After a tough loss to open up the 2021 campaign, the New England Patriots have an opportunity to get back on track this week against the New York Jets. Both Mac Jones and Zach Wilson are looking to build off their strong debuts and put their team in the win column for the first time this season. With the Patriots losing two fumbles and committing eight penalties for 84 yards, ball security and staying disciplined were focal points in practice this week. The key for the Patriots is to continue to improve each week and with the Jets having such a young and inexperienced roster, the Patriots should be able to dominate in all three phases of the game on Sunday.
Let’s take a look at the keys to a Patriots victory this afternoon...
Getting pressure on Wilson
With Mekhi Becton placed on injured reserve this week, the Jets will now be without their starting left tackle, forcing them to do some reshuffling along their offensive line. After a week where Wilson was hit 10 times, the Patriots’ front seven will need to continue to get after the quarterback and make life difficult for the rookie. With Wilson’s athleticism and arm talent, he has the ability to extend plays and make throws from ridiculous angles. Collapsing the pocket and containing Wilson will force him to stay inside the pocket — which is something he doesn’t like to do. Matt Judon and company will need to take advantage of a depleted Jets offensive line to ensure the Patriots can get out and play with a lead early on.
Open up the playbook for Mac Jones
After going 29-for-39 for 281 yards and a touchdown a week ago, Jones was efficient from start to finish in the Patriots’ 17-16 loss versus Miami. It was a focus for the Patriots early on last week to get the ground game going and help settle in their rookie quarterback. However, as the game went on, Josh McDaniels started to get a bit more aggressive and allowed Jones to take some shots down the stretch. With Jones handling the different types of looks and pressures Brian Flores threw at him last week, it’s obvious Jones has the ability to improvise and push the ball down the field more. After some questionable play calls from McDaniels in Week 1, the Patriots should let Jones rip it a bit more this week versus a Jets defense that has consistently finished in the bottom third against the pass. Jones has proven once again he can handle the heavy workload at the quarterback position and can be the leader of this passing game that looks to improve after a lackluster 2020 season.
No. 2 cornerback spot
With Stephon Gilmore unavailable until the earliest Week 7, the Patriots’ secondary struggled last week as the Dolphins were able to get the ball in space to their playmakers with ease. With J.C. Jackson expected to cover Corey Davis for most of the Jets matchup, the Patriots are still in search of consistent cornerback play from their No. 1 corner on the outside. We saw Jalen Mills and some of Joejuan Williams in Week 1, but the two of them struggled in coverage and were clearly targeted from Tua Tagovailoa. With Wilson’s insane playmaking ability from outside the pocket, the Patriots’ secondary will need to play much better than they did in the opener to ensure they don't give any life to a young and inexperienced Jets team.
Better offensive line play
Once Trent Brown went out of the game last Sunday with a calf injury, the Patriots really struggled moving the ball on the ground and Jones started to get much more pressure in his face on dropbacks. With Brown out again, the Patriots have an interesting situation at the right tackle spot. Justin Herron struggled last week as the team’s swing tackle, and Yasir Durant was solid in relief. Once Brown went out, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith had to help out blocking at the line of scrimmage which limited them as receiving threats. The domino effect of Brown out last week really hurt the Patriots down the stretch. Brown also had calf issues during his time in Oakland and Las Vegas, so even though its believed not serious, the Patriots must find a solution at that spot to ensure they can get their power run game going as well as Jones comfortable in the pocket. Look for either Durant to get the start at right tackle or the Patriots potentially kicking out Michael Onwenu while Ted Karras plays left guard.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 10
- Bill Belichick is 25-6 against rookie quarterbacks. In those 31 games QBs have a completion rate of 54 percent with 25 TDs and 43 INTs.
- The Patriots have won 10 straight games against the Jets dating back to 2011.
- Dating back to last season, Nick Folk has made 29 straight field goals.