Monday night might be tougher for Patriots than you think

Jim Hackett
October 17, 2019 - 9:17 am
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Yeah they’re 1-4 and yes they are the Jets, but these aren’t the same Jets the Patriots completely outclassed in a Week 3 30-14 rout in Foxboro. They aren’t exactly good, but they aren’t the Redskins or Dolphins either; two teams who are locking horns in a race to the bottom of the NFL toilet. 

The Patriots will likely win in New Jersey Monday night, but I think it’s going to be a bit of a slug and a lot tougher than most pundits probably think.

Through the first five games this season the Jets have played an absolutely brutal schedule featuring games against the Patriots at Gillette, an upstart Bills team and another tough draw against the battle-tested Philadelphia Eagles. In three of their first five games, Gang Green was ‘led’ by two hapless backup quarterbacks, Luke Falk and Trevor Siemian who combined to put up a grand total of nine points in those games. However, as Bob Dylan famously crooned, "the times they are a-changin."

The Jets have their young and talented quarterback, Sam Darnold back under center and back from three weeks of quarantine from mononucleosis. Since Belichick and Brady arrived in New England, Jets fans have lived in a constant state of impending doom anyway, but this mononucleosis thing hit hard, only bested by the anxiety faced by a young Richie Cunningham after kissing Fonzie’s girlfriend many years ago.  

Darnold can play and the Jets have a nice pool of talent around him on offense including speedster and deep threat Robby Anderson, the reliable Jamison Crowder making the high volume catches and the always dangerous Le’Veon Bell in the backfield. Tight End Chris Herndon could be back this week and he’s a favorite target of Darnold and a guy who has a knack of getting open in the end zone. They are coming off of a nice upset win over the Cowboys on Sunday and are feeling good about their quarterback and better about both their team and their chances at home on Monday night. They’re hungry and even if their hope is more perceived than realistic, the combination of belief, hunger and young talent is one that can pose problems, particularly when these two teams meet.

Emotions on the Jets side will be high for sure and division games are always a little more challenging than the stat sheets would lead you to believe. That’s true even when the talent disparity can be glaring. However, typical division game narratives aside, the actual matchups on the field in this game will offer plenty of intrigue, too. 

For one, we know how dominant the Patriots defense is. They are a turnover-creating machine featuring a particular knack of preying on weak and inexperienced quarterback play and so far this season there has been no shortage of either. After embarrassing future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger on opening night, the Patriots have made minced meat out of Grade D meat by-product quarterbacks like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen, Colt McCoy, rookie Daniel Jones, second-year talent but mistake-prone Josh Allen and the aforementioned never-will-be’s Falk and Siemian. I’m taking absolutely nothing away from the talented, alert, play-making, smart and aggressive Patriots defense, but I’m quite certain that Darnold will prove a more worthy opponent on Monday night. A fully armed Jets offense is the best one the Patriots have faced this season since week one. 

The Patriots defense versus the Jets offense will be strength versus strength. 

On defense, the Jets can stuff the run. With the Patriots passing game currently undermanned at both wide receiver and tight end, a formidable rushing attack could ideally offset that and help set up play-action for Brady. However, running the ball against the Jets defense may prove to be tougher sledding than you think. The Jets rank 13thin the NFL against the run and that’s after giving up 105 yards on 28 carries to the NFL’s top back, Ezekiel Elliot on Sunday. So far this season, with a depleted offensive line, no fullbacks and limited blocking from the tight end position, the Patriots don’t enter Monday night with a consistent rushing threat at all. Sony Michel has been less than inspiring and has shown very little ability to break tackles effectively like he did during the postseason last year. Running the football has had a high level of difficulty for the Patriots through the first six games this season and it won’t get easier Monday night.

The opportunity for the Patriots offense comes in the passing game and this is where the game will need to be won. To move the football effectively against the Jets, the vintage Brady quick release, surgically accurate passing game will have to be in full effect. Look for lots of Edelman, James White, and Rex Burkhead, provided he’s cleared to return. The quick-strike, move the chains, 80 plus offensive play Patriots will have to be on full display for this offense to do its part on Monday night. 

My money is on the Patriots to execute as noted above and win the game. However, if you’re looking at their 6-0 record versus that of the 1-4 Jets and seeing a blowout on the horizon, I think you are in for a surprise. The Jets aren’t there yet, but my money says they are ready to give the Pats a real test, finally giving us a game worth watching on Monday night.