The New England Patriots and New York Jets last squared off on Christmas Eve, with the Patriots cruising to a rain-soaked 41-3 win at Gillette Stadium.
They’ll see a very different Jets team when they travel to MetLife Stadium this Sunday.
Nearly half of the Jets’ current 53-man roster — 25 players, to be exact — were not with the team when it visited Foxboro last December. Names like Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall and David Harris all have exited since then, leaving coach Todd Bowles will a roster full of young players and relative unknowns that, in a surprising twist, enters the weekend with a respectable 3-2 record.
Here’s a quick look at what to expect from these Jets, who currently are tied with the Patriots and Buffalo Bills for first place in the AFC East:
— No one will mistake Josh McCown for a superstar, but the journeyman quarterback has been a capable game manager this season. Expect a lot of dinking and dunking from the 38-year-old, as he ranks second in the NFL in completion percentage (71.4) but 18th in yards per attempt (6.94).
Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Tuesday noted McCown plays in a “quarterback-friendly” West Coast offense under Jets offensive coordinator John Morton.
“Like New Orleans runs,” Belichick said. “What the Jets run is similar to that, has basis in that. (McCown) has a lot of options. He uses them. He gets the ball out quick. He’s been accurate. He’s athletic. He’s able to extend plays. I mean, he’s over 70 percent completion, so he’s making a lot of good decisions, throwing the ball accurately and getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers and letting those guys make the plays.”
McCown has five touchdown passes and four interceptions on his record, and he’s yet to throw for more than 250 yards in any of New York’s five games.
— Robby Anderson and newcomer Jermaine Kearse — whom Patriots fans will remember from this play — have been McCown’s two favorite targets this season. Each has been targeted 29 times and has gained exactly 220 yards, with Kearse leading all Jets pass-catchers with 22 receptions.
— Running back Bilal Powell torched the Jacksonville Jaguars for 163 yards on 21 carries in Week 4, but a calf strain limited him to just six touches in Sunday’s win over the Cleveland Browns.
With Powell and veteran Matt Forte (turf toe) both banged up, the Patriots could see more of Elijah McGuire, an undrafted rookie who also ran wild against Jacksonville (10 carries, 93 yards). McGuire has averaged a team-best 5.2 yards per carry this season.
— Linebacker Demario Davis has been the Jets’ most productive defender this season. His 46 tackles are tied for most in the NFL, and he also leads New York with four tackles for loss and six quarterback hits.
— Stud defensive ends Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson have been non-factors in the Jets’ pass rush so far, with neither recording a single sack through five games. Wilkerson has yet to record even a QB hit, while Williams has tallied five.
Kony Ealy, meanwhile, has been far more productive since being released by the Patriots in August. In four games with the Jets — he didn’t play Sunday thanks to a shoulder injury — the 25-year-old defensive end has seven tackles, two QB hits, a team-high five pass deflections and one interception.
— The Jets used their top two draft picks this year on SEC safeties, selecting LSU’s Jamal Adams sixth overall and Florida’s Marcus Maye at No. 39.
By all accounts, Adams got off to an excellent start this season before struggling a bit against the Browns. Maye recorded his first career interception Sunday, picking off DeShone Kizer in the end zone to thwart a promising Cleveland drive. The Jets went on to win 17-14.
Maye told the New York Post last week it would be “a dream come true” to intercept a pass from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, whom he’ll face for the first time this weekend.
“You always want to go against the great quarterbacks,” Maye told the Post’s Steve Serby. “You start at the top of the list with Tom, and you work your way down.”
Thumbnail photo via Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images
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