From England to New England, the Jets are back from their bye week after an international loss to the Atlanta Falcons to meet their familiar tormentor in the Patriots at Foxboro on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
The 1-4 Jets have lost each of their last 11 meetings against the Patriots, including a 25-6 showing of scoring ineptitude in Week 2 at MetLife Stadium.
Those offensive struggles have only continued as a shock 27-24 upset of the Tennessee Titans was followed up by a 20-point showing against a Falcons defense that had yielded 32 or more points in three of its previous four games.
The Patriots are not nearly the same force they once were during the glory years of Tom Brady as they’ve started just 2-4 behind rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Granted, their last two losses saw them push the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a developing powerhouse in the Dallas Cowboys to the limit — the latter being an overtime loss on Sunday night.
It’s easy to see why the sputtering Jets are 6.5-point underdogs to the Patriots in Week 7. Here are a couple of things to watch for in Massachusetts:
Getting off on the right foot
By now, the Jets’ early struggles have been well-documented. They’re the worst first-quarter team in the NFL, often digging themselves into insurmountable holes to try and claw out of with not enough time to do so.
Through their first five games of the season, the Jets have gained a combined 79 yards of total offense in the first quarters that they’ve played in.
Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson has been a complete non-factor, completing just 5-of-18 attempts for 34 yards — 23 of which have been wiped away by two sacks — with no touchdowns and two interceptions. His quarterback rating is 0.0 while gaining a whopping 0.6 yards per pass attempt.
Needless to say, that’s been a point of emphasis during the bye week.
“Find a way to be comfortable in that first quarter so you are not waiting until that second quarter to get rolling and continue to grow,” head coach Robert Saleh said of Wilson’s starts. “Like I have said before, it is not easy to be a rookie quarterback, but there are steps we can be taking every single week to get better so we can be there in the second half.”
Instituting the run
The Jets have had success running the ball against the Patriots, posting 152 yards while averaging 4.9 yards per carry during their previous meeting in Week 2.
The problem is that the Jets have one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL. Because they’ve been forced to play catch-up so much, their 104 attempts rank last in the league, as does their 370 yards gained. An underwhelming 3.6 yards per rush also ranks 30th of 32 teams.
You don’t need to be an expert to know that a successful running game opens things up for the rest of an offense that so desperately needs a shot in the arm.
“It’s complementary football, at the end of the day,” Jets running back Ty Johnson said. “If the running game’s going, the passing game’s going to be good and if the passing game’s going, the running game’s going to be good. And I think the backs as a unit, we take responsibility. If it’s blocked up, we need to be explosive, and if it’s not blocked up, we still need to get positive yards. It always falls on the running game, no matter what team it is.”