JETS (1-4) at New England Patriots (2-4)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Spread: Patriots, -7
The first meeting between these two teams was pretty ugly. It was by far the worst performance of Zach Wilson’s short career. It was a four-interception embarrassment. If it weren’t for a strong performance from a defense that held on as long as it could, the score would’ve been a lot worse than 25-6.
At that moment it looked like the Patriots’ attempt to rebuild around their rookie quarterback (Mac Jones) was much farther along than the Jets’ rebuilding project. And that’s probably true.
But just how far away they are depends on Wilson. The Jets rookie quarterback wasn’t nearly as bad as he was that day over the last two games – especially in the win over the Titans three weeks ago. Maybe that was rock bottom. Maybe he learned some valuable lessons. And maybe he’ll look a heck of a lot better coming off the bye week.
If that happens – and it’s a good bet that it will – the Jets should be in this game.
A win, though, might be another story. For one thing, Wilson hasn’t been the only problem with the Jets’ struggling offense. He has been plagued by drops by his receivers. The play-calling from rookie offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur hasn’t been very good at all. And they haven’t had much of a rushing attack all season. The Jets did gain 152 yards on the ground against the Patriots, but that was the only game they topped 100 – and it’s a good bet Bill Belichick will have found an answer for that.
They will get their act together eventually. But so early in the season, on the road in New England, against a Belichick-coached team?
The offense will probably look a little better. But not a lot.
Meanwhile, the Jets’ defense will likely be without linebacker C.J. Mosley who has been one of their best players all season. That could be a problem against a Patriots rushing attack that has looked revived the last two weeks, averaging 123 yards. And while it’s hard to argue that Jones is a better quarterback than Wilson, he certainly has been better as a rookie, and the Patriots have done a better job of putting him in positions to succeed. He’s completed a remarkable 71.1 percent of his passes so far while throwing only six interceptions.
And three weeks ago, Jones and the Patriots pushed Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the limit. They also took the dangerous Dallas Cowboys to overtime last week.
In other words, they stepped way up in class and held their own. The Jets, meanwhile, are more like a big step down. The Jets are probably more like the Patriots than they seem, especially if Wilson doesn’t implode again. Both are trying to learn to live with rookie quarterbacks. Both, to an extent, are rebuilding.
The Patriots, though, are clearly more advanced, for a variety of reasons. And while the Jets may start to look a lot better coming out of the bye week, the Pats will likely show them how much further they need to go.
Pick: Take the Patriots minus the 7 points.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Jets 13
My record straight up: 3-2
My record against the spread: 2-3