The Jets have a tough but important home game against the Patriots today. It is the most important home game since at least 2015. This is a pivotal game for the Jets if they want to keep up with the Buffalo Bills at the top of the AFC East standings. The Bills play later tonight at home against the Green Bay Packers so the Jets would take over the division lead with a win coupled with an upset win by the Packers.
The importance of this game cannot be stressed enough since it’s a home divisional game. If you want to be a playoff team you must win a high percentage of home divisional games. The Jets are home against the Bills next week which could be a showdown for first place in the division. They need a win today to make that happen.
This is another game where the Jets should feel disrespected. They sit at 5-2 playing at home against an unimpressive Patriots team. The Patriots were just demolished on Monday night 33-14 in Foxborough against a mediocre Bears team yet the Jets are 2 1⁄2 point underdogs at home according to DraftKings Sportsbook. This should be bulletin board material as the nation still considers the Jets as pretenders rather than a contender. In order for the Jets to stop that sentiment, they need to take care of business at home in an a profound way.
So how do the Patriots look
After the debacle at home Monday the night the Patriots limp into MetLife looking for answers. They have played well at times but also have struggles like they did on Monday. They started the year 1-3 with he lone win coming against the Steelers who have also struggled. After an injury to Mac Jones, the Patriots won two straight games behind Bailey Zappe, but the return of Jones seemed to mess with the offensive cohesion.
The Patriots have stated that Mac Jones will start against the Jets but both players have similar skillsets. Jones had 22 TDs with 13 INTs in 2021, but so far this year he has only 2 TDs in 4 games with 6 INTs. He is coming off an ankle injury that has hampered his mobility. He had a high ankle sprain. Those things don’t heal completely in a few weeks or a month. They take serious time so he is not 100% mobility wise. Don’t be surprised to see Bailey Zappe in the game if the offense sputters.
Patriots on offense
The Patriots and Jets have very similar passing numbers as the Patriots are ranked at #17th in passing yardage, with 4 more passing yards than the Jets. Both teams have 7 passing TDs, but the Patriots have 9 INTs to the Jets 5. The Patriots top receivers are Jakobi Meyers (355 yards) and DeVante Parker (321 yards) with TE Hunter Henry averaging 2 receptions a game in a limited role. RB Rhamondre Stevenson is 2nd on the team in receptions with 25 (on 29 targets) so the QBs like to drop the ball off quite a bit.
Stevenson is also the Patriots top runner with 487 yards at a nice 5 yards a clip average. The Patriots are nearly a 50/50 split in run vs. pass as they have 4 more pass attempts than rushing attempts.
New England will be without starting center David Andrews who has a concussion he suffered Monday night. He will be replaced but a journeyman of sorts in James Ferentz who has been on and off the practice squad since 2017. He played a combined 133 offensive snaps in 2021 as a guard/center. The Patriots are also starting a rookie (Cole Strange) who was a surprise 1st round pick. (I had him as a late 2nd round guy #61 player in the Draft.) at left guard. Surprisingly he has been much better as a pass blocker than a run blocker to this point in his career. He has allowed 3 sacks and a total of only 9 QB pressures.
Patriots on defense
The Patriots defense is as usual very well coached. They are solid if unspectacular. They are 11th in passing yards allowed but 4th in completion percentage at under 59%. They will be without starting strong safety Kyle Dugger with his backup Adrian Phillips questionable as well. They play a wide range of coverages with corners Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Myles Bryant and surprising rookie Jack Jones all playing at least 50% of the snaps.
Starting defensive tackle Christian Barmore is out so Lawrence Guy and Davon Godchaux will be inside. The Patriots are suspect against the run with the 24th best run defense in the league. They are allowing 4.9 yards a carry so that is an area I’m sure the Jets will try to exploit early and often.
So how do the Jets will this game?
With all of their own injuries, the Jets will need to turn this game into a slugfest. The Jets will be missing in this game their best offensive lineman (AVT), their most experienced WR (Corey Davis), and with their best RB (Breece Hall).
I don’t know how much James Robinson knows of the offense, but he and Ty Johnson should get a heavy dose of carries against a soft Patriots run defense. It’s a good way to keep the opposing offense on the sideline and wear out the defense. With Davis out, the only size the Jets have at the WR position is Denzel Mims. He can be effective on slants along with some skinny post patterns.
Once the run game gets the attention of the defense, the Jets can use their TEs to run in behind the LBs for some nice gains over the middle. Elijah Moore, Jeff Smith, and Garrett Wilson will need to win their matchups in the secondary. I would look for the Jets to exploit CB Jalen Mills as I feel he has the weakest coverage skills in the back end. The Jets can continue to use their “snag” passing concept to get easy completions in the flat or the TE over the middle. Look for Michael Carter to collect 3 or 4 receptions in the flat.
If he can get time, it will allow Zach Wilson to take a few shots down the field with the speed the Jets have on the outside. Some planned rollouts looking for the TE in the middle of the field or a WR racing down the sideline can create big plays.
The Jets defense is ranked 12th in both passing and rushing yards in the NFL. The interior of the line is where they can create the most havoc against a suspect guard/center combo the Patriots will be forced to use. Quinnen Williams has been a beast of late so there is no reason to think that Sunday will be any different. Look for the Jets to use Williams and Sheldon Rankins to pitchfork their way into the backfield between new starter C James Ferentz and rookie G Cole Strange. The pressure they get will disrupt the running game and bother a QB who does not have great escapeability. If they are disruptive enough it will force the Patriots to use Rhamondre Stevenson in to block on passing downs. This eliminates the check down pass to Stevenson. He also is not great in pass protection. The pressure up the middle will also force Mac Jones to drop further back in the pocket which will allow Carl Lawson, JFM, Bryce Huff and Jermaine Johnson better shots at sacks from the outside.
On the back end of the defense, the Jets should play tight press coverage against the outside receivers. The Jets usually play cover 3 zone, but there is nothing to fear from the Patriots wide receivers. Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed can handle the outside coverage with little help against Meyers, Parker, Bourne or Thornton. This will allow the Jets to use their safeties in various ways. They can drop Whitehead into the box to cover TEs and help in run support while Lamarcus Joyner can play as a single high safety on occasion.
I realize the Jets have been victimized by the injury bug. Other players have to step up and take a larger role. You can’t feel sorry for yourself in the NFL. Every team suffers injuries.
The Jets easily have enough talent to win this game, no doubt. If the Jets can give him time in the pocket I expect Zach Wilson to take a few steps in growth in this game. This is the moment for Zach to become a leader. He has to again become that kid who drove the Jets to two 4th quarter TDs to win the game against the Steelers.
This is a huge game, no doubt. It is a chance to put pressure on the Bills.
If the Jets do as I have written...
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