The New York Jets (5-2) are back at MetLife Stadium on Sunday for a big game against longtime AFC East rival, the New England Patriots (3-4). The Jets enter the game riding a four-game winning streak and seek their first five-game winning streak and first 6-2 start since 2010. A win for New York would give them a three-game AFC East lead over New England for the first time since 2000. And despite recent struggles by the Patriots, history is on their side, winning the last 12 matchups against the Jets.
The Patriots are coming off a loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night and there was speculation about how New England would manage their two quarterbacks in Mac Jones and rookie Bailey Zappe. Bill Belichick shut down the questions and said Jones will start against the Jets on Sunday afternoon. But that doesn’t mean Zappe won’t see time on the field in week eight.
Belichick always finds new ways to beat the Jets, whether it’s a last-second win or a blowout. Having Jones and Zappe available will be a test for Gang Green’s defense.
Still, the Jets defense will have to continue to apply pressure, regardless of who is under center. The Jets have eight takeaways in the first seven weeks, with Lamarcus Joyner leading the way with four. The team’s turnover margin is plus-two.
Quinnen Williams and company need to continue slowing down opponents’ run game. The Jets’ defense has been stealthy in this area so far in 2022, allowing just 105.3 yards on the ground per game (11th in the league). New York is third in yards per carry, conceding just 3.9 yards each attempt.
On the other side of the ball, the Jets will look to piece the offense together after two season-ending injuries happened in Denver last week. Notably, rookie sensation Breece Hall (ACL, meniscus), who has been carrying the Jets with his explosive ground game, and Alijah Vera-Tucker, who has been a utility man on the offensive line, filling holes on the line wherever needed.
These injuries give way for the newest member of the Jets, James Robinson, to make a good first impression to the fans and his teammates. Robinson was acquired after the news of Hall’s injury, as the Jets sent a conditional sixth-round pick to the Jaguars for the 24-year-old running back. Since going undrafted in 2020, Robinson has accumulated more than 2,100 yards with 18 rushing touchdowns and four receiving TDs.
Don’t sleep on Michael Carter, either. Carter was the starting tailback for a majority of his rookie season and had the most rush yards (867), scrimmage yards (1,343), and first downs (60) from 2020-2021.
Although Jets fans want to see quarterback Zach Wilson air the ball out a bit more, the running game continues to be crucial for the young team. The Patriots are ranked No. 25 in opponent rushing yards per game with 136.7 yards per contest.
The most important thing is protecting Wilson and the ball on the offensive side. The Green and White haven’t turned the ball over at all in the last three games, while the Patriots are struggling to keep the ball safe. In seven weeks of action, the Pats have three games of at least three giveaways and two games of minus-three margins.
Keep an eye on linebacker Matthew Judon, who leads the NFL with 8.5 sacks. Judon had 2.5 sacks against Chicago, making it his 10th game with at least two sacks.
Another Pats player to watch is wide receiver DeVante Parker, who is second in the NFL with 21.4 yards on average per reception. Despite having only 15 receptions and one touchdown this season, Parker is a reliable veteran who can haul in the long ball for first downs and put the Patriots in good field position.
Despite evident issues this season, the Patriots are still the Patriots. And they’ve crushed the souls of Jets fans for years. Although the Jets are riding high entering the game, New England always makes New York suffer the consequences of any mistake. This matchup will prove if the Jets are for real, as they start a difficult stretch of their schedule. Here’s a look at the remaining matchups for the Jets:
Keys of the game: Establish the run. Protect Wilson.
Betting Odds (Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook as of 10/28):
Spread: Patriots (-2.5)
Moneyline: Patriots (-135); Jets (+115)
Over/Under: 40 (-110)
The Jets have been underdogs for weeks and continue to show up. The addition of Robinson should make up for the loss of Hall. This game doesn’t look like it will be a shootout, so I like the under 40 a lot. Give me the Jets with the points and Robinson to score against a shoddy rushing defense.
My picks: Jets (+2.5); Under 40; James Robinson Anytime TD (+195)
(Photo: Bill Kostroun via NY Post)