Jets - Patriots Preview

This weekend since Sam Darnold taking on Tom Brady
Michael Nania
Fri, October 18, 1:13 PM EDT

Last Game

Jets – won 24-22 vs. Cowboys

At long last!

35 days after kicking off their 2019 season, the Jets finally got their first victory, defeating the Cowboys 24-22 at MetLife Stadium.

Sam Darnold’s return single-handedly sparked the entire franchise. Without Darnold, the Jets were a lifeless team producing at historically inept levels on the offensive side of the ball. Until their franchise quarterback returned, there was little to no hope of the Jets even being competitive.

Darnold changed everything, though. He came back with a bang, showing no ill-effects from his battle with mono. The 22-year old completed 23 of 32 passes for 338 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, averaging a career-best 10.6 yards per pass attempt.

For the most part, the Jets defense took advantage of a Cowboys offense that was missing Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, La’el Collins, and Tyron Smith. They made Dak Prescott the most pressured quarterback of Week 6, consistently getting home and forcing errant throws.

In the second half, Dallas crept back into the game. The Jets offense struggled to finish drives, while the defense was not coming up with the clutch stops it did in the first half.

When push came to shove, though, it was the Jets making the crucial plays of the game. Darnold led a field goal drive to put the Jets up by eight points, and the defense held up on Dallas’ game-tying two-point attempt. Jamal Adams won the game with an outstanding pressure on Prescott as he attempted to hit Jason Witten for the tie.

One thing is for sure – the Jets are a different team with Sam Darnold under center. But are they a good team? We’ll find out on Monday night.

Patriots – won 35-14 vs. Giants

Despite their win over the Giants, the Patriots came out of Week 6 with a few question marks.

An illustrious streak came to an end when the Patriots allowed Daniel Jones to throw a touchdown pass to Golden Tate. It was the first touchdown pass allowed by New England all season, ending their record-setting streak of most pass attempts faced without allowing a touchdown to start a season.

Regardless, the Patriots defense still dominated Jones’ offense. That touchdown represented the only seven points allowed by New England’s defense all night. Jones finished the game with a 35.2 passer rating.

One big question around the Patriots is the fact that their offense has looked a bit questionable recently. New England needed two non-offensive touchdowns to take control against the Giants, as their offense mustered up just 21 points at home against a brutal defense. Two weeks earlier, New England’s offense scored a measly nine points on the road against Buffalo’s elite defense.

On the year, the Patriots are ranked 10th in points scored per offensive drive. That would be their lowest ranking in the category since 2003.

State of the Division

Jets – 1-4, 3rd AFC East, 14th AFC

It seems the AFC East title is out of reach for the Jets, even if they defeat New England this week, but the AFC Wild Card is looking like a wide open race. Beyond the four AFC division leaders, only three other teams in the conference have a winning record (Bills, Raiders, Colts). The Jets have games remaining against two of those teams. In the overall conference standings, the Jets are just a half game behind the six 2-4 teams tied for 8th place, and they have games remaining against two of those teams.

With a ridiculous run to finish the season, the Jets could still make a Wild Card play. The scheduling is set up well for them to have a decent shot at getting on a roll. Following their game against the Patriots, the schedule softens up mightily for the Jets. Over their next seven games following the Patriots, the Jets play only one game against a team that currently has a winning record (Raiders), and that one is at home. The combined record of the teams on the Jets’ schedule from Weeks 8-14 is currently 8-31 (.205).

Patriots – 6-0, 1st AFC East, 1st AFC

The Patriots are comfortable in the AFC throne, but the Bills have kept the pressure on. New England already has a road win over Buffalo and a 1.5 game lead over them, but the Bills have the second-best record in the AFC. If the Pats hit a bump in the road, the Bills could have a chance to take control of the division.

However, until then, the AFC is New England’s conference. No other AFC team has won their fifth game as of Week 6’s conclusion.

The most crucial games on the Patriots’ schedule remain ahead of them. They will face off with each of the other three current AFC division leaders – the Ravens, Chiefs, and Texans. In Week 16, they get a rematch with the Bills.

Statistical strengths

Jets – Sam Darnold

Darnold’s presence changes the capability level of the entire team. Including the games he missed in 2018, the Jets are 0-6 without Darnold, scoring 7.8 points per game on offense and losing by an average of 18.0 points. As currently constructed, they are simply incapable of winning an NFL game without Darnold on the field.

With him, it’s an entirely different story. The Jets gained 9.59 yards per pass play against the Cowboys, their best mark since September of 2016.

One of the biggest things Darnold’s presence does for the team is unlock the full potential of wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Robby Anderson. In two games with Darnold, Crowder has averaged 98.5 receiving yards and 5.0 receiving first downs. Over his last six games with Darnold, Anderson has averaged 80.7 receiving yards per game while scoring four touchdowns.

Patriots – Pass defense

New England’s secondary has had a historically great start to the season. They lead the league with a 42.6 opponent passer rating allowed, which is the best mark posted by a team through six games since the 1996 Packers (who went on to win a Super Bowl). The Patriots are also just the second team (joining the 1976 49ers) to post at least 25 sacks while allowing only one passing touchdown through six games.

Part of why the Patriots defense has been so great is the activity of their secondary. New England has racked up 44 passes defended, seven more than any other team in football. They also lead the league with 14 interceptions, five more than any other team and nearly triple the current league average total (4.8).

Statistical weaknesses

Jets – Run blocking

The Jets offensive line did a much better job in pass protection against the Cowboys, benefiting from the communication boost that comes with a returning starting quarterback. Sam Darnold took two sacks, no knockdowns, and just eight hurries.

However, this group still has a long way to go in the run game. Yet again, they created nothing for Le’Veon Bell. The star running back gained 46 of his 50 rushing yards after contact against the Cowboys. Giving Bell four yards before contact in an entire game is simply awful.

Patriots – Rushing offense

Similar to the Jets, the Patriots have struggled in the ground game. They are ranked 18th in rush offense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) and 28th in yards per rush attempt (3.5).

New England needs more elusiveness from running back Sony Michel. He ranks last among qualified running backs in yards after contact per rush attempt (2.0).

Matchup of the Game: Robby Anderson vs. Stephon Gilmore

Robby Anderson is one of the best deep threats in football, and he earns that distinction with much more than just his elite speed. He is a great deep route runner, thriving with the double move and doing a solid job using his hands to free himself open. At the catch point, he is a brilliant tracker of the deep ball.

Over his last six games with Sam Darnold, Anderson has produced at a level that would put him on pace for 83 catches, 1,291 yards, and 11 touchdowns over 16 games – all while averaging above 15.0 yards per reception in those games. Over the past four seasons, Tyreek Hill and Odell Beckham were the only players to eclipse all of those numbers in a season.

On the other side, Stephon Gilmore is perhaps the best cornerback in football. In a league that continuously gives the offense more leeway, Gilmore may be the only true shutdown cornerback left. Because of his ability to get physical at the line of scrimmage and recover to stay stride-for-stride with receivers downfield, Gilmore is hard to beat man-to-man.

Gilmore has been Anderson’s kryptonite. Over their last four meetings, Anderson has caught nine of 21 targets for 59 yards and no touchdowns. That’s an average of 14.8 yards per game, with Anderson picking up no more than 25 yards in any one game against Gilmore.

The Darnold-to-Anderson duo is slowly growing into one of the most dangerous young combos in football. Now, coming off a game in which he caught the longest touchdown of his career, Anderson will face off with his nemesis.

After losing his first four matchups against the talented cornerback, can Anderson get the best of Gilmore for the first time?

If he can, the Jets just might shock the world.

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