Here’s what fans can actually learn about the Patriots from Monday night’s matchup against the winless Jets.
Heading into the weekend, the Monday night showdown between the Patriots and Jets was widely viewed as the most unappealing matchup of the Week 9 slate, and understandably so, given their recent run of form and lack of pizzazz.
As it turns out, however, they don’t have a much of a bar to clear at all, as the Saints-Buccaneers capper on Sunday, which was supposed to be the game of the week, shockingly turned into a blowout by halftime.
With that no longer part of the equation, we can’t help but wonder what fans in New England can actually learn about the reeling Patriots, who have lost four straight and are three games out of a playoff spot in the AFC, by watching tonight’s unappetizing fixture.
For starters, a convincing win would prove that head coach Bill Belichick’s side is still fighting to save their season. Moral victories aren’t ideal in any scenario, but the Patriots potentially having to sweat this one out in the fourth quarter would tell us that the team has mailed it in and has no aspirations of turning things around. That cannot happen under any circumstances.
At this point, fans are aware of the limitations of the offense, as Cam Newton will be without top wide receivers Julian Edelman (knee) and N’Keal Harry (concussion) for the second week in a row, so we’re not exactly going to learn anything about them. All that we ask for is another promising showing from Newton and running back Damien Harris on the ground.
Neutralizing defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, who is easily the Jets’ best player on that side of the ball, would really help ensure that happens. The 2019 first-round pick has managed 31 tackles (seven for loss), three sacks, five QB hits and one forced fumble to go with an elite 71.8 grade from Pro Football Focus through eight games this season. Limiting his impact up front has to be a must for Belichick and Co. on Monday night.
The Jets offense, meanwhile, currently ranks last in the league in both points per game (11.8) and total yards per game (259.0), so we need to see a lights-out performance from the defense. That would go a long way in regards to building confidence for the remainder of the season.
In terms of goals, how about preventing Joe Flacco from passing Joe Montana for 20th on the all-time passing yards list? He only needs 108 yards to reach that milestone, and the Patriots defense limiting him to less than that would serve as a massive achievement in our eyes, regardless of how inept the Jets offense has been in 2020.
There isn’t much to learn heading into a game against a historically bad opponent, but Patriots fans shouldn’t trick themselves into thinking it’s a meaningless contest, because that simply isn’t the case.