Tom E. Curran

Week 3 preview: Patriots face absolute must-win game vs. Jets

Tom E. Curran previews Sunday's pivotal Week 3 matchup for the Patriots.

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Strange but true facts: The Jets were 6-3 after nine games last year. The Patriots were 5-3 after eight.

One forgets, doesn’t one? Could be the passage of time.

Or, more likely, the optimism of early fall 2022 has been buried under the avalanche of bleccch play from both teams since the start of last November with the Patriots going 4-7 and the Jets going 3-8.

There’s a tendency here in New England to say, “Things may not be going great, but at least we aren’t the Jets.” That can be traced to the Patriots beating New York 14 straight times. And the fact the Jets haven’t played in a Super Bowl since the LBJ administration.

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But there really isn’t that much difference in terms of results. The Jets actually beat the Packers, Bills and Bears last year. The Patriots lost to all of them. The Jets' 2022 schedule was harder and their strength of victory was higher.

Both teams are 8-11 since the start of last year. And both teams are sick of the bullsheet.

The Jets are sick of losing to the Patriots. The Patriots are sick of losing period.

Both teams know what “some people” people are saying about them. They are working very hard to convince those people – and themselves – that those are just words, words, words.

Patriots edge rusher Matthew Judon set the tone for this week before the tears were dry from last Sunday’s competitive-but-not-really-that-close-thanks-to-mistakes-(again)-loss to Miami.

“I know we lost,” Judon acknowledged in a statement prior to taking questions. “I know it looks bad when you start (0-2). But this is not a bad team, so don’t get to asking those kind of questions. We’re going to speak matter of fact, but I don’t think we’re about to hang our head up here or in that locker room.”

Matthew Judon starts his press conference by sharing words of encouragement for his teammates, saying an 0-2 start looks bad, but that the Patriots are still a good team.

Speaking matter-of-factly, the fact of the matter is that the Patriots have morphed from a team that always found a way to win into one that persistently finds ways to lose.

The Patriots are not a bad team. I agree. But they keep getting bad results. Sometimes it’s injuries. Sometimes it’s penalties. Sometimes it’s turnovers. Sometimes it’s sacks. Sometimes it’s coaching. Sometimes it’s playing. Bottom line is, it’s always SOMETHING.

The Patriots have been outscored 33-3 at the outset of their two games this year. They’ve been outscored in the first quarter 19-0.

They fell behind the Bengals 22-0 by halftime last Christmas Eve SIX FREAKING DAYS AFTER FALLING TO VEGAS IN WHAT WAS THE MOST EMBARRASSING LOSS OF THE BELICHICK ERA! They cobbled together a luck-aided second-half rally and fell just short on a red-zone fumble by Rhamondre Stevenson (always something) but how in God’s name can you be that flat in a game that mattered (they were 7-7) when you had so much motivation to look competent?

Who knows? Somehow, they did. Then two weeks later, they let up a game-opening kickoff return touchdown to the Bills. Always something.  

I figured that hiring someone to run the offense rather than giving the job to the nearest bearded guy would make a seismic difference. In a way, it has. Even with the understaffed offensive line, Mac Jones has looked more like a guy worth building around than he ever did last year.

But they still find a way to lose. Maybe it’s because they’ve forgotten how to win. At least against teams they can’t relentlessly punch down on like the Cardinals or Dolphins when their starting QBs are missing or the Jets whenever Zach Wilson’s under center.

The Patriots have the Jets this week. Zach Wilson under center. This should be a layup. Always has been. It’s within their control to fix it, Judon indicated.

“We’ve got to just play how we play in the second half from the first play,” Judon said last Sunday. “We’ve got to get the crowd involved from the get-go. When we take the field, it’s got to have some type of energy. We’ve got to have some type of juice. We can’t wait until we’re down 17. We can’t wait until we’re down 13 to try to make a comeback.”

The Jets, meanwhile, are eyeballing the Patriots as an opportunity.

"I inherited -- I walked into a team that, we haven't beaten the Patriots," Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson earlier this week. "I feel like that's why they brought me here, brought me and Sauce (Gardner) here and the guys here -- to make things like that change. It's time we do what we get paid for."

What we have here is a must-win game between two teams that lose a lot. It’s playoff intensity between non-playoff teams.

Must win for the Patriots. Must win for the Jets.

It’s been bleaker around here than it currently is.

But 0-3 with a loss to the Jets and Zach Wilson after self-immolating in the first two games and needing to go 10-4 over the next 14 to sniff the playoffs while realizing the team is 25-28 post-Brady? With the rampaging Cowboys up next?

Bleak Street.

I still keep thinking the Belichickian Patriots will once again reveal themselves. They are not a bad team. They just do bad things and get bad results. Not this week, though.

Patriots 16, Jets 6

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