It’s difficult to know what to make of the Patriots this year. On one hand, they are 2-4 and have only beaten the Jets and Texans. However, they almost beat Miami, Tampa and the Cowboys and are arguably three plays away from being 5-1. According to DraftKings sportsbook, the Patriots are 6.5 point favorites against the Jets.
Everything seems to hinge on rookie Mac Jones, whose game management style is keeping the Patriots competitive as he limits his mistakes. However, he’s not quite been good enough to finish off those stronger teams.
In the first game against the Jets, the Patriots adopted a clear approach of playing very conservatively so they didn’t risk any turnovers and allowing the Jets to beat themselves. They were turnover-free in this game, although that’s been an outlier as they’ve had multiple turnovers in each of their other five games.
Brian Hoyer is the number two, but hasn’t played yet this year. Hoyer has lost his last 11 starts.
The Patriots have had some issues on the offensive line. Right tackle Trent Brown has been placed on injured reserve with a calf injury, right guard Shaq Mason has missed the last couple of games with an abdominal injury and left tackle Isaiah Wynn and left guard Mike Onwenu both missed week five’s game while on Covid-19 reserve and came off the bench last week.
As a result, the only first-string offensive lineman to start the Dallas game was center David Andrews. In fact, he’s played every snap so far this season.
Justin Herron started at left tackle and Yodny Cajuste started on the right, while Ted Karras and James Ferentz started at guard in that game. Jones was sacked twice and hit three other times, but the Patriots had some success running the ball, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Herron and Ferentz have struggled in their backup duties and there have been calls for Wynn to be benched as he leads the team with three offensive penalties. However, Karras has been a solid reserve and Onwenu is having another good season after moving inside. He saw some time back at right tackle in the Dallas game though.
It sounds like the line is getting healthy just in time to face the Jets. Wynn and Onwenu each returned to action off the bench in the Dallas game and Mason returned to practice this week.
The Patriots also have Yasir Durant on the roster available for depth, while Ferentz remains on the practice squad despite starting last week.
Damien Harris is coming off his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, as he racked up 101 yards in the Dallas game, despite all the absences on the offensive line. He leads the team with 331 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
Brandon Bolden and James White have 26 catches between them in the third down back role. White was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury a few weeks ago though.
It’s been a slow start for fourth round rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, who fumbled in his first game and then was inactive for the next three. However, he enjoyed a bit of a breakout in the Dallas game with 62 yards on eight touches.
JJ Taylor has just four carries for five yards this season, while Jakob Johnson has exclusively been employed as a blocking back so far.
Jakobi Meyers has continued to emerge as the team’s most productive wide receiver as he leads the team with 36 catches. For his career, Meyers has 121 catches but no touchdowns. He has, however, thrown two touchdown passes and has completed all four of his pass attempts, so the Jets should be wary of any gadget plays.
Offseason acquisitions Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne have combined for 35 catches and three touchdowns. Bourne leads the team with a 15.7 yards per catch average, although that’s mainly inflated by his 75-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of the Dallas game, which saw the Cowboys secondary blow the coverage.
Former first round pick N’Keal Harry remains a disappointment while Gunner Olszewski and Matthew Slater will continue to be used mostly on special teams.
New England will continue to run multiple tight end sets and involve offseason additions Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in the passing game. Henry leads the team with three touchdown catches, but Smith has also contributed 16 catches and one score.
Former third round pick Devin Asiasi is the third string tight end but he hasn’t been getting any playing time.
New England continues to operate multiple fronts on defense. Their rotation remains intact apart from the loss of ex-Jets lineman Henry Anderson to injured reserve.
Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy are starters on the inside, with Carl Davis and rookie Christian Barmore backing them up. Godchaux didn’t practice all week and is listed as questionable due to a finger injury. Then again, New England listed a ridiculous 14 players as questionable so you perhaps can’t read too much into that.
So far, they’ve struggled up front. The Jets rushed for 152 yards on them in week two, although that is the highest anyone has managed this season. Barmore is starting to show some disruptiveness as a pass rusher but has yet to register his first sack.
They have multiple options on the edge, with Deatrich Wise often lining up as a 3-4 end. Davis can also line up on the edge.
Matt Judon’s big-money offseason deal is starting to pay dividends as he already leads the team with 6.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and eight tackles for loss coming off the edge.
Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley are listed as the starting inside linebackers, although New England do rotate a lot with Kyle Van Noy also getting plenty of reps. They recently added veterans Jamie Collins and Jahlani Tavai to the roster for added depth here. Van Noy may end up starting for Hightower who missed practice on Friday and is listed as questionable.
Chase Winovich, Ronnie Perkins and Brandon King can all also play on the edge but Winovich is on injured reserve and Perkins and King haven’t been part of the defensive rotation. Van Noy and Harvey Langi, currently listed as off-ball backup linebackers, can also contribute there and Josh Uche has been a useful rotational contributor with three sacks in five games.
New England forcing four turnovers was the obvious key to their 25-6 win against the Jets back in week two. However, that’s been something of an outlier too, because they have only forced a total of four turnovers in their other five games combined.
At cornerback, the Patriots have JC Jackson and Jalen Mills starting outside and Jonathan Jones as the primary slot option. Jones has been ruled out due to injury though. Jackson has been feast-or-famine as he leads the team with two interceptions (both in the Jets game) and nine passes defensed but also has a team-high five penalties.
The Patriots operate a lot out of three-safety sets with Kyle Dugger joining starters Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips. Dugger actually leads the team with 39 tackles.
Reserves Myles Bryant, Cody Davis and Justin Bethel don’t usually play much but Bryant and Bethel have each been called upon to play some rotational reps over the past few games. Youngster Joejuan Williams has seen some backup reps at cornerback and may need to step up again with Jones out.
Recent addition Shaun Wade hasn’t played yet and has already been ruled out of this one due to injury.
Despite initially losing the kicker job to rookie Quinn Nordin, ex-Jet Nick Folk has remained as the placekicker all year. His missed 56-yard field goal in the last minute of the loss to the Bucs ended a franchise-record streak of 36 consecutive makes. Folk has also missed two extra points.
The Patriots’ gunners - Slater and Bethel - remain the key to their excellent punt coverage and help boost Jake Bailey’s punting statistics. Bailey also kicks off as the likes of Cody Davis, Dugger and King all also contribute well on the kick coverage units.
In the return game, Olszewski is the primary return man with Bolden the backup kick returner and Taylor listed as the backup on Punts. Olszewski hasn’t had much impact yet this year.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.