Curran's Hard Truths Game Preview: When the Jets have the ball

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Curran's Hard Truths Game Preview: When the Jets have the ball

The Patriots surrendered 34 points to the Titans two weeks ago in a disappointing loss. After their bye week, along come the offensively challenged Jets. Should be just what New England needs...

By Land: With much-traveled and slowly deteriorating Josh McCown in for injured rookie starting quarterback Josh McCown, the 3-7 Jets are going to need to do business on the ground. Their main back is Isaiah Crowell (552 yards, 4.8 YPC, 6 TDs) since Bilal Powell landed on IR with a neck injury.  Since running for 323 yards against Denver on Oct. 7, the Jets have rushed for more than 83 yards as a team just once (107 vs. Indy on 10/14). As a team, they haven’t been over 282 total yards in their past four games. New York doesn’t have the change-up back that gives the Patriots fits and their left guard, James Carpenter, is doubtful to play. the New England defense is very healthy overall, so look for a superior game against the run for the Patriots.

By Air: Astounding stat? The Jets are 8-for-52 on third down in their past four games. That’s the combination of Darnold and McCown for you. McCown made his first start two weeks ago against Buffalo and was 17 for 34 for 135 yards with two picks. For the season, New York is completing 54.5 percent of its passes. Quincy Enunwa is a talented receiver but he’s about it on the outside. He’s got 29 catches and an 11.9 YPC average. Robbie Anderson has been their field stretcher (16.5 YPC on 21 catches). New York’s scored 43 points in its past four games and – because of their inability to convert third downs at a decent rate – have punted 55 times this year. By contrast, the Patriots have punted 38 times in what’s been a down year offensively for them.

Kicking Game: The Jets’ punt return game has been a bright spot with Andre Roberts averaging 16.8 per return. Look for the Patriots – who’ve been allowing 13.1 on punt returns (29th in the NFL) – to try and keep it clear of Roberts. Their kicker, Jason Myers, is having a very good year with four field goals outside of 55 yards. He’s missed just two field goals and one PAT this season.

Key Matchup: It’s safe to assume the Patriots will try and get Stephon Gilmore on Enunwa after Gilmore’s poor game against Tennessee’s Corey Davis before the bye. The solidly-built, 6-2 Enunwa is a versatile player and dangerous after the catch so it’s a good chance for Gilmore to get back in the saddle against a talented wideout and return to the outstanding level he’d been playing at.

Who’s Hurt: Darnold, as we mentioned, is out with a foot injury. Left guard James Carpenter is doubtful with a shoulder injury. Anderson’s ankle has him listed as questionable. Enunwa’s ankle caused him to be a limited participant at practice Wednesday and Thursday but he was a full participant Friday.

Recent Past: The Jets (3-7) fell behind Buffalo 24-0 and lost 41-10 before their bye. Matt Barkley was the Bills’ quarterback. They lost to Brock Osweiler and the Dolphins in Miami 13-6 three weeks ago. They also lost 37-17 to the Vikings and 24-10 to Chicago.

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Could Patriots ranking among dead money leaders cost team in 2020?

Could Patriots ranking among dead money leaders cost team in 2020?

The New England Patriots have won six Super Bowls over the last 20 years in part by spending wisely.

Is that all about to change?

The Patriots currently have the least amount of cap space of any NFL team at $1.85 million, per Spotrac. Part of the reason for that is the amount of money they're paying to players who won't play for them in 2020 -- otherwise known as "dead money."

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In fact, New England currently owes $24 million in "dead money," which according to Spotrac puts the team in dubious company.

Let's just say the Panthers, Jaguars, Rams and Dolphins aren't expected to be Super Bowl contenders in 2020.

And if the last four seasons are any indication, the Patriots would be bucking a trend just by going 9-7 in their first season of the post-Tom Brady era.

Brady is the primary reason why New England is in this position: He accounts for $13.5 million of that $24 million number, while Antonio Brown is next-closest with $4.5 million in dead money owed.

But such was the contract that Brady signed last August that gave him a potential out in 2020 -- one he took to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rather than take another pay cut to stay in New England.

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The Patriots, who have signed all of their 2020 draft picks, still can create extra cap space by trading or extending offensive guard Joe Thuney, who currently has a $14.7 million cap hit that's second-highest on the team.

New England also could restructure the deals of several other players -- like it did recently with Patrick Chung -- to free up more space.

That dead money isn't going away, though, so Bill Belichick and presumptive starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham have another historic precedent to overcome this season.

What's with Jarrett Stidham's surprisingly strong 2020 NFL MVP odds?

What's with Jarrett Stidham's surprisingly strong 2020 NFL MVP odds?

Christian McCaffrey led the NFL in total scrimmage yards in 2019. Jarrett Stidham attempted three passes that weren't intercepted.

Both players share the same odds to win 2020 NFL MVP.

That's right: The New England Patriots' second-year quarterback, who has yet to start an NFL game after backing up Tom Brady last season, is listed at +5000 to win the NFL MVP award at DraftKings Sportsbook.

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Stidham shares those +5000 odds with eight other players. Here's the list:

Josh Allen, QB, Bills
Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions

To reiterate: Stidham (who might not even start in Week 1) has the same chance to be named the NFL's best player as the league's rushing title holder (Henry), a former Rookie of the Year (Barkley) and the guy who was supposed to be Brady's heir apparent in New England (Garoppolo).

How is this possible? It's all about expectations.

Many expect the Patriots to nosedive following Brady's departure to Tampa Bay. But if Stidham can guide New England to a winning record or even a playoff berth, he could gain traction as a dark-horse MVP candidate who worked wonders with an offense lacking elite weapons.

Considering Bill Belichick's Patriots went 11-5 with Matt Cassel after Brady got hurt in 2008, that scenario isn't totally far-fetched.

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Of course, there still are 11 players with better MVP odds than Stidham, including Brady, whose +1600 odds rank him behind Dak Prescott (+1400), Russell Wilson (+800), Lamar Jackson (+700) and favorite Patrick Mahomes (+400), per DraftKings Sportsbook.

But it appears there's faint optimism among oddsmakers that "The Stidham Plan" will pay off in a breakout season for the 23-year-old QB.