Tom E. Curran's Patriots-Jets Preview: Pats facing MNF challenge
The Patriots have had one game in which there was even a shred of doubt about the outcome into the fourth quarter. And even then, did anyone figure the Bills were going to score? Exactly. But Monday night at MetLife the Patriots could get their second decent challenge of the season. Despite their 1-4 record, the Jets just got capable quarterback Sam Darnold back and his presence made a huge difference in the team’s win over Dallas last week. As for the Patriots offense, which isn’t working at optimal potency, the Jets did a nice job against the Patriots in the first meeting between the teams after New England walked through them on their first three drives. With 11 days to prepare for this, Josh McDaniels is sure to have hatched something to get Gregg Williams’ defense off-balance. But the Patriots are still hamstrung on offense by their personnel so this one could turn into a slugfest.
When the Patriots Run
The Patriots have been over 3.5 yards per carry in one game this season (Washington). Last game against the Giants, they had 114 yards on 34 carries (3.4 average) and 26 of them came on the team’s final handoff of the game. For a variety of reasons, they’re struggling. They’re getting no blocking from the tight end spot. The fullback spot has been vacated because of injuries and they aren’t moving teams. The Patriots made an interesting decision in the last game to go with the more decisive running style of Brandon Bolden later in the game and in short yardage. The Jets did a nice job last Sunday bottling up the Cowboys and Ezekiel Elliott (34 carries for 129 yards as a team, 28 for 105 for Elliott). If the Jets get linebacker C.J. Mosley back and rookie Quinnen Williams performs well alongside Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson, the Patriots don’t figure to get on track this week.
When the Jets Run
The Jets couldn’t get anything done on the ground against Dallas last week (56 yards, 50 from Le'Veon Bell). The Patriots have given up some chunk plays on the ground in recent games (41-yarder to Frank Gore and 65 to Steven Sims) but held a Saquon-less Giants team to 52 yards on 16 carries. Maybe the return of Sam Darnold helps over time to loosen up defenses but this isn’t going to be a good week for Bell to bust-out against a defense as stout as the Patriots has been.
When the Patriots Pass
In their first three drives against the Jets in Week 3, the Patriots had an easy time of it. After that? Not so easy. The Patriots drives after getting ahead were: -10, 19, 16, 12, 23, 75, 35, 7, 8, 5. The Jets defense under Gregg Williams bowed up a bit. We’ll see what the Patriots trot out this week at the pass-catching spots. Ben Watson should be an upgrade. Expect Phillip Dorsett to return. Maybe Rex Burkhead as well. Jakobi Meyers had his first meaningful regular-season moments with Tom Brady. So, even though Josh Gordon won't play, there’s reason for at least tepid optimism the passing offense can start to click. The Jets are a lot better defensively than the Giants and New England didn’t make it look easy against the Giants. But that was a short week and this is an 11-day prep period. Give McDaniels and Brady the edge.
When the Jets Pass
Sam Darnold came back from mono like a maniac. Against Dallas, he went 23 for 30 for 338 yards and two scores. While the yardage numbers are propped up by a 92-yard touchdown to Robbie Anderson, the fact is that – against a competent team – Darnold made a slew of good throws and got the Jets in the position they needed to kick a field goal on their final drive and give them the margin they needed. He makes a massive difference and the Jets bring the most capable offense the Patriots have seen into this game. With slot receiver Jamison Crowder (Darnold’s most visited target last week; six catches, 98 yards), outside receiver Robbie Anderson, Demaryius Thomas (a surprising four catches for 62 yards last week), tight end Chris Herndon and running back Le'Veon Bell, the Patriots will get a challenge through the air. Still, you can’t look at what New England’s done to every opponent so far and not come away thinking that Darnold’s going to carve them up. The Jets will be tougher to handle, though.
The Jets have gotten good work from punter Lachlan Edwards. He’s got a 46.8 average, a 42.8 net and has dropped 12 inside the 20. On returns? Nondescript. Braxton Berrios has brought back just five kicks for a 7.8 average. Field goals? Kicker Sam Ficken is 2 for 3. He’s made all his PATs. Kickoff coverage and returns are ordinary. The Patriots have a real good punter. Of 31 punts, he’s put 13 inside the 20 and has just one touchback. The Patriots are still allowing an eye-popping 29.4 yards on kickoff returns and Mike Nugent has now kicked in two games and had a missed kick in each. His miss against the Giants seemed to be caused by Bailey not getting the laces spinned away from him.
OUT: WR Josh Gordon (knee/ankle), TE Ryan Izzo (concussion), TE Matt LaCosse (knee).
QUESTIONABLE: RB Rex Burkhead (foot), S Pat Chung (heel.chest), WR Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), WR Julian Edelman (chest), WR Gunner Olszewski (hamstring).
OUT: LB Albert McClellan (concussion).
DOUBTFUL: DE Henry Anderson (shoulder), RB Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle), TE Chris Herndon (hamstring), LB Neville Hewitt (neck/knee), T Kelechi Osemele (shoulder).
QUESTIONABLE: CB Nate Harrison (foot), C Ryan Kalil (shoulder), G Alex Lewis (neck), DT Steve McClendon (hamstring), LB C.J. Mosley (groin), CB Darryl Roberts (ankle), WR Demaryius Thomas (hamstring), G Brian Winters (shoulder/knee).
It’s a Guns 2.0 joint. Shawn Hochuli’s crew gets the game. His crew has had 37 assessed penalties in its past two games, 21 in last week’s Chiefs-Texans game. During that game, there was a fishy incident in which a flag for pass interference was picked up after the penalty was announced (details here). We’ll see how badly the league decides to stick its hands in the soup in a prime-time game in its own backyard.
The Line & Prediction
Patriots favored by 10. Total is 43.5.
The Patriots are 4-2 against the spread. Their games have gone over the total twice.
Patriots 16, Jets 13
Week 1: Patriots 16, Steelers 13
(Final: Patriots, 33-3)
Week 2: Patriots 30, Dolphins 0
(Final: Patriots, 43-0)
Week 3: Patriots 20, Jets 6
(Final: Patriots, 30-14)
Week 4: Patriots 19, Bills 13
(Final: Patriots, 16-10)
Week 5: Patriots 30, Redskins 13
(Final: Patriots, 33-7)
Week 6: Patriots 16, Giants 3
(Final: Patriots, 35-14)