After an 11-day break, the New England Patriots will return to the field this Monday night for the second of two meetings with the AFC East rival New York Jets.
Here’s what to watch for in that Week 7 matchup:
Time: Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
With Jets quarterback Sam Darnold sidelined, New England cruised to a 30-14 win in Week 3, with New York’s two scores coming on a muffed punt touchdown and a pick-six in garbage time. The Patriots’ defense smothered the Jets’ Luke Falk-led offense, holding it to 105 total yards (2.2 per play) and an 0-for-12 showing on third down while racking up five sacks and an interception.
Even with running back James White missing the game for the birth of his son and wide receiver Julian Edelman suffering an injury that knocked him out before halftime, the Patriots moved the ball at will through the first three quarters and led 30-0 with 18 minutes remaining.
Josh Gordon battled through multiple injuries to haul in two highlight-reel catches in the second half, and Phillip Dorsett (seven targets, six catches, 56 yards, one touchdown) turned in a solid performance, as well. Rex Burkhead spearheaded New England’s ground game with 11 carries for 47 yards and a score to go along with six catches for 22 yards.
With Darnold, linebacker C.J. Mosely and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams all expected to suit up for New York in Monday’s rematch, the Patriots should face a much stiffer challenge this time around.
The Patriots improved to 6-0 last Thursday night, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull away from the New York Giants in a surprisingly competitive 35-14 victory.
The Jets upset the Dallas Cowboys 24-22 in Darnold’s return from a four-week bout with mononucleosis. They sit at 1-4.
The Patriots currently are pegged as 9 1/2-point road favorites, their second-smallest line of the season (-7 at Buffalo in Week 4). Bill Belichick’s squad is 4-2 against the spread this season. Adam Gase’s Jets are 2-3 ATS.
Regardless of New York’s talent level, Pats-Jets games at MetLife always tend to be tight contests. Five of the last six have been decided by seven points or fewer, and there hasn’t been a true blowout since the infamous Butt Fumble game in 2012.
In last year’s visit, the Patriots and Jets were tied late in the third quarter before New England scored two touchdowns in the final 17 minutes to win 27-13.
The teams won’t release their final injury reports until Saturday afternoon, but it appears likely Gordon will not play in this game considering he has yet to practice since suffering knee and ankle injuries against the Giants. It also looks like the Patriots will be without tight ends Matt LaCosse, who reportedly is expected to miss multiple games with an MCL sprain, and Ryan Izzo, who suffered a concussion in practice Thursday.
Receivers Julian Edelman (chest) and Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), running back Rex Burkhead (foot) and safety Patrick Chung (chest, heel) have been limited in practice this week. Dorsett suggested he will be active Monday night.
The Patriots also will be without defensive end Michael Bennett, who was issued a one-week suspension following an argument with defensive line coach Bret Bielema. Bennett, who played just 11 defensive snaps against the Giants, with most of them coming in garbage time, has seen his role grow progressively smaller with each passing week.
New York received some positive injury news this week when Mosely, the team’s Pro Bowl linebacker and arguably their best defensive player, announced his plans to suit up Monday. Mosley has been unavailable since injuring his groin during the Jets’ season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets still are dealing with plenty of lineup uncertainty, however. Their latest injury report included a whopping 25 players, 10 of whom did not participate in Friday’s practice:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
DE Henry Anderson, Shoulder
OL Kelvin Beachum, Ankle
RB Trenton Cannon, Foot/Ankle
TE Chris Herndon, Hamstring
LB Neville Hewitt, Neck/Knee
LB Albert McClellan, Concussion
OL Alex Lewis, Neck
S Rontez Miles, Not Injury Related
G Kelechi Osemele, Shoulder
CB Darryl Roberts, Ankle
CB Nate Hairston, Knee
C Ryan Kalil, Shoulder
LB C.J. Mosley, Groin
DT Steve McLendon, Hamstring
WR Demaryius Thomas, Hamstring
G Brian Winters, Shoulder/Knee
LB Tarell Basham, Heel
WR Josh Bellamy, Shoulder
LB Blake Cashman, Ankle
LB Brandon Copeland, Thumb
S Blake Countess, Hamstring
TE Ryan Griffin, Ankle
LB Jordan Jenkins, Ankle
CB Trumaine Johnson, Thigh
DT Quinnen Williams, Ankle
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ben Watson, Patriots tight end
It took a bit longer than he was hoping, but Watson should finally make his return to the Patriots’ lineup this week. And there’s a very strong chance he’ll immediately become New England’s No. 1 tight end, even in the unlikely event that Izzo is healthy enough to play. Quarterback Tom Brady clearly has great trust in the 38-year-old, who surprisingly was released following his four-game suspension before re-signing one week later, and Izzo hasn’t impressed through his first six games as a Patriot.
It’ll also be interesting to see how the Patriots use ex-Jets tight end Eric Tomlinson, whom they signed this week. Tomlinson is a big dude (6-foot-6, 263 pounds) and he has some fullback experience, so he could help fill New England’s void at that position with James Develin and Jakob Johnson both on injured reserve.
Sam Darnold, Jets quarterback
In their three games without Darnold, the Jets ranked dead last in the NFL in both yards per play (3.07) and yards per pass attempt (3.05), and only the Miami Dolphins scored fewer points. New York then averaged 7.1 yards per play against the Cowboys, and Darnold earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after completing 23 of 32 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in his first game action since Week 1.
This still a relatively inexperienced QB going up against the NFL’s top-ranked defense, but the Jets’ offense must be taken seriously with Darnold back at the helm.
“It certainly makes a big difference having him on the field for them,” Belichick said this week. “There’s no question about that.”
Phillip Dorsett, Patriots wide receiver
Dorsett is expected back in the lineup after missing one game and most of another, and he likely will fill Gordon’s usual role as New England’s No. 2 receiver. Dorsett traditionally has struggled when thrust into a more prominent role — with Edelman and Gordon both hurting in Week 4, he caught just two passes on nine targets — but having him available will boost a receiving corps that had to rely heavily on undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski last week.
Expect significant playing time for Meyers in this one, as well. The North Carolina State product looked good against the Giants (four targets, four catches, 54 yards) and is a candidate for a Malcolm Mitchell-esque second-half breakout.
Demaryius Thomas, Jets wide receiver
Remember him? The Patriots shipped Thomas to the Jets after signing Antonio Brown last month, a move that didn’t sit well with the veteran wideout. Thomas told the New York Daily News this week he felt insulted and disrespected by the Patriots, calling his brief tenure in New England “a waste of time.” Injuries limited the 31-year-old in the weeks following the trade, but he’s played well of late, catching eight passes for 109 yards over New York’s last two games.
“He’s going to be motivated to play this week,” Patriots safety Duron Harmon said. “We all know that. It’s going to be fun.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images