L-R: New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson. (Maddie Meyer/Mike Comer, Getty Images)

A week after college teammates reunited in Foxborough as the first pair of ex-Alabama quarterbacks to start the same NFL game in 38 years, Sunday marks a matchup of current classmates in the Meadowlands.

Rookies Zach Wilson, selected second overall by the New York Jets, and Mac Jones, chosen by the Patriots with the 15th pick of the first round, share the same objective as opposites on the MetLife Stadium turf. Each is seeking his first pro win.

In his debut against Miami, Jones outperformed the player he succeeded in Tuscaloosa, Tua Tagovailoa, by most measures. Except for, of course, the one that matters most. A rash of New England mistakes, including a fumble by Damien Harris at the Dolphins’ 9-yard line with 3:31 left, and missed opportunities resulted in a 17-16 loss.

If there was a silver, red and blue lining, it was Jones’ composure and command of the offense. He completed 29-of-39 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. Especially impressive was how he withstood Miami’s heat, absorbing nine hits and going 19-for-23 against the blitz.

Meanwhile, Wilson survived a 6-for-16 start, the loss of left tackle Mekhi Becton and the fierce pass rush of Carolina to produce a solid second half. Overall, he was sacked six times and pressured on 40 percent of his drop-backs, per The Athletic. Still, Wilson rebounded to complete 14-of-21 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns in the final 30 minutes.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 12: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots throws a pass under pressure from Jerome Baker #55 of the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 12: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots throws a pass under pressure from Jerome Baker #55 of the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

As two of three Week 1 rookie starting quarterbacks — the most since 2012 — Jones and Wilson were among five, overall, who threw a TD pass in their pro debuts. Like Mac and Zach, Trevor Lawrence, the other starter in the group for Jacksonville, and Justin Fields, who was used situationally for Chicago, did so in defeat. Only San Francisco’s Trey Lance recorded his NFL milestone in a victory.

Outcomes aside, Jones and Wilson earned respect and elicited similar summations at their respective team facilities in Foxborough and Florham Park. One could copy the remarks of Patriots elaborating on Jones’ competence and competitiveness and paste them in place of Jets praising Wilson. And vice versa.

“He had a lot of poise and obviously delivered the ball really well, sat in there in the pocket even when the pocket was coming down,” tight end Hunter Henry said of Jones on Wednesday. “He made some big-time throws that sometimes a lot of other guys aren’t going to make, just standing in the pocket and taking hits and different things like that.

“That shows a lot to us as guys — a guy that’s going to stand in there no matter what and deliver the ball.”

Meanwhile, New York receiver Corey Davis said, essentially, the same of Wilson.

“He’s a tough dude,” Davis told reporters, also on Wednesday. “Just to see him, how he reacted, there was no anger, no frustration, he was just poised…he showed a lot of heart.

“We want guys that play hard and that have no quit. And that’s what he is.”

As we look forward to Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff, let’s open the notebook by looking back.

  • Starting Line

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on during the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on during the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    The one-point loss to Miami resulted from a role reversal of sorts. The Dolphins overcame significant deficits in total yards and time of possession by being sounder situationally (namely in the red zone) while committing fewer penalties and turnovers.

    It was a formula familiar in Foxborough during the past two decades, and it included a characteristic of the best of Bill Belichick’s teams through the years: a fast start by the Fins.

    Brian Flores made it a theme throughout preseason prep, looking to recreate the success of the 2020 Dolphins, who outscored opponents by 48 points (103-55) in the opening quarter. Against the Pats, the difference was 7-0.

    Though it’s just one game of a new season featuring a much different roster, the slow start by the Pats is part of a troubling pattern dating to December 2019. Since then, they’ve gone 9-14. In those 23 games, they were outscored, 109-65, in the first quarter, averaging just 2.8 points a game.

    On Friday, Belichick explained how starts impact finishes.

    “The start of everything is important. It’s not the final result, but it’s important, and it’s a component of it,” he said. “The first drive is important. The first play of every drive is important. Being ahead in the first quarter doesn’t ensure being ahead in the fourth quarter, but it’s a good place to start. Again, can a slow start be overcome? Sure. Does a good start give you an edge on now three quarters of the game instead of four quarters, and you have a lead? Well, you have an advantage.

    “Every play is the start of something new – a new series, a new drive, a new set of downs. However or wherever you want to draw those lines of demarcation, doing well on the first one is a good thing. I think all teams try to do that in one way or another and there’s definitely a psychological element of setting the tone, getting the upper hand, gaining confidence, etcetera, that comes along with, let’s say, early success.”

    On the subject of psychology, one would think it’s especially important in a game like today’s, given the inexperience of the Jets, overall.

    Playing for a franchise that’s lost its last 10 games to the Patriots amid a decade-long playoff drought, the Jets have 10 players coming off their NFL debuts at Carolina, including six starters.

  • Unscripted

    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 12: Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets throws a pass during the second half against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 12: Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets throws a pass during the second half against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)

    Wilson will be making his home regular-season debut while confronting a Belichick-coached defense for the first time. He’s undoubtedly well aware of the Pats’ success opposite young signal-callers, including a 21-6 record vs. rookie QB’s under BB.

    On Thursday, Wilson sounded respectful. But not fearful.

    “It’s going to be super cool [facing New England],” he said in his weekly press conference. “I think the New England Patriots for my whole life have been going to Super Bowls. It seemed like every year they were in the Super Bowl. It was so long I can’t distinguish which is which.

    “The team is different now, without Tom [Brady], but Bill [Belichick] is still there and he’s one of the best around. Their scheme, it’s tough. It’s going to be a challenge. They’re very disciplined, able to play man and put guys out there on an island and trust their players. They do a lot of different things. Over such a long time, teams usually screw up, but they’re so well-coached, they do a lot of things and do really well.”

    Today, however, the Patriots’ secondary will have to avoid screwing up over a long time on any given drop-back, because of Wilson’s ability to keep plays alive outside the pocket.

    For example, take the first TD pass of his career, a 22-yard strike on the run to Davis. Roughly 8 1/2 seconds elapsed from the instant Wilson caught the shotgun snap, was chased far to his right by Carolina’s DaQuan Jones, fired to the end zone and saw a wide-open Davis catch his throw in the deep right corner.

    His athleticism and arm allow Wilson to fix a play that’s broken.

    “Out of the pocket, in the pocket, it’s the unpredictability that comes with players like that,” Belichick says. “You have things under control, you have the tight end covered and then something happens and they make a big play. They can turn plays that don’t start good into explosive plays offensively. It’s a big challenge for us to play every play all the way through, finish the plays and compete for the entire down.

    “He puts a lot of pressure on you and so does the offense.”

    Unlike at Carolina, Wilson today figures to have versatile veteran Jamison Crowder (activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list) and Jets’ newcomer Keelan Cole (inactive Week 1 due to a knee injury) joining Davis at receiver.

    Their availability will challenge the Pats’ ability to cover the entire play across the whole field.

    “They both bring something different to the table,” said Davis. “It elevates our offense.”

    All three have excelled in the past, primarily in different uniforms, vs. the Patriots.

    As a Tennessee Titan, Davis caught seven passes for 125 yards and a score, primarily going against Stephon Gilmore, on Nov. 11, 2018. He also had two TD receptions in a Divisional playoff loss on Jan. 13, 2018.

    Cole first flashed as a Jacksonville Jaguar in the 2017 preseason with a 97-yard grab at Gillette Stadium, before an eight-catch, 116-yard receiving performance in a blowout win over New England on Sept. 16, 2018.

    Crowder, who totaled six receptions with Washington in Foxborough in 2015, scored on a 20-yard completion from Joe Flacco in last November’s narrow loss to the Pats in the Meadowlands.

    “We’ve seen lot of Crowder in the past, saw Cole — did a lot of work on him in free agency — pretty familiar with him,” Belichick said. “Both good receivers. Crowder’s spent a lot of time as an inside receiver but he can do other things. Cole has a lot of versatility to play inside and outside.”

    Belichick also noted, among others, highly touted rookie Elijah Moore from Ole Miss, who’ll be trying to bounce back from a rough debut (one catch in four targets for minus-3 yards).

  • Chess vs Checkers

    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Robert Saleh of the New York Jets looks on against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

    CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 12: Head coach Robert Saleh of the New York Jets looks on against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

    Of course, we’ll see how the Patriots try to defend those Jets’ receivers following a week of the always-fascinating exercise media and fans alike tend to play in anticipation of a Belichick-bred defensive game plan.

    Foremost this week was the question of how Belichick, whose teams at their best tend to take away an opponent’s top option or two, will deal with Davis in particular.

    His counterpart Robert Saleh, New York’s first-year head coach, was asked how his offense could counteract, for example, a double-coverage on Davis.

    “We feel like we’ve got more than one guy,” Saleh said. “There’s going to be a lot of opportunities for other guys to get open if they want to double a guy… that’s where that chess match with Coach Belichick always happens and you’ve got to pick and choose your battles and stay sound and committed to what you’re doing and get ready to play chess with one of the best chess players in the world.”

    For a long time, coaching (mis-)matchups with Belichick have evoked the “chess vs. checkers” analogy. But in Saleh’s case, he can more than handle his own. Just see how his banged-up 49ers defense played a year ago.

    In fact, not only can Saleh maneuver around the figurative board expertly, he plays chess, literally, extremely well. A 2017 article in The Sacramento Bee chronicled Saleh’s frequent and intense competitions against his brother.

    “He’s very, very meticulous, very methodical,” David Saleh said. “He really thinks everything out.”

    “I got to around 1,800, which is pretty good, but I’m no chess Master,” Robert explained of his rating, which peaked about 200 points shy of expert status. “I’m pretty good, but to say I’m an advanced player, probably not.”

  • Getting His Kicks - With Punts

    Aug 27, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets kicker Matt Ammendola (6) kicks a field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 27, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets kicker Matt Ammendola (6) kicks a field goal against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    After the Jets’ Brandon Mann sprained his left knee on his second punt of the season opener, which was nullified because of a penalty, first-year place kicker Matt Ammendola stepped in and, pardon the cliché, stepped up.

    Ammendola’s first punt traveled 50 yards. His second went 65. Thereafter, his punts covered 46, 37, 57 and 42 yards. In all, Ammendola’s six punts averaged 48.5 gross yards and 42.5 net yards.

    More remarkable than the stat line itself is Ammendola’s backstory behind it. Though many NFL specialists used to both kick and punt as amateurs (see Pats’ punter Jake Bailey), Ammendola isn’t one of them.

    “I’ve actually never punted,” Ammendola later revealed, “which is the craziest thing.”

    Barring another unforeseen circumstance, he won’t have to pull double duty today. The Jets signed former Saint Pro Bowl punter Thomas Morstead on Tuesday.

  • Carter Country

    Sep 12, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) prepares to hand the ball off to running back Michael Carter (32) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 12, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) prepares to hand the ball off to running back Michael Carter (32) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Finally, as you watch and listen, don’t be as confused as the broadcasters — well, this broadcaster — might seem to be while identifying a pair of Jets’ rookies hailing from college rivals North Carolina and Duke.

    As if the double numbers of the preseason weren’t problematic enough, New York has double Michael Carters.

    At running back, there’s 5-foot-10 Michael Carter, wearing No. 32 as a fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft. At cornerback, there’s 5-foot-10 Michael Carter II, wearing No. 30 as a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft.

    Same name. Same draft. Their schools no more than a dozen miles apart. Their selections separated by 47 slots.