WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN
A plethora of injuries has made it difficult to get an accurate assessment of New England’s running game this season. The Patriots have used wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as their primary back in some games. Patterson is third on the team in carries (32) and rushing yards (146). Nevertheless, New England has averaged at least 4 yards per carry in six of its 10 games. Rookie Sony Michel has been in and out of the lineup, but leads the way with 453 yards on 106 rushing attempts, an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Through their first 10 games the Jets ranked 20th in rushing yards allowed per game, and 13th in yards allowed per rushing attempt. New York surrendered 179 yards on the ground to Chicago in Week 8, and 212 to Buffalo in Week 10. Much of that production came when the Jets trailed and the opponent pounded away. When games have been competitive, the Jets run defense has been better. Michel should be closer to full strength, and the return of guard Shaw Mason should help as well.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS
Despite how it looked in the loss to Tennessee, the passing game remains the strength of the New England offense. Quarterback Tom Brady has been inaccurate at times, but enters this game with 17 touchdown passes and seven interceptions this season. Running back James White has been the team’s best offensive player, and best receiving threat as well. He leads the team in receptions (66) and receiving yards (562). New England could use more production from oft-injured tight end Rob Gronkowski (one TD catch), who should return this week. The Jets have been a middle-of-the pack team against the pass this season, and ranked 15th in that category through their first 10 games. The New York defense has excelled on third down, however, an area the Patriots struggled in during each of their three losses this season. Look for Brady and the passing game to bounce back.
WHEN THE JETS RUN
Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell gave the Jets a one-two punch in the running game early in the season, but it’s been mostly Crowell since Powell suffered a season-ending neck injury in a Week 7 loss to the Vikings. New York ran for at least 107 yards in four of its first six games and went 3-3 in that span, but the Jets have been limited to 71, 57, 80 and 83 yards on the ground in their last four games — all losses. New York did explode for a 323-yard rushing performance in a 34-16 victory over Denver. Crowell set a franchise record by running for 219 yards on 15 carries in that win. Despite some improved run defense by linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the Patriots have allowed more than 100 yards rushing in three of their last four games (134, 117 and 150) and it’s been a problem periodically all season. As long as New York is in the game Crowell will get his carries.
WHEN THE JETS PASS
Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, missed New York’s last game with a foot injury and his status for this game is uncertain. Josh McCown completed 17 of 34 passes for 135 yards and was intercepted twice in the 41-10 Week 10 loss to Buffalo. Through 10 games the Jets ranked 29th in both passing yards per game and passing yards per play. Darnold has tossed 11 touchdown passes and had 14 passes intercepted in his nine games. No New York receiver has caught more than 29 passes this season, and only three have more than 19 receptions. The Patriots haven’t been great at defending the pass and ranked 26th in that category entering their bye week. They have recorded just 15 sacks through their first 10 games. But New York’s pedestrian passing game should allow New England to bounce back with a strong effort.
New England’s kick coverage has been below average all season. After 10 games the Patriots ranked 31st in punt return average ( 13.1 yards allowed) and 29th in kickoff return average (26.4 yards). Darius Jennings kick-started Tennessee’s 34-10 victory over New England by returning the opening kickoff 58 yards to set up the game’s first score. Kicker Jason Myers has been one of the few bright spots for the Jets this season. His 55-yard field goal in a Week 10 loss to Buffalo tied the record for most field goals made from 55 yards or longer in one season (four). Andre Roberts has given the Jets consistent returns this season — through 10 games New York ranked first in punt return average — and will likely be in the conversation when it comes time to select players for the Pro Bowl.
One thing New York has going for it in this matchup is the game’s location: MetLife Stadium. The Jets have won three games this season, and two of them were played at home. New York defeated Denver 34-16 and beat Indianapolis 42-34. New England’s troubles on the road continued in Week 10, when the Patriots lost to the Titans 34-10 in Tennessee. That dropped New England’s road record to 2-3 this year. The Patriots also came up short at Jacksonville (31-20) and at Detroit (26-10). Slow starts have been a theme for the Patriots in those road losses. New England was outscored 34-3 in the first quarter of those games, and 58-16 in the first half. New England also had trouble in its road wins. The Patriots trailed by double-digits at Chicago, and didn’t score a TD until the fourth quarter of their game at Buffalo.