If the New York Jets defeat the Patriots in Week 7, these will be the reasons why
The New York Jets have a daunting task ahead of them as they come out of the bye week. They will be seeking their first win against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium since the 2010 Divisional playoffs, and their first regular-season victory in the building since Brett Favre led an overtime triumph in 2008.
This is a much different Patriots team than the ones that tormented the Jets in the past – this squad is 0-4 at home – but the Foxborough drought remains a dark cloud over the franchise until it is cast away.
Should the Jets leave Massachusetts as victorious underdogs, these will likely be the main reasons they get it done.
Zach Wilson hits the easy throws
The Patriots allowed 445 passing yards to the Cowboys last week, the second-most passing yards they have allowed at home in franchise history and the most they have yielded at Gillette Stadium.
Dak Prescott and the Cowboys did a lot of their damage through short passes. Prescott went 19-of-22 for 190 yards on throws from 0-to-9 yards downfield, the most yards on short throws of any quarterback in Week 6. He threw for a first down on half of those 22 attempts.
Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson needs to be more accurate and productive on the routine throws if the Jets are to begin sustaining long offensive drives. Out of 34 qualified quarterbacks this season, Wilson ranks 29th in adjusted completion percentage on short passes (80.3%) and 33rd in yards per attempt on short passes (5.3).
Dallas laid the blueprint to carve up New England’s defense – death by a thousand paper cuts. For Wilson to mimic that plan of attack, he must be able to execute the easy stuff in Foxborough.
Pressure creates Mac Jones turnovers
Mac Jones had a turnover-free game against the Jets in Week 2, his second consecutive game without a turnover to begin his career. Since then, Jones has seven turnovers in his past four games.
Jones rarely puts the ball in danger when operating from a clean pocket. He has registered a turnover-worthy play on only 1.2% of his clean dropbacks (2 out of 154), ranking seventh-lowest among qualified quarterbacks.
But if the Jets can put pressure on Jones, he will make mistakes. His total of six turnover-worthy plays under pressure is tied for the third-most behind Sam Darnold (7) and Ben Roethlisberger (8).
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The offense protects the football
Keeping the football safe is a must in any NFL game, but it is especially true against the Patriots.
Under Belichick, the Patriots are 223-66 (.772) when taking the ball away at least once, but they are only 23-30 (.434) when their opponent records zero turnovers. Even at home, New England is just 15-14 (.517) in Belichick’s tenure when they fail to steal the ball.
This year, New England is 0-2 with a minus-8.5 point differential when recording zero takeaways and 2-2 with a plus-3.8 point differential when recording at least one takeaway.
We do not know what a clean performance from this iteration of the Jets looks like. They have turned the ball over in all five of their games this season.
If Wilson can dial down his aggressiveness just enough to where he can keep playing his style of ball while also minimizing turnover risk, the Jets will substantially increase their odds of winning.
New England’s tight ends and running backs are neutralized
New England is the wrong team to have linebacker issues against. The Patriots rely heavily on their tight ends and running backs in the passing game.
Through six games, New England’s tight ends and running backs have combined to average 13.2 receptions for 107.7 yards with a total of four touchdowns. Six of their top 10 receivers in terms of receptions play either tight end or running back.
New England’s non-wide receivers went to work against the Jets in Week 2, catching 13 passes for 117 yards and six first downs. Running back James White had half of those chain-movers.
If the Jets are going to yank this one out, they must keep the Patriots’ backs and tight ends quiet in the passing game. They will have a tough time getting New England off the field if Sherwood, the other linebackers, and the safeties struggle to prevent yardage after the catch on New England’s bevy of short throws.
Jonathan Jones’ absence is exploited
New England’s biggest absence due to injury in this game will be slot cornerback Jonathan Jones, a staple in their secondary since 2016.
Jones’ injury will likely lead to increased playing time for third-year corner Joejuan Williams and second-year defensive back Myles Byant.
Williams has been a massive liability this season. He has given up a perfect 158.3 passer rating, allowing 6-of-7 passing for 127 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. The 6-foot-4, 208-pounder largely plays outside.
Bryant was an undrafted free agent in 2020 and has mostly played safety in the NFL but is capable of dabbling at corner.
However, Bryant has been better at safety. In three short appearances at cornerback last season, Bryant allowed 2-of-2 passing for 30 yards and two first downs over only 16 coverage snaps. Bryant has primarily played safety in this year’s preseason and regular season.
Jones’ absence will not necessarily weaken the slot, as the Patriots may move one of their outside starters – J.C. Jackson or Jalen Mills – into the slot while putting someone else outside. But there will be a gaping hole somewhere due to Jones’ injury, and the Jets have to exploit it.