Week 7 in the NFL wraps up with an All-AFC East matchup on Monday Night Football. The New England Patriots travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Jets, in a continuation of their bitter rivalry. After an offensive nightmare, led by backup quarterback Luke Falk, in the first matchup earlier in the year, can the Jets pull off a shock and end the Patriots unbeaten start to the season?
At first glance, it seems unlikely. Historically, the Jets are behind the 8-ball. The Patriots hold a 64-54-1 lead in the head-to-head record between the two teams. This will also be the eighth game since the Jets last managed to beat the Patriots. That includes a 30-14 defeat in Foxboro earlier in the year.
Before I dive into what you should expect from Monday Night Football, let’s have a look back at the Week 3 matchup using Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric.
OSM determines how much of a team’s performance can be attributed to an individual. Where most statistical analysis focuses purely on team performance, such as passing yards and completion percentage, where the statistics are the total of a combination of the efforts of multiple players, OSM isolates just the factors that an individual can control. As such, it gives a true indicator of an individual player’s contribution to their team.
OSM is graded out of 100, although it is near impossible to achieve this score. In fact, a grade of 40 or over can be considered an “elite” performance.
Wide receivers dominated in Week 3 clash
The Patriots dominated the Jets in their Week 3 clash back at the end of September. If you were to take a look at the box score of the 30-14 win, you would probably think that Tom Brady was instrumental in the victory. With 306 yards and 2 touchdowns, the veteran quarterback certainly contributed, but when you go beyond the box score with OSM, a different picture emerges.
It was, in truth, the wide receiver group of the Patriots that dominated the game. Speedy wide receiver, Philip Dorsett, was the player with the highest OSM grade in the game. In fact, his 47.47 grade remains the best grade for a Patriots player so far this season.
It was an elite performance, with a combination of catch percentage and separation, making him stand out. His average separation of 4.9 yards at the point of the catch was the highest for any WR in the NFL that week. His catch completion percentage of 85.71 was also good for eighth in the league in Week 3. Both of those figures led the Patriots, ahead of more renowned names like Julian Edelman.
Edelman has been the standout overall contributor for the Patriots this year with a 35.55 OSM grade. In fact, Brady ranks just fourth for the Patriots with an overall OSM grade of 24.29.
For the Jets, Robby Anderson was their standout performer. Despite quarterback Luke Falk only throwing for 98 yards and an interception, with an OSM grade of 5.90, Anderson made the most of his limited opportunities with an OSM grade of 33.46.
Where Patriots head coach Bill Belichick succeeded last time against the Jets, was in his handling of Jamison Crowder. In the previous two weeks, Crowder had OSM grades of 43.76 and 31.68. Against the Patriots, his grade was just 19.13. He couldn’t get separation, with just 1.6 yards on average, and caught only 40% of his targets. Despite his lack of success, the Jets still kept trying to feed Crowder, and he accounted for 47.49% of their total air yards.
Can the Jets find a different, more effective strategy on Monday Night Football?
What to look out for on Monday Night Football
Let’s start with who we won’t see on Monday night.
Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon was ruled out on Saturday with an ankle/knee injury. They’ll also be without tight ends Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo. As they continue to search for a reliable tight end in the post-Rob Gronkowski era, the Patriots re-signed Benjamin Watson in the week. Despite losing Gordon, the Patriots will once again look to lean on their wide receivers. The Jets defense has allowed 893 yards and 4 touchdowns to the position so far this season.
The Jets will be without linebacker and special teams standout, Albert McLellan, who has a concussion. The former Patriot will miss out on the opportunity for some revenge on his former team. However, it is a linebacker returning from the injury report that is cause for joy among the Jets faithful. Having C.J. Mosely return to action will be a huge boost for Gang Green. The star linebacker was a big off-season addition in New York. However, he has been absent for five weeks after suffering a groin injury in the Week 1 loss to the Buffalo Bills. His return is extremely timely for what should be a defensive slugfest on Monday Night Football. Both defenses are highly ranked and respected in the league, and Mosely can only make the Jets unit better.
The Jets currently rank eighth in both passing and rushing defense. They’ve allowed 123 points, which ranks for 13th in the league. In the first matchup between the Jets and the Patriots in Week 3, it was the defense and special teams who accounted for all of the team points. Jamal Adams picked off rookie Jarrett Stidham and returned the ball 61 yards for a touchdown for the final score of the game. They’ll need more plays like that out of their playmaking safety.
The Patriots defense is one of the most revered in the league. They rank first in defensive points allowed, third in passing defense, and sixth in rushing defense. They’ve allowed a league-low 6.3% of drives against them to result in points. They’ve also allowed just one touchdown and 729 yards to wide receivers, the fifth-best defense against the position.
How Sam Darnold copes with that ferocious Patriots defense will be the story of Monday Night Football.
Can Darnold drive the Jets past the Patriots defense?
Darnold had a very difficult start to the season. In the Week 1 defeat to the Bills, he received an OSM grade of 11.24, which is bordering on poor. Some five weeks, and a case of glandular fever, later and he was a changed man in the win over the Dallas Cowboys.
In the 24-22 win, he received an OSM grade of 39.21, which was good enough for the second-ranked QB that week.
It’s clear that the Jets will be as good this season as Darnold plays. However, he will need help from his supporting cast. That starts with an improved performance from his offensive line. Currently, the Jets o-line has allowed the 3rd most sacks in the league with 25. That’s not the level of protection that will allow your franchise quarterback to go to work.
Unfortunately for Darnold, that line has had some injury issues coming into Monday Night Football. Kelechi Osemele and the Jets appear to have a major difference of opinion on a shoulder injury that looks set to keep him out. His backup, Alex Lewis, also appeared on the injury report this week with a neck injury. It’s not ideal.
Then there is the curious case of Le’Veon Bell.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers running back was a big-money signing for the Jets in the off-season. However, he hasn’t even remotely lived up to his promise. Aside from the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5, where he received an OSM grade of 23.04, Bell has been poor.
He has received grades of 7.63, 9.23, 5.32, and 13.11. Luke Falk has taken a lot of stick, but in only one of those games has his OSM grade been lower than Bell. Head coach, Adam Gase, has attributed his lack of production to facing a lot of stacked boxes.
However, per Next Gen Stats, he doesn’t even figure in the top-10 for running backs when it comes to the percentage of snaps against an 8+ man box, as only 22.35% of his snaps come against a stacked box. Bell is only averaging three yards per carry, second-worst in the NFL behind Damien Williams of the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s time for him to perform.
Last week on Monday Night Football, we were treated to a thriller, as the Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions with a last gasp field goal. If this week is to match up to that, the Jets are going to need Darnold and Bell to perform to the elite level that we know they can.