The Patriots (0-1) travel to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Jets (0-1) this Sunday in a battle of rookie quarterbacks. Mac Jones vs Zach Wilson. Defensive guru and first time head coach Robert Saleh gets to meet the AFC East mainstay Bill Belichick for the first time. Belichick usually does okay against rookie QBs, he's 21-6 against them including a 45-0 drubbing of Justin Herbert last year and a late season loss to Tua, so history isn't necessarily on Zach Wilson's side. A defense that looked improved over last year should give a bigger hope than the loss to Miami should bring disappointment. Fumbles happen. It was a heads up play, as Mac Jones would say, we just have to get better.
So what are we up against? Let's look at the Jets:
Zach Wilson went head to head against former Jets ghost whisperer Sam Darnold, which resulted in a 19-14 loss to the Panthers. But it was more of the same for Wilson as it was for his predecessor as Wilson was sacked a total of 6 times in the loss. So with the Patriots aggressive pass rush, coupled with the Jets losing Mekhi Becton to the IR, it could provide the Jets plenty of trouble with keeping the rookie QB clean. To Wilson's credit, he tossed 258 yards and 2 TDs, and his favorite target was the offseason acquisition Corey Davis (5 catches, 97 yards). Corey Davis was little more than a number 2 receiver in Tennessee, but a good final year turned him into a middle tier free agent. At 6'3, Davis is a big target. To go with 6'3 Denzel Mims (1 catch, 40 yards), that's a formidable duo in the right situation. However, the next targeted receiver was former Patriots draft pick Braxton Berrios (5 catches, 51 yards). Berrios is a smaller slot receiver, but he's smart. It's what drew the Patriots to him. But he's not going to kill you either. He's not going to burn you downfield, and the Patriots bend don't break style will perfectly allow that.
The rookies didn't exactly tear it up for the Jets. Rookie RB Michael Carter ran it 4 times for a whopping 6 yards, coupled with a 14 yard reception, and rookie Elijah Moore caught his first and only NFL pass for -3 yards. Those rookies have tons of potential, and in the future will probably be a consistent problem for defenses, but as of week 2, it remains to be seen.
The Jets defense was less than stellar overall in the game against the Panthers. Sam Darnold tossed the ball around to the tune of 279 yards, while Christian McCaffery ran it for almost 100 yards. In total the Jets let up 111 yards rushing, and 270 passing. Now, the Patriots don't have a Christian McCaffery. There's no swiss army knife in the backfield that is basically another pure WR. But the Patriots did rush for 125 yards in week 1 thanks to Damien Harris hitting the century mark. Most would assume that Rhamondre Stevenson will probably see a little bit more action this time around, barring any fumbles. James White fills the role of passing back as usual. So the run defense of the Jets will probably be seeing a steady diet of the Patriots run game.
Is there any bad? Belichick is 21-6 against rookie QBs, but he's only ever really started one out of necessity while in New England. So what's the bad? Who is the matchup for Corey Davis? At 6'3, he's probably suited to be guarded by Joejuan Williams. But can Williams cover him? JC Jackson is a better cover corner, but will he be able to handle it alone?
Robert Saleh could be the x-factor in this game. How ready is he to go toe to toe with Belichick? He always had his defenses ready in San Francisco, including in last years game against the Patriots.
It's hard to identify what "the bad" is when it comes to the Jets after only one week. They didn't play particularly well in the game, but they played better in the 2nd half against Carolina. Coming back from a 16-0 halftime deficit to make it 19-14 at the end of the game is nothing to scoff at. It means that not only did they score two touchdowns, they made halftime adjustments that shut down Carolina's offense.
The run defense of the Patriots was an improvement over last season, holding the Dolphins to 74 yards rushing total. The Jets total rush offense for week 1 was 45 yards. The leading rusher was Tevin Coleman to the tune of 9 carries for 24 yards. The Patriots pass defense was without Stephon Gilmore, as it will be for the first 6 weeks of the season, but held Tua and company to barely over 200 yards passing. As a team the Dolphins actually had 185 yards passing after factoring in the sacks. Most of that damage came from speedy Jaylen Waddle and the surprisingly quick DeVante Parker. Who's got that type of speed on the Jets? Nobody on the Jets has Jaylen Waddle speed. But match up wise, they can still present a few mismatches.
Mac Jones and the offense could be in for another good day against the Jets, hopefully with less turnovers.
The Verdict: Patriots 24, Jets 14.