Scouting the Matchup: Patriots looking for consistency


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Previewing the New York Jets

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN

New England’s run game hasn’t been anything special thus far. The Patriots are averaging 99.0 yards on the ground per game and 3.87 yards per carry.  The Texans held the Patriots to 59 yards rushing on 20 carries, and the Panthers limited New England to 80 yards on 19 carries. Mike Gillislee leads the team in rushing yards (246) and rushing touchdowns (four), but he is averaging just 3.6 yards per attempt. Fortunately for New England, the Jets have been one of the worst teams in the league at defending the run. Through their first four games, New York ranked 29th in rushing yards allowed per game and 27th in rushing yards allowed per play. Four of their first five opponents gained at least 140 yards on the ground. Look for Gillislee and perhaps Dion Lewis to be more productive on the ground against the sagging Jets.  Advantage: Patriots Read

WHEN THE JETS RUN

There’s no doubt the Jets are at their best when they can run the football, the best example being their 23-20 victory over Jacksonville in Week 4 when they picked up a season-high 256 yards on the ground. New York has been without Matt Forte (turf toe) for much of the season, but Bilal Powell (4.7 yards per carry) and rookie Elijah McGuire (5.2 per carry) have both been productive. Powell, who left last week’s victory over Cleveland with a calf injury, has rushed for two touchdowns and McGuire added another. New England has allowed at least 4.5 yards per carry in four of its five games and surrendered 3.9 yards per rush in the victory over Houston. Run-stuffing defensive tackle Alan Branch has played sparingly for the Patriots this season and didn’t make the trip to Tampa last week. His presence in the middle of the defense has been missed, and the Patriots run defense has suffered due to his drop-off in production. Advantage: Jets Read

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS

This is one of the few areas that has been consistently good for the Patriots this season, and they’ll be facing a Jets secondary that starts two rookies at safety. New England is averaging 320.4 yards through the air per game and has led the NFL in passing yards per game for much of the season. Five New England receivers have caught at least 18 passes this season, including Brandin Cooks, who has 18 receptions for 379 yards. Running back James White leads the team in receptions (29), but Chris Hogan has a team-high five touchdown catches. Tight end Rob Gronkowski missed the Tampa Bay game with a thigh injury, and his return will make this unit even tougher to defend. One concern is the fact that the Patriots have surrendered 16 sacks this season, but the Jets have only seven sacks through five games. Assuming the offensive line can improve and protect an ailing Tom Brady, the Patriots should hold a huge edge here. Advantage: Patriots Read

WHEN THE JETS PASS

Jets quarterback Josh McCown has completed 105 of 147 pass attempts for 1,020 yards (6.9 yards per attempt) this season. He’s thrown five touchdown passes and been intercepted four times. Those are not great numbers but still better than many expected. Jermaine Kearse leads the team in receptions (22) and touchdown catches (three). Like the Patriots, the Jets have had trouble protecting their quarterback. McCown has been sacked 15 times. The Patriots have allowed all five quarterbacks they’ve faced this season to top the 300-yard mark. That’s a trend that needs to stop against a limited Jets aerial attack. The secondary took a step forward last week against Tampa Bay and was more competitive despite faltering at the end and holding on. Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler need to start putting solid efforts together and the Jets pedestrian weapons will give them an opportunity to do so. Advantage: Patriots Read

SPECIAL TEAMS

Special teams played a large role in New England’s 19-14 triumph over Tampa Bay last week. Stephen Gostkowksi made each of his four field goal attempts, and Danny Amendola had a 40-yard punt return — his longest of the season — in the victory. Gostkowski is 12-for-12 in field goal attempts this season, including four kicks from 40 yards or beyond. New England was also its own worst enemy in the Tampa game, as it was penalized four times on special teams including an offside call on a Bucs punt that resulted in a first down. New York’s special teams have been inconsistent all season. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro made a 57-yard field goal last week, which is the longest kick in franchise history, and has missed twice in 12 attempts. Advantage: Patriots Read

OTHER FACTORS

For a team that was supposed to be tanking to get next year’s No. 1 draft pick, the Jets have done a good job winning football games. New York enters this contest with the momentum generated by a three-game winning streak, so their confidence should be rising. It’s the first time McCown has led a team to three consecutive wins at any point during his 15-year NFL career. Despite their 3-2 record, the Jets have been outscored 47-14 in the fourth quarter, however, and that’s when many games are won or lost. In addition to fixing a leaky defense, the Patriots have to find a way to avoid penalties. They were penalized a season-high 12 times against Tampa Bay and were fortunate the Buccaneers didn’t capitalize more on the opportunities those penalties created. The Jets always seem to give the Patriots a hard time at the Meadowlands as well. Advantage: Jets

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