The Patriots and Jets meet in the Meadowlands in a very big game for both teams. The Patriots are 0-2, having dropped two home games to Philadelphia and Miami. The Jets are 1-1, and after losing Aaron Rodgers just four snaps into the opener, their Super Bowl aspirations have taken a big hit.
Simply put, the Patriots can’t afford to start 0-3 and 0-2 in the division. Rodgers said earlier that he would be ready for a January playoff game with his injury. So, Zach Wilson and Co. can’t afford to be losing too many games early this season.
Probably because Rodgers was supposed to be under center; the game got the top crew from the network. CBS will broadcast this week’s game, which can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will report from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots’ flagship radio station, 98.5 The Sports Hub, with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2023 to analyze some of the game’s key matchups and what you can look for in how the game plays out.
First up is the Patriot offense:
Patriots RBs vs. Jets Front Seven — Edge New York
The Patriots running game has been almost non-existent thus far through two games. Rhamondre Stevenson is averaging under three yards per carry thus far, while Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t fared much better.
It all stems from the OL, whose play has not been great, allowing very few open holes for the backs to run through. Stevenson and Elliott are both better runners when running downhill, so putting Mac Jones under center more would be one key area to watch, especially in play-action passing. The Patriots have to be patient with the running game this week and mix things up to keep New York’s defense guessing.
The Jets’ front seven is outstanding. Ouinnan Williams, Quinton Jefferson, and John Franklin-Myers are space eaters and very stout against the run. Linebackers C.J. Mosely and Quincy Jefferson are able to fly in and make plays.
Although Dallas scored 30 points last week, they succeeded because they were patient with the running game and, despite only averaging about three yards per carry, and were creative in the passing game.
Patriots WRs vs. Jets Secondary — Edge New York
Mac Jones had two of his roughest outings in the games against the Jets last season. With the inability to run the football and the Jets’ potent pass rush, it was tough sledding for Jones despite the Patriots winning both games.
With the well-known struggles of the OL thus far it makes the job that much tougher. Both DeVante Parker and JuJu Smith-Schuster were seen limping on Sunday night after the game against Miami. However, Parker was just returning from an injury and was fairly productive. I see him being an early down target as they try to keep the defense off-balance. Look for more Kendrick Bourne and Demario Douglas this week.
We know about the NY pass rush, but the secondary is very solid too. Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reid, and slot corner Michael Carter are all very good. Safeties Tony Adams and Jordan Whitehead will jump a route if the QB telegraphs his pass. Whitehead picked off Josh Allen three times in the opener.
The Patriots, I am sure, watched the Dallas tape closely as to how the Cowboys attacked the Jets’ defense, particularly with the RPOs, something that the NE offense does. But they’ll have to get Jones under center more and get the running game going.
Next up is the Jets’ offense:
Jets RBs vs. NE Front Seven — Edge New England
The Patriots’ run defense was gashed by the Dolphins on Sunday night, and they had particular issues with setting the edge many times during the game. The Jets want to take the onus off of Zach Wilson and want to run the football effectively. And with Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook, if the NE run defense plays like they did last week, the Jets will dictate the game and open up passing lanes for Wilson.
While the Patriots did play against Miami with lighter packages, the front seven has to bring their A-game on Sunday. The Patriots’ game plan is to force Wilson to throw to beat them. Look for the Patriots to run some eight-man boxes early in this one to force the ball into Wilson’s hands.
If they can win this matchup, it will go a long way in making the afternoon a really long one for Wilson and the Jet offense. Hall and Cook are excellent backs, but the Jets’ OL is also struggling.
Jets WRs vs. NE Secondary — Edge New England
QB Zach Wilson is 0-4 against the Patriots, and the second game against NE last season was the reason he lost his starting job. He has thrown two TDs and seven INTs in those games. He has very good targets in the passing game but has struggled mightily under pressure. Where Mac Jones has really stepped up his game while under pressure, Wilson continues to wilt.
Worse is that Wilson’s starting OL is playing and has been healthy. And yet, he’s been pressured on 53 percent of his dropbacks. With the NFL being a copycat league, I wonder if the Patriots move either Matthew Judon or Keion White over the center as Dallas did with Michah Parsons.
The matchups in the secondary are tough, considering the Jets have Garrett Wilson, Allen Lizzard, and Randall Cobb at WR, with Ty Conklin at TE and Cook out of the backfield. The key is getting the pressure on Wilson and forcing him into making mistakes.
Special Teams — Edge New York
The ST units on both sides are solid. Although Greg Zuerlein missed last week’s game, he was filled in for well by Austin Siebert. Thomas Morestead is having a solid start to the year as a punter. But at PR/KR, the Jets have Xavier Gipson, who lit the game on fire in Week 1 with his walkoff 68-yard PR for a touchdown against the Bills.
The Patriots rookie kickers are off to a good start; punter Bryce Barringer is averaging 46 yards per punt with six downed inside the 20. Kicker Chad Ryland made his only FG attempt (49 yards). But with Marcus Jones being placed on IR, the team turned to Douglas, but he didn’t have the juice we’ve seen from him on offense.
Next up, who wins and why…
The Patriots are 0-2 and can’t afford to go 0-3 and 0-2 in the AFC East. They have to circle the wagons and put forth an effort to get them into the win column.
Three Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Start Fast and Cut Out Mistakes/Turnovers — The Patriots really need to stop putting themselves into a huge hole if they want to come out on top. They need to put the Jets into a hole and force them to come back from a deficit.
This has been a recurring problem dating back to last year, and pre-snap penalties, sloppy execution, and turnovers have to be cut out. This offense, with the lack of explosive players/plays, isn’t built for coming from behind.
Force the Game Into Zach Wilson’s Hands…Again — This comes from starting faster but also in stopping the run. They should start this game with heavier packages than they used against Miami because Wilson isn’t Tua or Jalen Hurts.
Look for them to load up the box and to once again throw some exotic looks and post-snap designs in coverages to make Wilson hold the ball a tad longer, which will allow the pass rush to get home.
Show Patience With The Running Game — The Patriot OL has to step up and play much better than it has in the first two weeks. Rhamondre Stevenson and Zeke Elliott have to be factors this week.
If they can carve out even a mediocre running game, it will allow Jones to use play-action and open up some room for the receivers. This might be a week for the TEs to see some work in the flat.
This week will be another tough physical matchup between the two teams. The Patriots have won 14 in a row against the Jets, can they make it 15? Yes, if the offense can get going and the defense plays up to its potential. (defense travels).
This game and game plan would have looked a lot different if Aaron Rodgers hadn’t been injured in Week 1.
This one will be a close one again. Patriots 17-13
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Breece Hall Garrett Wilson Kendrick Bourne Matthew Judon New England Patriots New York Jets Patriots edge rushers Zach Wilson