The New England Patriots have had a tough start to the 2023 season, as they’re 0-2 and could start off 0-3 for the first time since Bill Belichick’s first year as head coach. However, they’ve remained competitive against two tough opponents in Miami and Philadelphia, losing by a combined 12 points. Can Belichick’s team extend their recent dominance over the New York Jets with a 15th straight win? According to our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Patriots are favored by 2.5 points in this game.
Mac Jones has posted reasonably good statistics so far, but he’s averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt, which would be the lowest of his career so far. A stat that has been widely shared this week reveals than Jones has lost all 13 games in his career when New England has conceded more than 24 points.
Jones is 4-0 in his career against the Jets, with only one interception thrown. That probably gives a clue as to how New England will approach this game, especially since they’re going up against Zach Wilson rather than Aaron Rodgers.
Backup Bailey Zappe won both his starts for New England in 2022, but the team hasn’t been tempted to bench Jones for him yet. They did add another option to the mix recently though, when they signed Will Grier to the active roster. Grier was drafted in the third round by Carolina in 2019 but hasn’t started a game or even thrown a pass since his rookie year. He lost both his starts back then with no touchdown passes and four interceptions.
New England’s offensive line has been completely in flux in the early weeks of the season, although they are potentially close to full strength in theory.
At guard, Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu are the starters and they returned to the lineup on Sunday after two mid-round rookies (Atonio Mafi and Sidy Sow) had started the opener. They’ve still been limited in practice and listed as questionable, and Sow has been ruled out.
Left tackle Trent Brown missed Sunday’s game after having started the opener, but he returned to full practice in the week. Brown, Strange and Onwenu are all returning starters and they only missed one start between them last season.
Center David Andrews is also a returning starter and he started both games so far. He missed some time last year with James Ferentz - who is currently on the practice squad - starting in his place.
The right tackle position was a revolving door last year, with four players starting multiple games but nobody playing 400 snaps there. They addressed this when they signed veteran Riley Reiff but he’s on injured reserve so Calvin Anderson - a former Jets cast-off who missed all of preseason - is listed as the starter and has started both games so far.
When Brown missed last week’s game, Vederian Lowe filled in for him at left tackle, so New England has eight offensive linemen with at least one start already this season. Lowe was a sixth round pick for the Vikings last year but was traded to the Patriots in the offseason.
There are two more offensive lineman currently on the roster who haven’t seen action on offense yet at the NFL level. Fourth round rookie Jake Andrews backs up his namesake David at center and Tyrone Wheatley provides depth at tackle.
In 2022, Brown allowed eight sacks and had 13 penalties and Strange was inconsistent in the running game. Onwenu and Andrews are solid though. Sow, Mafi and Anderson all have struggled so far this year.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the flux on the offensive line, the Patriots’ running game has struggled to get going so far. Veteran Ezekiel Elliott joined them in the offseason, but he’s averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and 2.8 yards per catch so far.
Rhamondre Stevenson has seen the biggest workload and leads the team in rushing yards but he’s averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. Stevenson rushed for over a thousand yards and caught 69 passes last year, but the Jets held him to 26 yards on 15 carries in their most recent meeting.
Ex-Jet Ty Montgomery is also in the backfield but he has just one carry and two catches so far this year.
New England isn’t currently using a fullback in their offense.
With Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers leaving the team during the offseason, New England brought in Juju Smith-Schuster, but he’s off to a pretty slow start with just 61 yards on 13 targets through two games.
The player who looks like he’s going to step up is Kendrick Bourne, who has 10 catches, including two touchdowns, in the first two games. New England’s best weapon in the passing game is tight end Hunter Henry though. He also has two touchdowns in the first two games, and leads the team in receptions and receiving yards.
DeVante Parker returns in a reserve role at wide receiver after catching 31 passes last year. He has six catches in the first two games.
The rest of the receiver rotation is filled out with two sixth round rookies. Demario Douglas has six catches so far, but Kayshon Boutte has gone without a catch and had a couple of costly errors where he failed to get his feet down inbounds.
The Patriots added a couple of veterans to add some depth to their tight end room. Mike Gesicki had a disappointing final year in Miami but he has eight catches in the first two games with New England. Pharoah Brown started 12 games for Houston a few years ago but only had five catches in 13 games with the Browns in 2022.
New England operates with both three and four (and sometimes five) man fronts. They list Deatrich Wise, Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore and Lawrence Guy as starters on the line, but will usually operate with some of their linebackers on the edge.
All four of these players saw plenty of action last year, although Barmore, a former second round pick, missed both games against the Jets and is listed as questionable for Sunday.
Wise generally plays on the edge while the others typically play inside. He had 7.5 sacks last season.
Second round rookie Keion White has seen some action as an edge rusher off the bench and Daniel Ekuale gets some reps on the inside, but Sam Roberts, a sixth round pick last year, hasn’t been active yet this year.
New England had the league’s sixth best run defense last year, but struggled against teams with running quarterbacks at times.
Matthew Judon and Josh Uche give New England two productive pass rush options from the linebacker position. The pro bowler Judon had 15.5 sacks last year and has two already this year. Uche had 11.5, all of which were crammed within an eight-game span.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, who led New England with 125 tackles last season, plays a full time role and wears the headset. Alongside him, Jahlani Tavai also starts but will often come out of the game in passing situations as New England often plays with an extra safety.
Marte Mapu, a third round pick in this year’s draft, and Mack Wilson have also seen some action, but Anfernee Jennings has not played any defensive snaps yet this year. Wilson and Jennings started three games each in 2022. Despite being listed as a linebacker, Mapu has seen action as a third safety at times.
Veteran additions Raekwon McMillan and Trey Flowers would also have figured in the rotation, but McMillan is out for the year with a torn Achilles and Flowers is still on the PUP list.
Finally, Chris Board is mainly on the team for his special teams contributions.
New England drafted cornerback Christian Gonzalez with the 17th overall pick in April and he’s already had a positive impact with an interception and a sack.
Jonathan Jones is the other starter after posting four interceptions and a team-high 11 passes defensed in 2022, but he was listed as questionable and downgraded to out on Saturday afternoon.
Myles Bryant is usually the nickelback and will line up in the slot but may need to start outside tomorrow. Reserve Shaun Wade can also play in the slot. Rookie Ameer Speed has not seen action yet.
Another option to start outside is backup safety Jalen Mills, whose main position had been cornerback for the past few seasons anyway.
At safety, Jabrill Peppers and Kyle Dugger are the starters. Dugger started 15 games last year and had two defensive touchdowns, but Peppers just started five. Mills and Adrian Phillips are available in reserve and, as noted, New England will often play with three safeties.
Having shown promise as rookies last season, both Jack Jones and Marcus Jones are currently on injured reserve.
The Patriots overhauled their kicking game in the offseason by drafting punter Bryce Baringer and kicker Chad Ryland. Baringer’s stats aren’t great so far as he only has a net average of 37.9. Ryland has made his only field goal attempt so far, and all four of his extra points.
Marcus Jones was an all-pro return man last year, in part thanks to his game winning punt return against the Jets. With him on injured reserve, it looks like Douglas will handle punt returns and Montgomery will return kickoffs.
Matthew Slater is still with the team as a primary gunner, although his production was down last year and he didn’t go to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2018 and only the second time since 2010. Brenden Schooler has been productive as the team’s other punt gunner and also made headlines with a spectacular field goal block against Miami.
Cody Davis, another good contributor in kick coverage, is currently on the PUP list, but Wilson has been productive in coverage too and the team also added Board, as noted.
Finally, Jonathan Jones blocked a punt last season.