The AFC East standings are a lot tighter than anyone would have predicted coming into the 2022 NFL season, making Sunday’s clash between the New York Jets and New England Patriots extremely important. Both teams will come into the game well rested, as each franchise had Week 10 off to recover and recharge. In Week 9, New York notched one of their biggest wins of the year, defeating the Buffalo Bills at home 20-17. New England also went into their bye week on a high note, throttling the Indianapolis Colts by a final score of 26-3.
We’ll take a look at three keys to the game in this critical divisional tilt.
This Sunday’s game is a rematch of a contest that took place in the not too distant past. On October 30, the Patriots went into MetLife Stadium and beat the Jets 22-17. A big reason for New England’s victory was the superb play of running back Rhamondre Stevenson. He rushed for 71 yards on 16 carries, and caught seven passes for another 72 yards.
It felt like Stevenson and the New England offensive line were able to set a physical tone against the Jets, which is something a lot of teams have failed to do against Robert Saleh’s improved defense. Damien Harris’ health status will be worth monitoring in the days leading up the game, but it is hard to envision head coach Bill Belichick moving away from Stevenson considering the amount of success he had in the first matchup.
Protecting The Football
It’s not an over-exaggeration to say that Jets quarterback Zach Wilson had his worst game of the season against New England a few weeks ago. The box score will show that he threw three interceptions, but the numbers do not tell the full story. Wilson tossed picks that had no chance of being completed to his receivers, and gently landed into the arms of waiting Patriots defensive backs.
In his brief career, Wilson has struggled the most against New England, which is not uncommon thanks to Belichick’s complex schemes against young quarterbacks. However, the errors Wilson made in the first game were largely self-inflicted, and he can’t afford to do the same thing again this Sunday.
The narrative heading into the first game with the Jets for New England centered around who would play quarterback. It seemed like the team was seriously considering giving Bailey Zappe more of a chance to show what he can do as starter Mac Jones was ineffective in his return from an ankle injury.
In the game against New York and in the matchup the following week with the Colts, Jones helped stabilize the offense, and appears to be strongly in control of the starting nod. With the bye week to help recuperate, Jones’ ankle should feel better than it has in several weeks. The former Alabama star still has a tough task this week against New York’s defense, but will be in a much better position to deliver this time around.