Welcome to Season 11, Episode 10 of the Unconventional Preview, a serious yet light-hearted, nostalgia-tinged look at the Patriots’ weekly game.
The Patriots have won 13 consecutive meetings with the Jets, including a 22-17 victory on October 30. It is imperative that they make 14 in a row on Sunday if they are to have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.
Coming out of their bye week, the Patriots would enter the playoffs as the AFC’s seventh seed if — say it in unison — the season ended today.
But that’s not the case, and there are two hard truths about their schedule:
1. The Patriots didn’t beat a legitimately good team other than the Jets so far. Their four non-NYJ wins have come against the Lions, Browns, Steelers and Colts, who are a combined 13-23-1.
And 2: It gets daunting from now on, with a pair of matchups against Josh Allen and the Bills, a Thanksgiving fight with Justin Jefferson and the talented Vikings, one more with the division-leading Air Tua Dolphins, as well as the defender The AFC champion Bengals and the Cardinals and Raiders.
And the Patriots rested better over the bye week as Sunday’s game begins a three-game streak in 12 days. Still: Intimidating.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The Patriots crumbled after the bye last year, winning one of their last five games, including a non-competitive playoff loss to the Bills. This year, they must do the opposite: they must prove that they have repaired recurring faults – in the plural – in attack.
Offensive linemen need to get in sync, especially against the 10th-ranked Jets defense (19.6-point play). Mac Jones has to get in sync with his receivers — or should we say, Matt Patricia has to call plays in which three receivers aren’t hitting the roads at 25 yards when the quarterback is already under siege. And the defense, which allowed 18.4 points per game, sixth in the league, just has to keep doing what it’s been doing.
Maybe that’s too much to ask. But maybe not. The Patriots have won two in a row and four of five, although that’s not really the case. But the quality of the opponent is getting tougher, and so the quality of the Patriots’ performance needs to improve. It must start on Sunday, against a side that would like nothing more than to beat them for the first time since December 2015.
Fire it up, Bailey, and let’s get this thing started…
Three players to watch other than quarterbacks
david andrews: I’m not sure we necessarily needed the lesson, but we’ve certainly received it over the past two games in his absence: Andrews, the seventh-year center and one of the Patriots captains, is one of the most important and irreplaceable players on this list.
He missed Game 1 with the Jets and Colts due to a concussion sustained from a cheap shot by the Bears’ Mike Pennel in Week 7. Although the Patriots won both games when Andrews was absent, his absence was felt in many ways as James Ferentz, the quintessential replacement-level inside lineman, was only sporadically up to the task.
Jones has been beleaguered often over the past two games, especially against the Jets, who sacked him six times, including a strip-sack, and hit him another time, which led to an interception.
The running game also struggled with Andrews sidelined; the Patriots have rushed 62 times for 197 yards – a 3.2 average – over the past two games, with Rhamondre Stevenson constantly having to fight for yardage after early contact.
Rookie left guard Cole Strange has clearly missed having Andrews’ advice and experience to lean on. Strange struggled against Jets star defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, allowing a sack, two runs, committing two penalties and losing snaps to Isaiah Wynn, who isn’t exactly the most trustworthy lineman himself. these days.
After playing 100% snaps in Weeks 2-6, when Andrews was at his side, Strange fell to 85% against the Jets, then down to just 15% two weeks ago against the Colts. He will benefit from the return of Andrews. All offense should.
Matthew Judon: One way to characterize Judon’s phenomenal performance this season is to call him effectively dominant.
In the Patriots’ 26-3 win over the Colts in Week 9, the supreme rusher fired baffled quarterback Sam Ehlinger three times while recording six tackles and four QB hits. Somehow he didn’t earn his second AFC Defensive Player of the Week award of the season, with Ravens’ Justin Houston earning the honor with a 3 tackles, 2½ sacks performance and 1 interception against the Saints. Judon’s stat line looks better to me, and he dominated the game playing just 42 defensive snaps, his second-lowest total of the season. (He went 36 in the Lions’ 29-0 rout in Week 5.)
It’s wise for Patriots defensive coaches Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick to deploy him that way. Last season, Judon racked up 12½ sacks heading into the Week 14 break; he had no other for the rest of the season, with injuries, fatigue and the priority of opponents preventing him from conspiring against him. Judon has a league-best 11½ sacks in nine games this season, and a real blow to Hall of Famer Andre Tippett’s franchise record (18½ in 1984) and NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.
It should be noted, however, that Judon doesn’t need to rack up huge amounts to have a major impact. In the win over the Jets in Week 8, Judon was credited with just two assisted tackles and didn’t count for a sack for just the second time this season, but he was facing Zach Wilson all day, including the insane third quarter. throw that became the first of Devin McCourty’s two interceptions this afternoon.
Gardner Sauce: Stay away, Mac. If you know what’s good for you, stay away. The cornerback, the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft from Cincinnati, plays with the confidence of a Pro Bowler who has shut down elite receivers for years. His height — 6-foot-3 — and effortless flow reminds me a bit of Patriots legend Mike Haynes.
Gardner was simply extraordinary. He leads the NFL in passes defended (13), allowed just a 54.9 passer rating when targeted and has a pair of interceptions, including a decisive third-quarter Allen pick. of the Bills’ surprise two weeks ago.
In the previous Patriots-Jets matchup, Jones stayed clear of Gardner for the most part, targeting receivers he covered four times, with a total of 1 yard gained. Gardner was involved in some favorable play for the Patriots in the previous game, however. Hunter Henry bulldozed him into the end zone, opening up space for Jakobi Meyers’ touchdown in the third quarter that gave the Patriots the lead. Taking out Gardner is pretty much the only way to beat him.
Grievance of the week
Jets linebacker CJ Mosley was all over the opener, making 13 tackles, tied for the most an opponent has had against the Patriots this season. (The Steelers’ Myles Jack also had 13 in Week 2.) Ten of Mosley’s tackles were solo, including one for a loss, and he also had one pass defended. Spectacular performance, but it turned out he was all over the place because he had a pretty good idea of where to go before the play started.
Bill Belichick acknowledged the day after the Colts game that Indianapolis linebacker Shaquille Leonard said the Patriots’ offensive plays were accurate. And Belichick added, almost bluntly, that Mosley had done the same thing the previous week. Belichick’s confirmation came as a surprise – more than anything, he seemed impressed with Mosley and Leonard for their decoding abilities.
His response somewhat deafened what should have been a more embarrassing story. It wasn’t just confirmation that Mosley and Leonard are smart and shrewd players. It’s confirmation of one of the many ways the offensive coaching staff is failing Jones and the players.
Prediction, or, no, four AFC East teams will not make the playoffs
Most of the time, the likely outcome of a game cannot be narrowed down to the performance of a single player. But in this clash of teams that are three weeks away from facing each other and have similar strengths and flaws, it really comes down to one question and one quarterback: Will Wilson still give the football away? and the game?
He was a disaster in the previous game, with three interceptions, and that’s nothing new when he faces the Patriots. He has two touchdown passes, seven interceptions and has been sacked seven times in three career games against the Patriots, all losses. He had moments of success in last month’s game — Garrett Wilson had 115 receiving yards and Tyler Conklin caught two touchdowns. But at least two of Wilson’s interceptions were inexcusable, and the Jets’ biggest mistake in retrospect saw him throwing 41 passes.
The hunch here: Wilson has a short leash, but he always makes a brutal mistake out of habit and his weird overconfidence, and that’s just enough to win the Patriots a game they need to have. Patriots 17, Jets 16.
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