By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots are not a good football team this year. They’re on a truly horrendous stretch over the last month, going winless in October to drop to 2-5 and in third place in the AFC East.
The only reason the Patriots aren’t in last in the division — and likely won’t ever fall that far this season — is because the New York Jets are even worse. The worst, in fact. They remain the only team in the NFL without a win, and at 0-8, they’re the leaders in the clubhouse for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in next April’s draft.
Somehow, the Jets will probably screw that up, too.
The Jets are horrendous. Gang green is as nasty as actual gangrene. They’ll be in the conversation for one of the worst team’s ever by season’s end. They’re averaging just 11.8 points per game, worst in the NFL. They have a negative-144 point differential, also worst in the NFL. They have a healthy lead in that category of stink too: The Cowboys are the second-worst in the NFL in that category at negative-88.
If the Patriots can’t beat that on Monday night, pack it up and call it a season. Just replay some games from the late ’80s and early ’90s; it’ll save everyone some time.
But this game will be played, and it will be played in prime time for the world to see. Are you ready for some… thing that may resemble football?
Here’s what we’ll be watching for when the Patriots and the Jets kick off.
More Progress From Cam?
Until that final offensive play, Cam Newton was having a pretty decent day for the Patriots. But that final offensive play threw everything that Cam had done well into the dumpster. That tends to happen when you fumble away an opportunity to win a game.
But other than that fumble, second-half Cam was pretty good. He took care of the football (making that fumble all the more painful) and completed eight of his 15 passes for 81 yards while picking up another rushing touchdown. He had a key 19-yard scamper to keep the final drive alive five plays before that costly fumble.
We’re talking the babiest of baby steps, but it was a lot better than what we had seen in prior weeks when Newton looked more like a JUCO quarterback than a former NFL MVP. And against a Jets team that is allowing 282 passing yards per game (fourth-worst in the NFL), he should be able to move the ball through the air, even with a wide receiver corps that is being held together with a paperclip and an some Silly Putty.
Jakobi Meyers got a lot of attention last weekend for looking like a legit receiver, and rightfully so. The Patriots need all the help they can get at that position, and Meyers is in line for another big game this weekend.
But let’s not overlook the fact that the Patriots have a legit No. 1 running back in Damien Harris. When was the last time you even thought about Sony Michel? You probably haven’t, since all Harris has done since making his season debut in Week 4 is pick up yards for the New England offense.
Harris had a huge game in Buffalo, rushing for 102 yards on just 16 carries — good for a 6.4 yard per carry average. He even scored his first career touchdown, an absolutely beautiful 22-yard run that tied the game at 14-14 late in the third quarter. It was Harris’ biggest run of the day.
.@DHx34 goes 22 yards for the TD!
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 1, 2020
New England’s next touchdown drive (which ended in Newton’s two-yard scoring run) was mostly Harris, as the second-year back accounted for 39 of the 72 yards on the drive. He broke off runs of 13 yards and 18 yards on back-to-back plays, and picked up all 39 of those yards on four straight rushes.
The Jets are actually a somewhat decent team against the run, allowing only 116.8 rushing yards per game, but they can be beat on the ground. Teams have just been taking aim their passing defense, which is allowing 282 yards per game, because why wouldn’t you? But Monday night will be a good test for Harris and New England’s stable of running backs.
The Joe Flacco Show
Sam Darnold won’t be around to see ghosts on Monday night, listed as doubtful with an injury to his throwing shoulder. That means the Patriots’ defense will see Joe Flacco at QB.
The 35-year-old veteran is no stranger to the Patriots, with nine games against New England over his career. As a Baltimore Raven, Flacco was 1-4 against the Pats during the regular season. He had more success against them in the playoffs, sporting a 2-2 record against New England in postseason play.
This, however, will not look anything like a playoff game.
Flacco has started two games for the Jets this season, and they obviously lost them both. He’s completed just 51.9 percent of his passes for 397 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His last start came three weeks ago against Miami, and Flacco connected on just 21 of his 44 passing attempts (for an ugly completion percentage of just 47.7) in a 24-0 loss.
The veteran will still probably sent up a few heaves that result in those “thank you very much” PI penalties against the Pats, but JC Jackson and Jonathan Jones must be salivating over all the potential picks that will be flying their way on Monday night.
Old Man Frank Gore
Frank Gore may be 100 years old, but the man still runs with the fury of a 20-something. Nothing but respect for Frank Gore.
The 37-year-old hasn’t been able to do much in the Jets offense, because as we mentioned earlier, the Jets offense is putrid. But he remains one of the hardest runners in the NFL, and is still in the Top 15 in Yards After Contact despite a significant discrepancy in carries compared to many of the rushers ahead of him.
Gore’s days of picking up 100 yards on the ground are pretty much over — though with Lawrence Guy and Ja’Whaun Bentley out for the Patriots, it’s a possibility on Monday night. Gore is going to barrel through a few would-be tacklers, and if the Pats defense continues to struggle on that front, the veteran is going to make them pay with a few bruising hits and a handful of YAC.
After the Patriots and the Jets are done on Monday night, switch over to TV38 for full reaction and postgame analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!