The New England Patriots are in a must-win situation this weekend. Luckily for them, they're going up against an opponent they've owned over the years as they look to win their 15th game in a row against the New York Jets.
Here are five predictions for Sunday's game in the Meadowlands.
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5. Rhamondre Stevenson and the Patriots rush for 120-plus yards
The Patriots have had one of the league's worst rushing offenses in the season's early going. The Jets have one of the league's best front sevens. But I expect this to be a breakout performance for Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott and the rest of the Patriots' backfield.
Stevenson found good success against the Jets last year. In their first matchup, he recorded a whopping 83 yards after contact en route to a 71-yard day on the ground, adding 73 receiving yards.. Stevenson didn't have as many yards on the ground in the second matchup (26) but enjoyed similar success in the passing game, recording 56 receiving yards while taking a backseat to Damien Harris as lead ball-carrier. Many of Stevenson's receiving yards in those games came on dump-offs and screens, too.
— Henry McKenna (@henrycmckenna) November 20, 2022
While New York's defense has been lauded the last couple seasons, the team's run defense actually hasn't been elite. The Jets were 17th in rushing yards allowed per game last season (121.6) and gave up 134 rushing yards last week in a blowout loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
In addition, it appears the Patriots' offensive line might be at its healthiest so far this season. Getting Trent Brown back to play alongside Cole Strange, David Andrews, Michael Onwenu and Calvin Anderson could be huge for New England.
4. Demario Douglas helps Mac Jones have a solid day
The Patriots' rookie wideout appeared to enter Bill Belichick's doghouse in Week 2, not recording an offensive snap after his fumble in the first quarter. I don't expect Belichick to keep him there in Week 3.
Rookie Demario Douglas wouldn't let go of the football on the bench after his fumble 😅
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 18, 2023
It's evident that Douglas is already a major player in the Patriots' offense, recording a notable number of snaps in Week 1 and having multiple plays set up for him before his fumble in Week 2. It appears Douglas has the support from his Patriots teammates, with Stevenson saying he hopes he gets back on the field again. Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien said he has a “lot of confidence” in Douglas, too.
"Same thing happened to me. I missed a lot of games off of it. Hopefully you don't miss as many games as me."
Rhamondre Stevenson on his advice to Demario 'Pop" Douglas 😂 pic.twitter.com/fK3j1O3dzW
— NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Coverage (@NBCSPatriots) September 20, 2023
Douglas has played a good number of snaps in the slot when he's seen the field, which could allow him to have a similar impact that Jakobi Meyers had against the Jets last year. The former Patriots receiver had 13 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown across two games vs. New York.
I think Douglas will have several receptions on Sunday for at least 70 yards to help Jones have a 250-yard day.
3. The Patriots don't record an interception
Zach Wilson has thrown seven interceptions in four career matchups against the Patriots, which is probably the biggest reason why the Jets have yet to win a game against New England with him at quarterback. But did you know that Devin McCourty had three of those interceptions? Or that J.C. Jackson is responsible for two of them?
The Patriots don't have a free safety like McCourty anymore, who constantly quarterbacked the defense. That allowed him to get a pair of interceptions in the first matchup last season. They also don't really have a ballhawk at corner like Jackson was over his final two seasons with the team, though Christian Gonzalez could turn into that guy.
Now, I'm not saying Wilson will light up the Patriots' defense. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if he threw the ball so poorly that it'd be tough for New England to get an interception, which is what happened in the second game between the two teams last year.
I also wouldn't be surprised if the Jets gave Wilson easy throws on Sunday, which is what they did for some of their season-opening win against the Buffalo Bills. But I still expect the Patriots' defense to have a strong day, they just won't record an interception.
2. The over hits
Just about everyone I've heard in the gambling world this week has said that they're picking the under in this game. The point total opened at 37.5 and has moved down to 36.5 … and that still isn't low enough of a number for a lot of bettors.
I think they'll be wrong.
Sure, the final score in the last matchup between these two teams was 10-3, with a punt return touchdown in the final seconds determining the win. But the Patriots missed two relatively short field goals and had a turnover on downs later in the game as a result of those missed kicks.
In addition, the Patriots were the worst red zone team in the league last season. They've flipped the script through the first two games so far this year, scoring five touchdowns in seven red zone drives. That number is just way too low.
1. Patriots win comfortably
This has to be an all-hands-on-deck game for the Patriots. They're 0-2 with the Cowboys awaiting them in Week 4. They're already 0-1 in the division, putting them behind the eight ball for tiebreak scenarios too.
New England hasn't been atrocious, either. Most importantly, this team has owned the Jets for years, and Belichick's bread and butter has been eating on mediocre-to-poor quarterbacks.