Week 7 closes out on Monday Night as the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots travel to the swamps of New Jersey to take on the perennial bottom feeding New York Jets. This will be the 122nd time these old AFL rivals have met with the Patriots leading the all-time series 66-54-1. This includes the Week 3 match up where an undermanned Jets team travelled to Foxboro only to get a 30-14 beatdown at the hands of the Patriots. In that game, New York was down to Luke Falk as their starting Quarterback and were held to 6 first downs and a total of 105 total yards.
New York enters this game flying high after getting their first win last weekend against the unprepared Dallas Cowboys. In that game, Jets starting QB Sam Darnold made his return to the starting line up after being out due to some promiscuous activities since Week 1. While the Jets built a large lead in the first half, they were barely able to hang on for a 24-22 victory at home. Even so, there is a lot of optimism swirling around the Swamps of Jersey.
For the Patriots, they enter Monday’s game as the lone undefeated team in the AFC. While the 6-0 record is something of an accomplishment, the team is riddled with injuries particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The bright spot for the Patriots this year has been the play of their defense. Led by former Buffalo Bill, now good, CB Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots defense has been smothering opponents allowing only 8 points per game and suffocating opponents’ passing games.
A big AFC East Divisional battle awaits so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: The return of Sam Darnold has brought some optimism to the Jets’ faithful that something might be salvaged out of this season. In fairness, compared to what the Jets fielded earlier this season it is a big upgrade. But let’s get real: This is Sam Darnold. In his one and only game against the Patriots he was sacked 4 times and barely completed over 50% of his passes in a 38-3 beatdown.
Running Backs – PATRIOTS: The Jets’ Le’Veon Bell is certainly wins in the name recognition department. On the field, the Patriots group of running backs, led my 2nd year back Sony Michel and James White, have more than doubled the number of yards from scrimmage than their Jets counterparts and have quadrupled the TD production.
Wide Receivers – PUSH: New England’s WRs have a major statistical edge over the Jets’ receiving corps but, to be fair, what the Jets have trotted out at quarterback between Week 2 and Week 5 was an embarrassment to the NFL and to the fans of football worldwide. The return of Jets QB Sam Darnold and the injuries to the Patriots Wide Receivers evens out this comparison.
Tight Ends – PUSH: Just when you thought there was no team having less production from the TE position than the Patriots, say ‘Hello’ to the New York Jets. Much like the WRs, you can give bit of a pass to the Jets because of their QB mess. For the Patriots, bringing back Ben Watson should provide a boost to a non-existent position on offense.
Offensive Line – PATRIOTS: Though injuries have ravaged the Patriots up front, they are still run blocking and have protected their passer better than their Jets’ counterparts.
Defensive Front Seven – PATRIOTS: While the Jets invested heavily in free agency, to this point in the season their investments defensively have yet to pay off. The Jets are currently 30th in the league in sacks and 13th against the Run. The Patriots, on the other hand, are 2nd in the league with 25 sacks and are 3rd in the league defending the run. LB CJ Mosley could provide a boost for the Jets coming back from injury.
Secondary – PATRIOTS: While both secondaries are playing well, the Patriots are significantly better with allowing a lower opposing completion percentage, allowing a lower opposing passer rating, and are leading the league in interceptions by a large margin.
Special Teams – PUSH: Both teams have been statistically similar in punting, kicking, and returning. While the Patriots do have more special teams’ touchdowns, the Jets also have one which, ironically, was against the Patriots earlier this year.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: The hiring of Adam Gase by the Jets was a bit of head scratcher this past off season. With very little to no success on the field with the Dolphins and plenty of negative press swirling around about his poor relationships with front office, it seems a sure-fire thing that Gase would return to a coordinator role and fade away. However, the Jets stepped up and saw something in Gase and he was scooped up shortly after his dismissal in Miami. Unless something miraculous happens between now and the end of the season, the hiring of Gase could go down as just another serious blunder on part of the New York Jets.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Betting Line: Patriots -9 ½
Keys to a Patriots Victory:
1) Withstand the Environment: Coming off their first win of the season against the Cowboys, MetLife Stadium will be certainly filled with noisy drunk Jets fans…Certainly the Jets players will be feeding off this excitement as well. The Patriots need to stay focused and withstand the early game excitement that will certainly be in play.
2) Use all the Running Backs: With injuries to the O/Line and WRs, the Patriots need to utilize all their running backs both in the running and passing games. The Patriots have become a bit predictable on offense when Sony Michel is in the game. While he is certainly not James White, involving him more in the passing game will help break that tendency.
3) Stay Aggressive on Defense: While some in the media believe the Jets are contenders again now that Sam Darnold has returned, the reality is that he’s a young QB that is going to make young QB mistakes. The Patriots need to stay aggressive and bring timely pressure on Darnold and force him to either hold the ball or make passes into tight windows.
Don’t be surprised to see a usual AFC East Division game that is way closer than it needs to be. Patriots fans need to be prepared to have a stressful watch all the way to the end.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 23 – Jets 16