Nothing to Fear
I wasn’t sure what to write about today. Usually, Fridays are reserved for game previews, but we previewed the Patriots just a couple of weeks ago and not a lot has changed, so I was keen to not just repeat myself. So instead I wanted to focus on why the Jets have nothing to fear heading into Foxborough, despite having not won there since 2011.
While researching that stat I saw that there was a time when New England lost 17 of 19 games to the Jets. It was between the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s and while that’s a long time ago now, I know we have some readers here who will remember that fondly. The point here is that teams go through ups and downs, and while the Jets are on the way up, maybe the Patriots are about to head into tougher times.
Corey Davis and Nate Herbig both missed practice on Thursday. It’s the second straight day for both and while Coach Saleh didn’t seem concerned about Herbig, there must be some concern that Davis won’t be ready. As much as I like and rate Davis as a player, I’d argue Herbig is the more important player between the two. Denzel Mims progression has made it easier for the Jets to bring Corey back slowly.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is back in the building. After working out with the Jets earlier this week, the guard has been signed by Joe Douglas. LDT will always hold a firm place in my heart as the man who removed Van Roten from the starting lineup in 2021.
DJ Reed and Jeremy Ruckert both got engaged during the bye week, so massive congratulations to both. Here’s wishing you a lifetime of happy marriages.
Pro Football Talk has the Jets as the 4th best team in the AFC right now in their latest ranking:
Good morning Football presenter Peter Schrager had this to say about the Jets/Patriots matchup this weekend: “Bill Belichick makes you beat you with your off-hand. Give him a bye week to prep, and he’ll force you to beat you in a way you don’t typically do. If the Jets beat the Patriots, it means Zach Wilson had a day and made the big throws to get the job done.”
FiveThirtyEight are giving the Jets just a 39% chance of beating the Patriots this week:
The Patriots are a poor offensive football team. Consider that the last time these two teams met the Jets held New England to just 161 passing yards and 288 yards total. To put that number into context, the best defense in the league is holding opposing teams to 280.6 yards a game (San Francisco) and the 2nd best defense is holding opposing teams to 290.4 yards a game (Denver). That number isn’t an aberration for the Patriots either.
Over the entire 2021 season the Patriots are averaging 319.9 yards per game (26th), over the last three games they are at just 250.3 yards per game (31st) and they average just 202.7 passing yards per game (23rd) and 161.3 yards passing per game over their last three. So not only are they a poor offensive unit on the season, but they’re actually trending in the wrong direction as well.
Whenever you look at an offense you start with the QB, and Mac Jones is one of the more limited passers in the league. As you can see from the chart below, he’s thrown one touchdown to 7 interceptions when attempting passes of 10+ yards down the field. His completion % also drops off a cliff when forced to throw more than 10 yard downfield falling from 78.9% to 46.2%. For me the goal is simple, take away the short stuff and force Jones to beat you down the field.
In that Schrager quote in the Quick Throws, he talks about Bill forcing you to beat yourselves. Basically, he does everything he can to remove the aspects of your game plan you’re comfortable with and force you into an alternative strategy. That's exactly what the Jets need to do here with Mac Jones, eliminate Stevenson out of the backfield, press on these early short throws, and force Mac to hold onto the ball and try and hit those deep shots.
Like most QBs, the numbers deteriorate when pressured, but those 5 interceptions under pressure are tied for 2nd in the league (unfortunately tied with Zach Wilson) but like a lot of young QBs, when put under pressure Mac Jones tends to make bad decisions.
Cole Strange was a favorite draft prospect of mine, but even I was a little surprised to see him taken in the first round. Back in week 8, the Jets exploited Strange on the inside with the first-year man giving up 3 pressures and 1 sack, that matchup between Quinnen Williams and Cole Strange isn’t a fair fight.
As limited as they are in the passing game, the running game is far from elite. The Patriots average 117.2 yards per game on the ground, good for 17th in the league, but again, over their last 3 games, they are down at 89 yards per game, which is only 27th. Harris and Stevenson are fine players, but with the Patriot’s inability to push the ball downfield, teams are starting to crowd the line and that reduces the running lanes.
Offensively the Patriots don’t scare me at all, but defensively it’s a different story. New England has one of the best defenses in football.
According to Football Outsiders, the Patriots had the #1 ranked defense in terms of DVOA between weeks 5-9 (Jets were 4th) and through the first 9 games they are giving up 18.4 points per game which is the 6th best in the NFL and they also average nearly 2 takeaways per game. So unlike the offense which is one of the worst in football, the defense is stacked with talent and can single-handedly win you a game.
The good news for the Jets is that we also possess one of the best defenses in football. If the Patriots average 1.9 takeaways per game, we average 1.6. If the Patriots are allowing 18.4 points per game the Jets are just behind at 19.6. In terms of defensive capability, we’re just as good as the Patriots and I’d say our offense is better. As long as don’t turn the ball over, then I feel confident that we’ll take home a victory.
If you look at the DVOA breakdown from football outsiders you’ll see two very similar teams:
The Jets are ranked higher across the board in terms of their offense and rank higher for rush defense, but the Patriots are the better pass defense team according to this metric. You’ll know I’m a big fan of DVOA because it adds some context to the numbers.