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New England Patriots

L-R: John Franklin-Myers, Bill Belichick, Zach Wilson

With last week’s last-play loss to the Cowboys now squarely in the rear-view mirror, the Patriots turn their attention to their second meeting of the season with the New York Jets. As was the case coming off of the Tampa game to play Houston, the Patriots will need to move on from an emotional ended to take care of a team they should handily beat.

The talent gap between the Patriots and Jets was made abundantly clear in Week 2. In that game, the Patriots appeared to still be in the early-season feeling-out process, and still managed to come away with a 25-6 win.

Like the Patriots though, the Jets have shown improvement since that first meeting. Asked on Wednesday what the biggest difference is between the Jets then and the Jets now, Bill Belichick told reporters, “It’s a lot of little things. They haven’t changed their offense or changed their defense. They’re better at it. They’ve got more experience doing it, and they’re better at it. We’re better together as a group in all three phases, playing good complementary football and having a better understanding of the scheme, what they’re asked to do, and how they do it.”

What will the Patriots need to do to counter the Jets’ new wrinkles? Here’s a look at this week’s key matchups…

  • When New England has the ball: Michael Onwenu vs. John Franklin-Myers

    John Franklin-Myers was one of the few bright spots for the Jets in Week 2. The 25-year-old had three tackles including a 10 yard sack and forced fumble.

    Myers has continued to play at a high level, and was rewarded with a four-year, $55 million contract extension in early October. “Myers has good power. Good speed on the edge,” Belichick said on Wednesday.

    For the most part, the Jets like to line Myers up off right tackle – a position that has been in flux for the Patriots all season. Based on the alignment during the brief portion of practice that was open to the media on Wednesday, it looks like Michael Onwenu could be the team’s starting right tackle this week, the first time he’ll be on the outside to start a game since moving back to guard at the beginning of this season.

    Onwenu certainly has the power to counter Franklin-Myers, and showed the footwork last year to keep up on the edge. Randy Gregory got to Mac Jones regularly off that side of the ball last week, it will likely be up to Onwenu to make sure there’s not a repeat against the Jets.

  • When New York has the ball: Jamison Crowder vs. Jonathan Jones/Myles Bryant

    The Jets getting Jamison Crowder back after not having him in Week 2 may be the biggest change between that matchup and the one this week. In his two games since returning from COVID-IR and a groin injury, the 28-year-old slot receiver has totaled 11 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.

    “We didn’t see Crowder in the first game. Certainly, that’s a big guy for them in the offense. He’s one of the better slot receivers that we see, so it’ll be a big challenge for us,” Belichick said on Wednesday.

    “He’s just a really good player. Gets open. Catches the ball. Good after the catch. Smart player. Instinctive. Another good player for a quarterback to throw to.”

    As for who will be tasked with covering Crowder this week, that assignment could be up in the air. Jonathan Jones didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, and although he’s played through an injury the last few weeks that kind of absence usually a sign that a player will be inactive. If Jones can’t go, the top candidate to fill in in the slot would be Myles Bryant. The team could also move Jalen Mills inside and start Joejuan Williams on the outside, or promote D’Angelo Ross from the practice squad.

  • Bonus: Bill Belichick vs. Zach Wilson (again)

    Thanks to the win over the Texans, Bill Belichick’s record against rookie quarterbacks is now up to 23-6. He’s 2-0 against first-year signal callers this season, adding the first win over Zach Wilson and the Jets.

    Things get interesting when you break down Belichick’s record against rookie quarterbacks he’s faced twice in a season. It’s only happened on three occasions (six total games), with only one sweep. The Patriots beat the Ryan Tannehill-led Dolphins twice in 2012, but split with the Jets during the rookie seasons for both Mark Sanchez (2009) and Geno Smith (2013).

    Just like in 2013, the Jets are looking to respond to a Week 2 loss to New England in Week 7. Can Wilson join Smith was the only rookie quarterback to win the second game of the season against Belichick? Or will he end up in another four-interception blender?