FOXBOROUGH – Who do the New York Jets think they are?
At 5-2, the Jets find themselves on the verge of relevancy for the first time in seven NFL seasons. Those five wins mark more victories than New York had in the past two seasons. This is a franchise that hasn’t been over .500 since 2015. They’ve won more than five games in just three of the last 10 seasons.
As the Patriots look to turn their 2022 season around this weekend in East Rutherford, N.J., we’re about to find out if the Jets are still a team that Bill Belichick can beat up on. The Patriots coach has a 34-10 (.773) all-time record against the Jets.
A win for New York would be a tip in their cap. Meanwhile a victory for the Patriots would show they’re not in the basement of the AFC East.
Out of the Jets five wins this season, four have come when teams have played second or third string quarterbacks. New York has beaten Jacoby Brissett (Cleveland), Mitchel Trubisky and Kenny Picket (Pittsburgh), Skylar Thompson (Miami) and Brett Rypien (Denver). Their best win comes against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Week 6. They’ve lost to Lamar Jackson (Baltimore) and Joe Burrow (Cincinnati).
A win for Mac Jones and the Patriots would set this team on a different path for the second half of the 2022 NFL season. Here are three keys to a Patriots victory:
Win the turnover battle
The biggest key for Jones and the Patriots offense is to take care of the football. Turnovers have been the biggest issue for the second-year quarterback. There’s also a clear correlation between winning the turnover battle and winning the game.
Since last year, the Patriots are 9-0 when they win the turnover battle and 1-10 when they lose the turnover margin in games that Jones starts. They are also 1-1 when they tie the turnover battle.
The Patriots nine total interceptions this season is tied for the NFL lead. Their six fumbles lost are tied for the second most in the league. The Patriots have a -2 turnover margin and only eight teams in the NFL have been worse. Meanwhile, the Jets are tied for the tenth best turnover margin (+2) in the NFL.
There’s a clear correlation here between ball security and victories.
This season, the Patriots are 0-3 when they turn over the ball three or more times. The Jets haven’t turned the ball over in the last three weeks. They’re 0-2 this season when they lose the turnover battle.
Force Zach Wilson to beat you
The Jets aren’t exactly operating a high-octane passing offense.
Since returning from a knee injury, Zach Wilson is averaging 173.3 passing yards per game. In four starts, he’s failed to hit the 200-yard mark twice. He hasn’t thrown a passing touchdown in the last three games.
The Jets offense actually averaged more passing yards (286) with Joe Flacco to start the season than Wilson. However, the Jets are 4-0 with Wilson behind center, so what gives? It comes down to New York’s run game. The Jets were 1-2 to start the season, but rushed for just 83, 93 and 76 yards. They’re 4-0 since that and the team has seen those numbers increase to 98, 135, 179 and 155 rushing yards.
New York heads into this game without their best running back, Breece Hall. The Jets acquired James Robinson in a trade for Jacksonville this week and also have backup Michael Carter. Another key for the Patriots is to shut down New York’s run game. Make the Jets try to beat you using Wilson, who hasn’t shown much in the way of passing the ball this fall.
Protect Mac Jones
It hasn’t been pretty with Jones this season. The second-year quarterback has clearly struggled and the Patriots are going to do more to keep him comfortable in the pocket. Considering Jones has suffered a back injury and a high ankle sprain this season, a key for the Patriots on Sunday will be to win in the trenches and protect their quarterback.
Jones looked antsy on Monday night. The Pats struggled to run the ball efficiently in the three series he played. He also took off and ran more than we’re used to seeing. It felt as though Jones was doing whatever he could to avoid being hit.
A great way to make him feel comfortable is to give him enough time to throw in the pocket.
That might not be easy. The Jets have a solid defense. Their unit is allowing just 209.4 passing yards per game. New York is allowing just 19.6 points per game. That’s the tenth best mark in the NFL. The Patriots also have to deal with defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. The third overall pick in 2019 leads the Jets with five sacks this season. The Patriots will attempt to slow him down without center David Andrews (concussion).
Prediction: Patriots 23, Jets 20