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Jets vs Patriots: Week 2 NFL preview

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and his New York Jets counterpart Zach Wilson will duel it out in an AFC East clash on Sunday in one of Week 2’s most highly anticipated games.

Can Wilson defy the odds and carve up the Patriots’ defense, or will Jones and New England be too much for Gang Green to handle, even on the road? Read our full preview for a final score prediction, matchups to keep an eye on and much more.

New York Jets vs New England Patriots: What you need to know

Find out where the Jets and Patriots stand in our NFL Week 2 power rankings

Zach Wilson vs Mac Jones

Jets vs Patriots: Week 2 NFL preview
Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws a pass during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

You have to love the way Wilson hung tough amid adversity in his maiden NFL start. The Carolina Panthers were crushing the Jets up front, and Wilson suffered six sacks even with his knack for evading defenders in and outside the pocket. The No. 2 overall pick rallied New York back to 19-14, but never got another possession.

As for Jones’ first NFL action, he probably did enough to lead the Patriots to a game-winning drive against Miami, but Damien Harris fumbled deep in Dolphins territory with about three minutes left. Jones had to watch as the Fins proceeded to run out the clock.

  • Wilson Needs Saving: Left tackle Mekhi Becton is out for the foreseeable future, as he went down with a knee injury as Wilson scrambled to throw his first NFL touchdown last Sunday. It’s going to be tough enough for Wilson to decipher the crazy schemes Bill Belichick will throw at him. Lackluster pass protection will exacerbate Wilson’s problems.
  • Mac Needs to Attack: The Jets have so little experience in their secondary, and Jones should really be able to open up the playbook and take more downfield shots this week. He’s likely to try to hook up with Nelson Agholor on some deep attempts, and also exploit the seams with pass-catching tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.

Advantage: New England Patriots

Corey Davis vs J.C. Jackson

Jets vs Patriots: Week 2 NFL preview
Sep 12, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Corey Davis (84) with the ball as Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns (53) defends in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest addition to the Jets’ roster this offseason in free agency, Corey Davis provided an immediate return on investment in Week 1. Coming off a stellar training camp in which he was named one of New York’s captains, Davis hauled in two touchdowns from Wilson and helped keep the Jets afloat when all seemed lost amid a 16-0 deficit.

With Stephon Gilmore still out of action for New England, J.C. Jackson is assuming the role of the Patriots’ No. 1 cornerback. He’ll be tasked with shutting Davis down for the most part. Can Jackson get the job done?

See where the Patriots rate in our updated NFL defense rankings

  • Davis relishing No. 1 role: Injuries, lack of continuity at offensive coordinator and A.J. Brown’s emergence all contributed to Davis underwhelming as a former top draft pick of the Tennessee Titans. Now, he’s the clear top wideout for the Jets, and at least so far, he’s lived up to his expensive open-market price tag.
  • Jackson’s steady ascent: Last season, the Patriots had key opt-out players missing on defense, and Gilmore didn’t play to his usual standard. That created room for Jackson to shine in his third year with his best season yet. He is coming off a bit of a rough opener versus Miami, though, so Davis gets the slight edge here.

Advantage: New York Jets

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Quinnen Williams vs Patriots’ interior o-line

Jets vs Patriots: Week 2 NFL preview
Oct 18, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (95) reaches for Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin (37) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Circling back to the Jets’ free agency to springboard off that Davis section, it’s such a shame that defensive end Carl Lawson tore his Achilles in training camp. With him out for the year, New York’s ceiling on defense is much lower, and much of the burden falls on Quinnen Williams to cement himself as an elite interior defender.

While there’s no denying Williams’ talent and steady progress, the 2019 third overall pick could definitely use some more help in the trenches. He’s facing some really strong Patriots veterans on the inside in guard Shaq Mason and center David Andrews.

  • Williams Needs to Win: The Jets are asking so much out of so many young players, and Williams may have the most personal demand on him of anyone on defense. If Wilson can’t move the ball, Williams will struggle to rally from a Week 1 in which Pro Football Focus graded Williams 104th out of 106 qualifying interior linemen on run defense.
  • Oh My, Onwenu: Michael Onwenu was a sixth-round pick last year, yet is shining as a starter at left guard in New England. Shaky as Belichick’s recent draft record has been, it seems like he found a diamond in the rough in the former Michigan Wolverines standout.

Advantage: New England Patriots

The bottom line: Belichick is on too much of a mission to let such an inexperienced team like the Jets set him back early with a 0-2 record. New York is going to be a frisky team as Wilson continues to develop, but Week 2 will be a wake-up call for him that he has a long way to go before lifting his lowly franchise to glory.

Can the Patriots return to the postseason in 2021? Read our NFL playoff predictions now