Another week, another New England victory giving them a pristine 6-0 record. They also get a much needed extra few days off having come off the Thursday night game to help heal some bumps and bruises that have built up through the season. This week however, they get a true divisional test as they travel to MetLife Stadium for their final regular season matchup with the Jets. Unlike last time however, this figures to be a much more challenging test as the Jets now have Sam Darnold under center instead of the recently released Luke Falk. Here is what is happening for this week as the Patriots look to sweep the Jets for the third straight season
Everyone knows how dominant the Patriots have been in the division, but they have really owned the Jets of late. Since 2002, the Patriots are 29-8 against the Jets with a 13-4 record on the road against the Jets. In those 17 road games, New England has outscored them 446-290, good for an average score of 26.2 to 17. Perhaps even crazier though is the offense for New England which has been held under 20 points just three times since 2002 when playing in New York, while the Jets have scored more than 20 points at home against the Patriots just four times since 2002. That means the Jets have scored 20 or more in just 23.5% of their home games against the Pats, while the Pats have scored 20 or more in 82.3% of their road games.
Despite that differential and points stats though, the more recent contests have been much closer. Last year’s game not included, (a 27-13 Pats win) the previous five matchups have been decided by seven points or less.
Despite their perfect 6-0 mark the Patriots have their issues as well. They have some injuries in key spots and now this week it comes down that Michael Bennett is not happy with his limited role. Bennett has slowly been phased out as his snaps have dwindled in the previous weeks and obviously would like to play more as any athlete would. Because of an outburst he reportedly had with defensive line coach Bret Bielema, he has been suspended for one week.
Taking a step back and looking at it, this seems like it might be the beginning of the end for Bennett’s time as a Patriot. He is rocking the boat at a time when the Patriots have good depth along their front seven, Bennett doesn’t really fit in as well with their current scheme, and usually if you don’t fall in line in Foxborough, you won’t last long. Throw in the fact the trade deadline is rapidly approaching and you have the makings of a situation likely to end soon, but who knows. Sometimes injuries or things have a way of working themselves out without even making a judgement. In my opinion though, Bennett, who can still play at a high level, is likely to be moved to open up cap space to chase a pass catcher or upgrade on the offensive side of the ball.
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Because of the fact the Jets now have Sam Darnold back in the fold, their offensive stats are not a good indicator of their offense anymore. So let’s turn our attention to their defense, which is currently ranked 19th in total yards allowed, 21st in passing yards allowed, and 13th in rushing yards allowed. Very mediocre numbers, but also remember how much pressure they were under with an offense that scored just 23 points, 28 first downs, 495 yards and one offensive touchdown over three games.
With those numbers it stands to figure that the Patriots may choose to attack the Jets through the air, but if I had to guess, I would think the Patriots try to build on last week’s success rushing the ball and potentially use some play action to get big chunk plays considering their limited depth at wide receiver. Moreover the signings of Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson figure to add another level of blocking to the attack, while giving them a bigger threat than Ryan Izzo in the passing attack in regards to Watson.
Looking back to last week’s Jets-Cowboys game, it is easy to see how the Jets could be positive going forward as an attack featuring Robby Anderson, Demariyus Thomas, and Jamison Crowder along with Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. However it is also easy to see how the Patriots matchup extremely well against then on defense. The Patriots have a strong group of defensive backs that will allow them to play man to man across the board and really test Sam Darnold’s ball placement and accuracy under pressure. Moreover, the pass rush, which has been a strength of New England’s thus far, will give them plenty of chances to force turnovers for the still young quarterback. Look for Jonathan Jones to have a big impact if he is able to take away Jamison Crowder and most likely Jason McCourty with help over the top on Robby Anderson. If those two are taken out of the game, the Patriots will be in good shape.
Prediction: Patriots 23 Jets 13
The Patriots will have a tough matchup this week as they are banged up and the Jets, as any divisional game does, provide a tough divisional matchup. In the end the Patriots have a defense that is too good and will be able to flip the field enough that the Patriots should be able to capitalize on those chances despite limited resources on the offensive side.
–David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani