pissed off after what happened on Monday. For the time being, you could argue that this is the Patriots' season on the line with how the AFC East is going with the Dolphins and Bills rolling. Going multiple games down to the Jets this early in the year would be a death sentence. Should the Jets win, I wouldn’t be shocked, they are more than due to do so. However, I would like to think that after having to hear about their shortcomings all week locally (some deservingly so), Belichick and the Patriots are going to come out and execute better than the opposition. Bring me Fireman Ed.


Final Score: New England Patriots 20, New York Jets 10

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