Previewing the opposition: New England Patriots

As usual, the Jets will be a heavy underdog as they face the Super Bowl champion Patriots for the first time this season. When the teams met 10 months ago, the Patriots easily dispatched the Jets 41-3. However, prior to that, the teams had contested seven games in a row where the winner was decided by one score. The Jets won just two of these though, both in overtime. Do they have any chance at all of repeating the feat here?


This will be the third Jets game in a row where Tom Brady has been limited in practice during the week, but still made the start. This time, he's suffering from an injury to his shoulder, caused by a hit he took in their most recent game against the Bucs. However, they've had 10 days to recover from that one.

Brady has been getting hit more than usual this year and is holding onto the ball longer than he usually does, as the Patriots' usual quick passing game hasn't really worked this season.

One other change is that he's been throwing downfield more and with more success. In 2016, he completed just 23 passes more than 20 yards downfield, whereas he's already completed 14 in the first five games of this season.

Offensive Line

The Patriots offensive line has come in for a lot of criticism, but Brady holding the ball for longer has definitely been a factor, as left guard Joe Thuney was the only player who struggled in pass protection last year.

The Patriots have brought back the same unit as last year, which saw all five starters play over a thousand snaps. Right guard Shaq Mason and center David Andrews key the running game along with right tackle Marcus Cannon, while Nate Solder's primary role is to protect the blindside.

Their depth is more questionable. Veteran LaAdrian Waddle started for Cannon in week three and had a poor game. Cameron Fleming and Ted Karras also offer cover off the bench.

Running Backs

The Patriots lost LaGarrette Blount to free agency after a season that saw him rush for over 1,100 yards and 18 touchdowns, so now James White, Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee share the workload.

The Patriots don't really have a workhorse back, but Gillislee has the most carries, rushing yards and touchdowns and zero targets in the passing game. White has played the most snaps and leads the team with 29 catches. Lewis hasn't played as much, but is averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

Fullback James Develin continues to do a solid job as a lead blocker.


Brady's inability to get the short passing game going has been largely attributed to Julian Edelman being on injured reserve, but he's missed time in the past and the Patriots seemed to cope well enough with that. They're now relying on Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan to step it up as possession receivers.

Surprisingly, Hogan averaged 18 yards per catch last year, but that's down to 12.5 this season. The big play threat has been Brandin Cooks, whose addition has added another dimension to the Patriots' offense. He's averaging over 21 yards per catch.

Malcolm Mitchell is also on injured reserve, but the Patriots traded for speedster Phillip Dorsett who is a former first round pick.

At tight end, Rob Gronkowski didn't even play in that blowout over the Jets last year, but he'll be back in the line-up tomorrow. Gronkowski is still a good blocker and had racked up 285 yards in the last three games prior to missing the Bucs game last Thursday.

Back-up Dwayne Allen scored three times for the Colts against the Jets last season, but has had a rough start to his Patriots career with no catches and a couple of drops along with some struggles as a blocker.

Undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister has also been seeing time at tight end.

Defensive Line

The Patriots haven't been faring too well against the run, but they have some decent run stoppers on the interior including former first round pick Malcom Brown and veterans Lawrence Guy and Alan Branch. Undrafted rookie Adam Butler got his first NFL start last week with Branch out.

Another rookie, fourth round pick Deatrich Wise, offers some pass rushing off the edge, along with Trey Flowers, who had seven sacks last year. The pair has combined for 6.5 of the Patriots' 10 sacks so far this year.

Another veteran addition, Cassius Marsh, also gets plenty of playing time, but hasn't made much impact so far.


Veteran Dont'a Hightower - an offseason target for the Jets - hasn't been fully healthy, as he's missed two games and only been used in a part-time role in most of the rest. Despite this, former Jet David Harris can't seem to get on the field. He has just seven defensive snaps all season.

The versatile Kyle Van Noy has been the mainstay, playing almost every snap. Elandon Roberts, who the team seemed to have earmarked to take over from Jamie Collins until Van Noy outperformed him last year, has also been starting but in a part time role.

Aside from Harris, their bench includes undrafted rookie Harvey Langi, who showed some promise as a pass rusher in preseason, but he was just in a car accident and has been ruled out.

Defensive Backs

New England's other big veteran addition during the offseason was former top ten pick Stephon Gilmore. Despite some big talk in the offseason, he's been struggling so far with four penalties in five games. News just broke that he's been ruled out with a concussion, leaving them extremely thin at the position.

Solid cover corner Malcolm Butler was almost traded during the offseason but he's still there.

They don't have many options to replace Gilmore. The inexperienced Jonathan Jones has been used as a nickel cornerback but Eric Rowe is injured and has been ruled out too. Jones will presumably start with Johnson Bademosi getting reps in the slot.

With the lack of depth at corner and no Jamie Collins to put in the slot, you can expect the Patriots to operate plenty of three safety sets with veterans Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung. McCourty could also play corner, as he's played the position in the past.

Former second round pick Jordan Richards also gets reps as a fourth safety.

Special Teams

The Patriots kicking game is in steady hands with Ryan Allen on punts and Stephen Gostkowski kicking. Gostkowski has made all 12 of his field goals this year, but Allen is off to a shakier start.

Amendola has been the team's punt returner so far this year and had a 40-yard return in the Bucs game. Lewis has been returning kickoffs, with limited success so far.

In coverage, perennial pro bowler Matthew Slater remains one of the best gunners in the league despite missing much of last year. Reserves Nate Ebner and Bademosi are also extremely productive in coverage.