The Jets entered last month’s matchup with New England hopeful that they would finally break their long losing streak against their divisional rivals. However, they came unstuck, with the Patriots exploiting three Zach Wilson interceptions to secure a five-point win. The bad news heading into the rematch is that New England has won the second meeting between these teams by even more points than the first in each of the past six seasons. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Patriots as 3.5 point favorites.
For now, the Patriots’ quarterback controversy seems to be back on ice, although many New England fans would like Bailey Zappe to get a longer look after he performed well filling in for Mac Jones. The job seems secure with Jones though, after he pulled off wins against the Jets and Colts heading into the bye.
He wasn’t exactly impressive in either game though, racking up less than five yards per attempt in the Colts game and playing extremely conservatively in the second half of the Jets game after having one interception that counted and a pick-six that didn’t in the first half.
That might be the recipe for success for New England though. Jones had entered the Jets game with six interceptions and only two touchdown passes. Zappe was 2-0 and completed over 70 percent of his passes as a starter.
In the previous meeting, New England was without their starting center David Andrews, who also missed the Colts game with a concussion. However, he’s back now, which should make a difference because New England gave up 10 sacks in the two games he missed, including six against the Jets.
The other main issue on the line has been at right tackle, where Isaiah Wynn had been banged up and struggling. Marcus Cannon started for him against the Jets, but he’s now on injured reserve. With Cannon out, the Patriots turned to Yodny Cajuste against the Colts.
The other three starters are rookie left guard Cole Strange, right guard Mike Onwenu and left tackle Trent Brown. Wynn ended up playing most of the Colts game at left guard though, as the team operated a rotation at that spot.
The Patriots only had seven offensive linemen on their roster, so undrafted rookie Kody Russey, who was elevated for the previous three games, has now been added to the main roster. James Ferentz had been starting for Andrews at center but now reverts to the bench.
Rhamondre Stevenson remains the number one back despite Damien Harris’ recent return and he racked up 143 yards on 24 touches against the Jets, including a career high 72 receiving yards. He broke two tackles on a 35-yard run to set up the go-ahead score after halftime, but the Jets’ run defense otherwise held him in check with his other 15 carries netting just 36 yards.
Harris was ill for the Colts game, so New England signed JJ Taylor to the active roster and gave him 10 carries, but these netted just nine yards. Harris, who had over 900 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, should be back for this game.
New England hasn’t been using their rookie backs - fourth rounder Pierre Strong and sixth rounder Kevin Harris - much so far this year.
Jakobi Meyers continues to lead the Patriots with 40 receptions, although he did lose a fumble in the Colts game.
Veterans Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor and DeVante Parker have all been disappointing as none of them has more than 15 receptions. Parker missed the Colts game and is listed as questionable having practiced on a limited basis this week.
Second round rookie Tyquan Thornton has nine catches, but Matthew Slater and Rayleigh Webb are just special teams contributors. Lynn Bowden had been elevated from the practice squad in the previous two weeks but has not this time.
At tight end, Hunter Henry is still having a down year compared to 2021, but did have one of his better games of the season against the Colts with 50 yards on four catches. Jonnu Smith also had a slow start. He has six catches in the past two games, but for just 31 yards.
New England continues to struggle against running quarterbacks. After Justin Fields’ big game against them last month, Sam Elhinger led the Colts with 39 rushing yards as well. Wilson, who rushed for three first downs against the Bills, could look to exploit this. New England’s run defense otherwise held the Colts to 39 yards on 17 carries.
The Patriots were without Christian Barmore for the first meeting with the Jets and he’s now been placed on injured reserve even though he had been practicing during the week.
Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux and Carl Davis will get the majority of the playing time on the line, with Wise also lining up as an edge in four man fronts.
Off the bench, Daniel Ekuale and Sam Roberts have combined for just nine tackles and undrafted rookie DaMarcus Mitchell hasn’t played at all yet.
Most of the pressure created against the Jets came off the edge and even though they only recorded two sacks, they flushed Wilson from the pocket multiple times, leading to all three of his interceptions.
In the Colts game, they exploded for nine sacks, although Ehlinger’s inexperience was presumably a major factor in this. Matthew Judon now leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks after racking up three and Josh Uche also had three, in just 25 snaps.
Uche and Anfernee Jennings both provide cover on the edge, but each is officially listed as questionable.
Inside, leading tackler Ja’Whaun Bentley has been starting with Jahlani Tavai, who typically plays about 50 percent of the snaps with Mack Wilson and Raekwon McMillan also getting regular playing time.
Starting safety Kyle Dugger missed the Jets game but was back for the Colts game and will start on Sunday. Devin McCourty, who had two sacks against the Jets, is the other starter, but New England plays plenty of three-safety formations so Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers have also had plenty of playing time.
Jonathan Jones (who had a pick-six against the Colts) and Jalen Mills are the starting cornerbacks but fourth round rookie Jack Jones plays just as much as they do and has arguably been their best cornerback.
Myles Bryant remains the main slot cornerback although he plays less than most starting nickels because New England uses so many three-safety sets.
Third round rookie Marcus Jones is the most likely of the reserves to see any playing time. Cornerback Shaun Wade, safety Joshuah Bledsoe and safety Brenden Schooler, who hasn’t played any defensive snaps yet, round out this group.
The Patriots have an issue with their punter this week, as Jake Bailey has had to go onto injured reserve due to a back injury. They had veteran Michael Palardy on the practice squad, though, so he’ll fill in.
Kicker Nick Folk remains in great form. He connected on nine out of nine field goals in the past two games.
In the return game, Marcus Jones has quietly moved up to first in the league for kickoff return average and third for punt return average. He had a 32-yard punt return in the Jets game.
The undrafted rookie Schooler has been the team’s most productive player in kick coverage, perhaps because all-pro Matthew Slater still draws a lot of attention from the other side. Schooler returned a blocked punt by Jonathan Jones to the two-yard line to set up a touchdown in the Colts game.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.