The New York Jets try to keep their recent winning ways going when they host the New England Patriots this week. Previewing this matchup, Taylor Kyles of Pats Pulpit was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2022 Patriots.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. The Patriots are off to a 3-4 start to the 2022 season, and they are in the unaccustomed position of last place in the AFC East, coming off an ugly blowout loss to the Chicago Bears last week. Needless to say, this is not the way the Patriots are used to things going. What has gone wrong with this Patriots team, who are the major culprits responsible for the lackluster start to this season, and do you see the Patriots making a run at a playoff berth in 2022?
Unfortunately, turnovers and penalties have been one of the few constants for New England’s offense. Flags are constantly putting them behind the chains and making their offense predictable. Mac Jones is typically a good decision-maker, but he’s had at least one inexcusable interception in every game he’s played this season. The offensive line has also underperformed the past couple of weeks after a strong few weeks. The run game has been disrupted by stunt-heavy defensive fronts (like the Jets), and Trent Brown had a rare bad game against Robert Quinn. Usual starting RT Isaiah Wynn was also a healthy scratch last week following weekly penalties and some poor reps against top rushers.
Defensively, the team hasn’t been able to contain QB runs at all this season. Their lack of tape on Justin Fields designed runs was a huge disadvantage last week, but the Ravens ran all over the defense in Week 3 with Lamar Jackson’s signature gap-read scheme. Their rush-lane integrity could also improve, but there were a couple of Fields scrambles vs the Bears that were more on the passer’s rare athleticism than poor execution. Coverage-wise, the Bears’ gaining (and never giving up) a significant lead made them unpredictable and forced the Patriots to play zone for most of the game, which isn’t where they wanna live. This is a defense designed to play man-to-man, and they looked dominant on the rare reps they played it, save for a pick play and some well-called runs.
2. One surprising development for the Patriots this season is the rise of rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe. After Mac Jones was injured the unheralded Zappe got his chance and performed well enough for some to call for him to be the starter even after Jones returned. The bloom came off the rose a bit when Zappe struggled against the Bears last week, but with Jones struggling this year, is there any real quarterback controversy in New England? Based on what you’ve seen from Jones and Zappe, and for the purposes of this discussion, disregarding draft capital spent on each guy, who do you think should start for the Patriots?
Bailey Zappe did an excellent job in relief of Mac Jones given his rookie status and ball security. But watching Zappe’s play closely shows a player who isn’t ready to be an NFL starter. His accuracy has been inconsistent, he’s missed some downfield reads, and being behind against the Packers and Bears showed his inability to carry the offense when teams expect pass.
Mac’s penchant for turnovers this season has been the biggest difference between the two in terms of play, but the two have also been operating very different offenses. Zappe has received significantly more quick passes, play-action, and screens than Jones did in his three starts to open the season. Though Mac did see an uptick in play-action attempts in his brief stint last week, he was not afforded the easier stick, rub, and slant concepts that were called for Zappe.
3. Could you let Jets fans know about any significant additions or subtractions to the team since last year and how are these changes working out? Also, how has the 2022 draft class for the Patriots been performing?
DeVante Parker has been the biggest addition for New England this season following a rare in-division trade with the Dolphins. Though he got off to a slow start, the receiver has come on of late with some jaw-dropping receptions downfield.
J.C. Jackson seemed like a huge loss before the season, but the team’s depth at cornerback has made the decision to let him walk look like a wise one.
In terms of rookies, as I mentioned above, Zappe was a pleasant surprise after being forced into action well before anyone could’ve anticipated.
The Patriots’ rookie class has far exceeded expectations, though there have of course been speed bumps. 1st rounder Cole Strange has been a starter since Day 1 and held up well for most of the season, with his rare athleticism standing out weekly.
CB Jack Jones has received heavy snaps due to injury and been a ball magnet who rarely gives up big plays, though his aggressive play style has led to open receivers on double-moves where he wasn’t targeted.
CB Marcus Jones, who was projected as a slot-only type due to size concerns, has rotated in at outside and inside corner the past few weeks and made a very strong impression. His main role has been as a returner, but fans are hoping to see him become a more integral part of the defense.
WR Tyquan Thornton began the year on IR, but the team has gone out of its way to get him involved since he returned in Week 5. His quickness, speed, and route running pop when you turn on the tape, and it seems like just a matter of time until he becomes a regular contributor.
4. From an opponents’ standpoint, what has been working against the Patriots so far this year on offense and on defense? How would you go about trying to beat this Patriots team?
Offensively, moving the pocket and throwing on early downs vs zone coverage are the Jets’ best bets at getting chunk plays. Zach Wilson’s ability to extend plays could also make life hard on the defense (as long as he makes the right decisions). The Patriots run defense has been stout against teams without true dual-threat passers, but their poor tackling against David Montgomery last week makes me hesitant to say they’ll be able to bottle up New York’s ground game.
Defensively, the Patriots haven’t shown they can consistently separate against man coverage, especially when running isn’t an option. Cole Strange has also struggled to pick up stunts in pass protection, so that’s one way the Jets could generate interior pressure. If the Jets can get a sizeable lead, I don’t like the Patriots’ chances.
5. If you were a betting man, which team would you pick to win this game?
With DraftKings only having the Patriots as a 1-point favorite, I’ll let my bias win out and go New England. If young studs Breece Hall and Alijah Vera-Tucker were healthy, we’d be having a very different discussion. Though I like James Robinson as a player, I’m not sure he moves the needle enough for the Jets’ offense. Though I’ve seen some nice flashes from Zach Wilson, I’m still not convinced he can be a reason you win games.
The Jets’ defense is very talented and I expect them to make life hard on the Patriots’ offense. But I’m putting my faith in Mac to score more points than his draft classmate.