Going up against one of the worst teams in the NFL this year (and the last few years), the New England Patriots will face a golden opportunity to get some momentum back after dropping to 2-4 in Week 6. They will host the 1-4 New York Jets, whose record is only marginally worse than the Patriots but who have already been beaten soundly by their division rivals.
Back in Week 2, the Patriots traveled to the Meadowlands and came away with a 25-6 victory. New England did not play a perfect game that day — the offense went just 3-for-12 on third down, for example — but it was still enough to win handily thanks in large part due to Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson tossing four interceptions.
Five weeks later the question is whether the Patriots’ own rookie starter, Mac Jones, will once again outperform his Gang Green counterpart. Let’s use our crystal ball as well as prop bets provided by DraftKings Sportsbook to find out if that will indeed happen.
QB Mac Jones: O/U 246.5 passing yards
In the four games since Week 2, when he threw for a season-low 186 yards versus the Jets, Mac Jones has averaged 251.3 passing yards per contest. Even though he is coming off back-to-back games in which he finished below that number — he had 231 in Houston and 229 against Dallas — the youngster certainly has it in him to generate considerable yardage with his right arm.
A lot will depend on the game script, though, and whether or not New England will try to actively challenge a secondary that has yet to catch an interception. The team did not do that in September, but it is not unreasonable to think things will change this time around. Those 246.5 yards set by the oddsmakers could therefore very well be reached.
How about the aforementioned Zach Wilson, though? His passing yards over/under was set at 228.5, which is slightly higher than his season average of 223.4 per game and the 210 yards he had against New England in Week 2. Yardage-wide, the oddsmakers do not expect Wilson to reach Jones’ numbers.
Yards, of course, are not the only measure of a quarterback’s performance; the biggest difference between the two rookies in Week 2 was turnovers: Jones did not give the ball away all game (even though he had a fumble), while Wilson threw four interceptions. If looking at their turnover numbers from a season-long perspective, we can see that the Jets’ QB has been more prone to giving the ball away.
Wilson has thrown nine interceptions to Jones’ six, despite playing one fewer game. Even though Jones has had a turnover in four straight contests, it would not be a surprise to see New England’s QB1 outplay his New York counterpart once again. That said, the two being closer in terms of efficiency compared to Week 2 would not be all that surprising either. You cannot count on Wilson throwing four picks each game, after all.
RB Damien Harris: O/U 64.5 rushing yards
New England’s lead back has had an up-and-down season so far, but he is coming off a solid performance against Dallas that saw him gain 101 yards on 18 carries. The problem from Harris’ perspective — at least relative to his projected over/under gain of 64.5 yards — is that the Jets field a solid run defense that held him to 62 yards on 16 carries in Week 2. He did have a spectacular 26-yard touchdown, but was very much contained the rest of the game
As a result, it would not be a surprise if New England opted to invest more in the passing than the running game. Add the recent emergence of rookie Rhamondre Stevenson and Harris finishing below 64.5 rushing yards would not be all that big a surprise.
WR Jakobi Meyers: O/U 60.5 receiving yards
The Patriots’ number one wide receiver is gaining an average of 57.7 receiving yards per game, but the oddsmakers project him to beat that number versus the Jets — despite him having only 38 yards in Week 2. While those numbers seem to suggest he will not reach 60.5 on Sunday, a pass-heavy game plan to target a vulnerable secondary could work in his favor.
WR Nelson Agholor: O/U 2.5 receptions
After catching three passes versus the Jets in Week 2, Agholor reaching that number again this week would not be all that surprising. He was limited a bit against Dallas, catching only one of three throws coming his way, but his season-long average of 4.7 targets per game show that he is getting his opportunities.
Agholor finishing the game against New York with a similar number of targets and at least three catches is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
TE Jonnu Smith: O/U 11.5 yards longest reception
The Patriots’ usage of tight end Jonnu Smith this season has been curious considering that he has seen far more snaps as a blocker (135) rather than as a receiver (84). Naturally, his output has been limited: the high-priced free agency addition has caught only 16 throws on 23 targets for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Of those 16 receptions, only three gained 12 or more yards — including a 19-yarder against the Jets in Week 2. Could Smith repeat the feat on Sunday? His role and statistics so far this season suggest that that will not happen, but it would not be a surprise if the Patriots give the 26-year-old more opportunities this time around. The Jets pass defense has had its issues this season, and Smith might just take advantage by adding another comparatively long reception to his résumé.