The New England Patriots defeated a severely depleted New York Giants team on Thursday Night Football last week 35-14. While it was just a quick-turnaround game against an unfamiliar foe for the undefeated defending Super Bowl champions, it a chance for the Giants to measure up to the best of the best.
It was ugly.
New England jumped out to a 14-0 lead early before bad luck and some miscues forced them into a more disciplined game plan. The Giants tied the score at 14 apiece on a 64 yard completion and touchdown to Golden Tate (on a pass that Jonathan Jones got his hands on) and then a sack and fumble of Tom Brady led to a 42 yard fumble return.
The Patriots scored two touchdowns following long drives highlighted by Brady plunging into the end zone on quarterback keepers to finish both. Those were sandwiched between a 16 play drive that ate almost ten minute of the clock before missing a field goal and another nine play drive over five minutes that ended on a failed fourth down conversion. Add in another touchdown by the defense (Kyle Van Noy this time) and it was a blowout at the end.
Now at 6-0 and facing their latest divisional contender, the Patriots continue a strangle-hold they have had on the AFC East for almost two decades. The six Super Bowl wins and nine trips cement them as a dynasty. They have been to four Super Bowls in the last five years, ten consecutive AFC East championships and eight consecutive trips to the AFC Championship Game.
This week the 1-4 New York Jets–who upset the free-falling Dallas Cowboys last week–suddenly have playoff aspirations. The Monday Night Football game is in the wilds of New Jersey as the Jets welcome the Patriots to what the New Yorkers consider to be their own personal Super Bowl.
For the Patriots, it is only a prime time divisional game in mid-October.
This week’s game will be broadcast by ESPN and can be seen locally on WCVB Channel 5. Joe Tessitore will handle play-by-play duties with Booger McFarland as the color analyst. Lisa Salters will work from the sidelines.
On the radio, Sunday’s game will be broadcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network and all of the network’s 38 stations carry the game live. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci is back to call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who provides his own unique color analysis.
Each week the game comes down to the match-ups. These are the top match-ups on defense that will determine if the Patriots are the team which emerges victorious.
The New England defense continues to be downright dominant through the first games of the 2019 NFL season. Through six games opponents have scored 48 points (first in the NFL). However, three of those six touchdowns came when the defense was on the sidelines (a fumbled punt, a pick-six and sack and fumble scooped and scored).
The dominant New England Patriots unit has three touchdowns and two field goals in six games. Two of those touchdowns were “big plays”: a broken tackle filled wide receiver end around for 65 yards by Steven Sims and a 64 yard touchdown pass (Jonathan Jones actually got his hand on the football but Golden Tate pulled it in and broke a tackle to get in the end zone).
The Patriots have allowed just a,408 yards in six games (number one in the NFL), just 966 passing yards (second-best) and 442 rushing yards (third-best). New England also has created 16 turnovers (first), only 76 first downs (first), and just 0.34 points per drive (all statistics from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted).
The Patriots have allowed just ten third down conversions in six games for a ridiculous 13.7% conversion rate. Opponents have reached the red zone just four times in four games and scored just one red zone touchdown.
How do the Patriots plan to continue their strong defensive momentum in 2019?
New York’s Offensive Line vs Patriots’ Defensive Line:
The Jets made a big move in the offseason to shore up their offensive line by trading for left guard Kelechi Osemele to boost their rushing and passing attack on offense. Osemele is feuding with the Jets regarding his shoulder injury as he feels he needs surgery and New York wants him to report to practice and play through the injury.
Back-up left guard Alex Lewis is on the injury report with a neck injury. Veteran center Ryan Kalil hurt his shoulder at practice this week and is a game time decision. Starting left tackle Kelvin Beachum hurt his ankle last week and may not play Monday night. Brandon Shell and Chuma Edoga are interchangeable as the back-ups at tackle and Jonotthan Harrison and Tom Compton could be pressed into service inside.
Michael Bennett has been suspended for this game but with impressive rookie Chase Winovich (four sacks), young veteran Deatrich Wise (a sack and a forced fumble), free agency find Shilique Calhoun (run-stuffing ability), and the returning John Simon (two sacks and four passes defended) for depth, the defensive line has been able to stuff the run and generate pressure (25 sacks in six games) on a regular basis regardless of the personnel on the field.
In the middle of the defense, Adam Butler has established himself as a pass rushing beast (2.5 sacks) while Danny Shelton (two sacks) has lost some weight and gained back the quickness that made him a first round draft pick. Lawrence Guy was the best defensive tackle last season and has been consistent all season. This defensive front has been able to allow the deep group of linebackers to thrive.
New York’s below-average offensive line is dinged-up and may have to go at less than 100% or get help from a weak collection of back-ups. The Patriots’ defensive line has been dominant so far in 2019 and there is no reason to expect that dominance not to continue this week.
ADVANTAGE: New England
New York’s Running Backs vs Patriots’ Linebackers:
The Jets’ head coach Adam Gase preached a balanced rushing attack before the season started. With former Packers running back Ty Montgomery and pass-catching threat Bilal Powell backing up Le’Veon Bell, it appeared he had the resources to do so. Instead, Powell has two carries and no receptions and Montgomery has six receptions and nine rushing attempts.
Le’Veon Bell has not come off the field as he has played 92.18% of the offensive snaps so far in his first season as a Jet. Bell is tied for the team lead with 28 receptions through five games and has 85 of the team’s 104 rushing attempts. Unfortunately, he has just two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving) and obviously is missing the strong Pittsburgh blockers of his past as he is averaging just 3.0 yards per attempt.
The New England linebackers group has been lavished with praise through six games and with good reason. Despite missing a game earlier in the season with a shoulder injury, Dont’a Hightower has appeared to be rejuvenated and playing stronger and faster than ever. again this week after he missed last week and is limited with a shoulder injury.
Jamie Collins is putting himself into the conversation for defensive player of the year with three interceptions, four passes defended, two forced fumbles, 4.5 sacks and a team-leading 30 tackles. Kyle Van Noy remains a key chess piece in coverage and blitzing (3.5 sacks), captain Elandon Roberts has been strong against the run and impressive second-year linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley looks fast and athletic and has been a pleasant surprise covering running backs.
The Jets have struggled to run the ball all season and have not been able to crack 100 yards rushing yet through five games. With injuries on the offensive line, the New England linebackers could have another big day stopping the run on Monday night.
ADVANTAGE: New England
New York’s Pass Catchers vs Patriots’ Secondary:
New England’s secondary is the strongest unit on a dominant defense. The Patriots will match-up man-to-man and be physical with the Jets’ wideouts. Robby Anderson has struggled against the Patriots and Stephon Gilmore in particular. In his last five games versus the Patriots, Anderson has nine receptions on 21 targets for 59 yards and zero touchdowns.
It is not just Gilmore. Jonathan Jones is the slot cornerback and matches-up against the dangerous Jamison Crowder. Crowder had just two catches in week three on five targets for 25 yards with one catch on two targets with Jones in coverage. Demaryius Thomas (questionable with a hamstring injury) will see a lot of J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty in coverage if he is good to go.
At safety, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung (if he can go–he has been questionable with a chest and also a heel injury) will be responsible for tight end Ryan Griffin. Griffin is not a game-changer, but he can move the sticks in the passing game. They should also help out against Bell and the running backs.
The Jets will need a creative game-plan from Dowell Loggains to be able to move the ball through the air against the New England secondary. If Chung is out or hampered, running back Le’Veon Bell should have a key role in the passing game out of the backfield. The Jets need big plays from Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder and Ryan Griffin converting third-downs in the passing game.
ADVANTAGE: New England
The game plan on defense is the same as it has been for the Patriots through six games: take away the running game early and have the pass coverage force Sam Darnold to hold the ball and allow the pass rush to get pressure. Forcing him to make multiple progressions under pressure can create turnover opportunities and help the offense with field position–something that has happened all season long.
If New England’s defense remains strong on third down, it could be a long day for the Jets’ offense. However, after a strong performance against the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Jets are playing with a lot of confidence with their young quarterback healthy again.
NEW ENGLAND EXPECTED POINTS ALLOWED: 10
-Hal Bent is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @halbent01