The New York Jets were crushed by the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, 30 - 10. The loss brought their record to 1-1 for the 2023 NFL season. Now the Jets head home to take on the New England Patriots in another tough matchup. The Patriots are off to an uncharacteristic 0-2 start to the season, but the losses came against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins, two of the better teams in the NFL. The Patriots were very much in each game, with both losses by 7 points or less. In addition, the Patriots have dominated the rivalry with the Jets lately, reeling off 14 consecutive victories against the Jets. This one won’t be easy.
Previewing this matchup, Taylor Kyles of Pats Pulpit was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2023 New England Patriots.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. Many people had the Patriots pegged for last place in the AFC East coming into this season, an unfamiliar position for the Patriots and their fans. Now that Aaron Rodgers is out for the season the Jets are probably the least favored team in the East. What do you think of the division? How would you rank the teams, and how far off are the Patriots from rising to the top, either this year or in the near future?
Through two weeks, I’d say:
Before the season, I had Buffalo as the clear favorite, with Miami and New York battling for #2 based on whose offensive line held up better. With Aaron Rodgers’ unfortunate injury, I’d agree they’ve fallen to the bottom of the rankings despite two excellent young playmakers on offense and a talented defense. Josh Allen bounced back last week from a turnover-filled opening game, but that streaky play haunted him last season and makes them more of a wild card than I initially thought. Miami has the most stacked roster in the division, and Tua Tagovailoa seems even more comfortable in his second season under Mike McDaniel. Even if teams find an answer for their new short wheel motion, the Dolphins’ receivers present a massive challenge. I also think their run defense will find its stride under Vic Fangio, while the pass defense will only get better when Jalen Ramsey returns. The Patriots can be a sneaky contender for the #2 spot if their offense stops hurting itself on a weekly basis and proves they can close out games against good teams, but that has yet to be proven.
2. Mac Jones had a really promising first year followed by a difficult second year. Now in his third year, what do you think of him? Of course he’s not likely going to be Tom Brady 2.0, but is he likely going to be a long term fixture under center for the Patriots, or do you think his days as QB1 in New England might be numbered? And is he the quality of QB that is capable of leading a team to a championship?
Mac Jones is playing the best football of his career under Bill O’Brien, who’s given the third-year passer full command of the offense. After looking like a shell of himself in high-pressure situations last season, Jones now has answers to combat those situations and has been very good against the blitz and under duress. His anticipation has been lacking at times, and he had a critical mistake last week, throwing a 50-50 ball at Xavien Howard that resulted in an interception. But Jones has also been an asset in the 4th quarter and looked better on the move against the Dolphins than I’ve ever seen him.
We have yet to see Jones’ ceiling due to injuries to nearly everyone on the offensive line. He has one of the league’s fastest times to throw and is still being pressured at a top-10 rate, with four of his sacks happening in fewer than 2.5 seconds. His receivers, specifically Kendrick Bourne, have also failed to make some big-time catches that could’ve changed the trajectory of the past two games. I think Jones can quarterback a championship team, but he needs more help from his supporting cast.
3. Could you let Jets fans know who the more important additions and subtractions of this team from last year are, and also give us a short review of how the Patriots’ 2023 draft class is faring?
Jakobi Meyers’ loss has been more significant than I expected. After being the team’s go-to receiver since Tom Brady’s departure, the team allowed him to sign with the Raiders in free agency and opted for a more affordable option in JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster has been a consummate professional, but he doesn’t have the burst he showed in Kansas City and the offense lacks a true #1 to this point in the season.
Tight end Mike Gesicki has mostly been an underneath threat to this point, but he flashed downfield in training camp and has solid chemistry with Mac Jones.
Top pick Christian Gonzalez has been outstanding against a steady diet of elite receivers. He’s had a few losses as one would expect, but he’s also had smothering moments in coverage against AJ Brown and Tyreek Hill.
Keion White has been a role player in a loaded defensive front, but he had impressive pass rush wins against Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata and already seems to be attracting extra attention in limited snaps.
Safety/linebacker Marte Mapu has been used as a chess piece against base personnel groupings and his athleticism consistently pops, though his run defense is a work in progress.
Undersized sixth-round pick Demario Douglas was benched last week after an early fumble, but he’s the offense’s most explosive player and carved out a significant role early in training camp. Offensive players have alluded to his importance all week, so expect a significant workload for the rookie this week.
Punter Bryce Baringer has looked like one of the league’s best punters with nearly all of his attempts landing inside opponents’ 20-yard lines, while kicker Chad Ryland has been reliable in limited action.
4. If you were the head coach of a rival team, how would you go about attacking this New England Patriots team on offense and on defense?
Defensively, I’d make the Patriots’ receivers prove they can beat man-to-man coverage. O’Brien can scheme opportunities against these looks, but whether players can capitalize consistently has yet to be seen. Up front, I’d test their line’s communication with line games, which gave the unit problems last week.
Offensively, I’d test the edges of their run defense after Jahlani Tavai’s rough outing against Miami. Throwing against New England isn’t easy, but attacking the middle when they’re in zone and making slot corner Myles Bryant work against speed in man is probably your best bet. Whatever you do, expect to string together long drives.
5. If you were a betting man which team would you bet on winning this game and why?
Without Rodgers, I’d be stunned if the Jets pulled this one out. Their defense is very good, but I think the Patriots can dink and dunk their way to scores if they don’t self-sabotage.
Zach Wilson has yet to find an answer to Belichick’s defenses, and I don’t see that changing this week. New York can make things competitive if their run game can keep drives alive and move the ball, but things will spiral quickly if they get behind and New England’s pass rush can pin their ears back.