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2020 Matchup Preview: Jets vs. Patriots

Sam Darnold Set to Take on Patriots Defense and Bill Belichick without Tom Brady


After posting a 7-9 record last season, the Jets will have seven games against 2019 playoff teams and the 2020 schedule strength is .533. With training camp on the horizon and September not too far off in the distance, is examining each of the Green & White's matchups. We continue our series with The Boston Globe Senior NFL Writer Ben Volin as the Jets will host the Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 9 and play in Foxboro in Week 17.

The Headline
This is obvious — Tom Brady is no longer on the New England Patriots for the first time since he was drafted in 2000. Brady's remarkable run with the Pats included a lifetime of accolades, but his departure appears, according to Volin, to mark the end of the Patriots dynasty that included six Super Bowls and 17 AFC East championships.

"They're still going to be competitive," Volin said. "This is the challenge now — can Bill Belichick build the Patriots into a consistent winner again? Can he win without Brady? It's probably not going to happen overnight. There will probably be some rough spots. … It'll prove Belichick's coaching chops if he can coach the Patriots to a good season with an unproven youngster like Jarrett Stidham or a guy like Brian Hoyer.

"The days of just penciling them in for 12-4 and the AFC Championship Game, I think, are done for a little bit. But I would not count out the Patriots by any stretch and I think the AFC East is kind of wide open and it's as much wide open for the Patriots to take as it is for the Bills, Dolphins or Jets."

What's Changed
For about three months after Brady's departure, questions surrounded the quarterback position for the Patriots in 2020. Signs pointed to Belichick rolling with 2019 fourth-round pick Stidham, who only played in 15 snaps as a rookie, until the team signed former MVP Cam Newton earlier this month. Newton, who was released by the Panthers in March, is coming off a foot injury that caused him to miss 14 games last season. In 2018, he threw for 3,395 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 67.9% of his passes. He also added 488 rushing yards and 4 scores on the ground.

"I think it changes everything significantly," Volin said. "I'm assuming this is Cam Newton's job to lose. I don't think you're bringing in someone like Cam Newton, who has been adamant throughout the entire offseason that he wants to be a starter. He doesn't want to be a backup, so I don't think he's coming here if he thinks he's going to lose out on the job to Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer. Now it takes the Patriots from having one of the least proven quarterback positions in the entire NFL to now having a former MVP and a potential top-10 quarterback in Cam Newton. He's someone, when healthy, who can be a very dangerous player still.

"Assuming he's relatively, I think the Patriots got a total steal at quarterback and are now contenders again in the AFC."

Matchups to Watch
The matchup to watch is Sam Darnold vs. the Patriots defense, particularly their secondary that's led by 2019 Defensive Player of the Year CB Stephon Gilmore. New England led the NFL last year in total yards allowed per game (275.9), points allowed per game (14.1) and interceptions (25). Last time Darnold squared off against this unit, he completed just 11 of 32 for 86 yards and tied a career high with four interceptions.

"Belichick's philosophy is to build the defense from the back and then to the front," Volin said. "He believes you can generate pass rush with scheme, blitzes, twists and stunts. I think he's generally right and he believes in a strong secondary. It's a group that's played together a long time. … They're very deep in the secondary. I don't think the Patriots defense will finish No. 1 in the NFL again, I think they'll probably slide down a little bit, but they're still a very excellent and deep secondary."

Why It's Important
The Jets have only beaten the Patriots twice in the regular season since 2011, the latest victory coming in 2015 at MetLife Stadium. Despite Brady's departure, Belichick is still in charge and last time he coached without Brady, Matt Cassel led the team to an 11-5 record.

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