The New England Patriots are leaving their bye week with a 5-4 record and as the seventh seed in the AFC playoff picture. In order to achieve a better position in the race for the postseason, a win this week will be crucial. The Patriots, after all, will be welcoming the 6-3 New York Jets to Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots and Jets have met just recently, with New England celebrating a 22-17 road win in Week 8. The game saw both offenses struggle, but three Zach Wilson interceptions eventually make the difference in the Patriots’ favor.
The Jets offense playing up-and-down football, and the defense keeping them in games was nothing new (same as with the Patriots, by the way). Whereas New York’s offense is ranked in the lower half of the league in most major categories, the defense is the polar opposite and at the very least a top-10 unit across the board.
The numbers for both units reflect that status:
- Record: 6-3 (2nd AFC East)
- Offense: 21.8 points/game (19th), 335.0 yards/game (18th), -0.040 EPA/play (23rd)
- Defense: 19.6 points/game (10th), 312.0 yards/game (7th), -0.045 EPA/play (7th)
- Scoring differential: +20 (10th)
- Turnover differential: +1 (t-11th)
As can be seen, the Jets defense is performing better when compared to the rest of the league than the offense. The unit coordinated by Jeff Ulbrich is top-10 in points and yards per game as well as expected points added per play; it will pose a major challenge to New England’s own uneven offense.
With that all said, let’s now jump right to the Jets’ active roster to get to know each of the players currently with the Patriots’ Week 11 opponent.
(Note: The 53-man roster is up-to-date as of Wednesday 7 a.m. ET; *denotes projected starter)
Zach Wilson* (2), Mike White (5), Joe Flacco (19)
Wilson missed the first three games of the season due to a knee injury, but has since resumed his role as the Jets’ starting quarterback. He did lead the team to five wins in six games, but has played some inconsistent football along the way — leading to some questions about his long-term outlook as New York’s franchise QB.
In total, the sophomore has completed 96 of 167 pass attempts (57.5%) for 1,202 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. Wilson has also scored a rushing and a receiving touchdown.
Michael Carter* (32), James Robinson (23), Ty Johnson (25), Zonovan Knight (27)
The Jets’ offense was led by Breece Hall for the first seven weeks, but a severe knee injury prematurely put an end to his rookie campaign. Hall is still the team’s leader in yards from scrimmage (681) and touchdowns (5), but with him unavailable New York had to rely on Michael Carter and trade acquisition James Robinson as their top two at the running back position.
Carter has been productive as a ball carrier and receiver, totaling 110 touches for 526 yards and two scores. Robinson, meanwhile, has touched the ball 20 times for 70 yards and a touchdown in his two games as a Jet.
Garrett Wilson* (17), Corey Davis* (84), Elijah Moore* (8), Braxton Berrios (10), Denzel Mims (11), Jeff Smith (16)
Even with former second-round draft pick Denzel Mims playing a limited role this season — he has caught just four passes for 92 yards — the Jets are fielding a solid group of wide receivers. The group is led by first-round rookie Garrett Wilson, who leads New York in targets (68), receptions (42) and receiving yards (521) and is second in receiving touchdowns (2).
Alongside him, Corey Davis and Elijah Moore are the other starter-level wideouts. Davis has caught 19 passes for 351 yards and a pair of scores, while Moore has caught 16 for 203.
The group also features ex-Patriot Braxton Berrios, who has made some plays on offense — catching 12 catches for 69 yards — but is primarily used in the kicking game.
Tyler Conklin* (83), C.J. Uzomah (87), Jeremy Ruckert (89), Kenny Yeboah (88)
The Jets’ tight ends have all seen action on offense this season, but Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah are the clear one-two punch at the position. Conklin in particular has been heavily involved and is deserving of the TE1 label: he has caught 33 passes for 316 yards and three scores, ranking in the team’s top three in all of those categories.
Duane Brown* (71), Cedric Ogbuehi* (70), Mike Remmers (68)
Three offensive tackles at one point projected as starters are currently on injured reserve, with Mekhi Becton out for the season, George Fant’s status uncertain, and Max Mitchell designated to return off IR (but not yet re-joining the roster).
As a result, New York will again be relying on some late pickups to protect the edge: Duane Brown was signed in mid-August after Becton was lost, while Cedric Ogbuehi was signed off the Houston Texans’ practice squad following Fant’s late-September knee injury. The pair has fared reasonably well, though, giving up just one combined sack all year.
Interior offensive line
Laken Tomlinson* (78), Connor McGovern* (60), Nate Herbig* (65), Dan Feeney (67)
The Jets’ interior offensive line is also missing a starter on injured reserve: former first-round draft pick Alijah Vera-Tucker suffered a torn triceps in Week 7 and is out for the rest of the season; he had started games at right guard and right tackle this season.
The Jets have found some continuity recently, though. Laken Tomlinson has been their starting left guard throughout the season, with Connor McGovern a reliable center. The right guard spot, meanwhile, has been manned by Nate Herbig since Week 4.
Interior defensive line
Quinnen Williams* (95), Sheldon Rankins* (98), Solomon Thomas (94), Nathan Shepherd (97)
The Jets’ interior defensive line gave the Patriots all sorts of problems in Week 8, with two players in particular standing out: Quinnen Williams and Sheldon Rankins, who are among the best interior D-line combos in the NFL today.
Williams aligns more as 3-technique over the guard, while Rankins is more of a 1-technique aligning closer to the center. The Patriots getting David Andrews back after he missed the previous matchup due to a concussion will be big. Williams and Rankins, as well as rotational options Solomon Thomas and Nathan Shepherd, have the potential to disrupt an offense’s operation — something New England found out first-hand earlier this year.
John Franklin-Meyers* (91), Carl Lawson* (58), Bryce Huff (47), Vinny Curry (99), Jermaine Johnson II (52), Micheal Clemons (72)
Even with Jacob Martin dealt to the Denver Broncos ahead of the early-November trade deadline, the Jets are fielding a solid and deep edge group. John Franklin-Meyers and Carl Lawson are the starters, with the others rotating in and out of the lineup depending on down and distance.
One name to point out beyond Franklin-Meyers and Lawson is Jermaine Johnson. A first-round draft pick earlier this year, Johnson missed the Week 8 game against the Patriots due to an ankle injury.
C.J. Mosley* (57), Quincy Williams* (56), Kwon Alexander (9), Jamien Sherwood (44), Marcell Harris (36)
The Jets’ linebacker group combines athleticism and aggressiveness, with C.J. Mosley embodying both. The 30-year-old, who started his career in Baltimore, is as good an off-the-ball defender as the Patriots will meet all season and capable of making an impact both as a pass rusher, run defender and in coverage.
His primary running mate is Quincy Williams, Quinnen Williams’ older brother. He is ranked second on the team in tackles behind Mosley, and a capable linebacker in his own right.
Kwon Alexander serves as the team’s LB3, with Jamien Sherwood and Marcell Harris among the team leaders in special teams snaps.
Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner* (1), D.J. Reed* (4), Michael Carter II* (30), Brandin Echols (26), Bryce Hall (37), Justin Hardee (34)
The fourth overall selection in this year’s draft, Sauce Gardner is already one of the better man cover cornerbacks in all of football. The rookie has picked off two passes and has drawn CB1 assignments throughout the season — a sign of trust the coaching staff has in his abilities to shadow an opponent’s top wideouts.
The rest of the Jets’ cornerback group is quite solid as well, despite not receiving the same publicity as Defensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner Gardner. D.J. Reed, who is one of two Jets to play every defensive snap this season, and Michael Carter II are both solid starters on the perimeter and in the slot, respectively, with Justin Hardee an elite special teams presence.
Lamarcus Joyner* (29), Jordan Whitehead* (3), Ashtyn Davis (21), Will Parks (39), Tony Adams (22)
While Sauce Gardner has arguably been the Jets’ best defensive back so far this season, Lamarcus Joyner has been the most impactful one. The veteran safety has not just picked off a team-high three passes, he also recovered a fumble — ranking first on the team with four takeaways.
Who is No. 2 on that list, you might ask? Fellow starting safety Jordan Whitehead, who is tied with Gardner and Michael Carter after catching two interceptions of his own. The two are not just playmakers but also quite reliable: Joyner has played all 614 defensive snaps, with Whitehead ranked third on the team with 607.
Greg Zuerlein (6), Braden Mann (7), Thomas Hennessy (42)
The Jets’ special teams operation has had some hiccups this season, with Greg Zuerlein making just 16 of 19 field goal attempts (84.2%) and 20 of 21 (95.2%) point-after tries. Still, the veteran has showcased his range and ability to perform in the clutch several times this season.
Joining him among in the kicking operation are punter and kickoff specialist Braden Mann as well as long snapper Thomas Hennessy. As noted above, ex-Patriot Braxton Berrios is the Jets’ primary punt and kickoff returner.