After getting demolished 33-14 against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, the question Patriots fans are asking ahead of the Week 8 matchup with the New York Jets (5-2) is daunting: Is this already a must-win game for New England?
The AFC East standings would suggest New England coming out of East Rutherford with a victory is vital to their playoff chances. Currently, the Patriots are last in the AFC East with a 3-4 record, while the Miami Dolphins are third at 4-3, the Jets second at 5-2, and predictably the Buffalo Bills sit atop the division with a 5-1 record.
Though it isn’t even the halfway point in the regular season, the Patriots know how strong their division is compared to previous years. That is what makes this Week 8 away game at the Jets even more important, and it could be argued that it is a must-win game for New England.
New England’s Injury Report
As if the embarrassing 33-14 loss at home to the offensively-struggling Chicago Bears wasn’t bad enough, New England suffered a few key injuries to add salt to the wounds of the defeat. Veteran center David Andrews was diagnosed with a concussion after getting blindside-blocked during an interception in the fourth quarter and has not made it onto the practice field all week. This would be Andrews’ first missed start since 2020 according to AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower.
The Jets’ defense is 6th in the NFL in Sportsnaut’s Matt Johnson’s power rankings, and deservedly so. New York is ranked 10th in points allowed per game, only conceding 19.6 points per matchup. If New England’s starting-veteran center is set to be absent due to a concussion, expect far more pressure on QB Mac Jones.
However, it may not be all bad news for the Patriots on the injury report. Starting safety Kyle Dugger was forced to exit the game against the Bears early in the third quarter due to an ankle injury.
After sitting out the previous two days, Dugger returned to the practice field today according to NESN’s Zack Cox. In the case that Dugger is unable to play on Sunday, Safety Jabrill Peppers would most likely take a bigger defensive role in his absence.
Reinforcements For The Jets
Last week during New York’s 16-9 victory away to the Denver Broncos (2-5), the Jets lost one of their best offensive playmakers to injury for the season. Rookie running back Breece Hall suffered a torn ACL that will put him on the sidelines for the rest of the year.
Hall was having a great start to the season and many were touting him to be named the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year. The rookie had 463 rushing yards on 80 rushing attempts, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, and added four rushing touchdowns. Hall also picked up 218 receiving yards on 19 receptions, averaging 11.47 yards per catch, while adding a receiving touchdown as well.
In response to Breece Hall’s injury, the New York Jets traded a sixth-round draft pick (which could become a fifth-rounder) for Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson.
The third-year running back out of Illinois State University has had a solid start to the year so far but had fewer chances the last few weeks in Jacksonville due to the emergence of running back Travis Etienne. Robinson has tallied 340 rushing yards on 81 rushing attempts, averaging 4.19 yards per carry, and has added three rushing touchdowns to his 2022 resume.
Unfortunately for Jets fans, ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported that Robinson has yet to practice once this week for his new team.
Unless James Robinson is able to learn the entire offensive playbook on the sidelines in less than a week’s time, it is unlikely he will be the out-and-out starting running back for the Jets against the Patriots in Week 8. In that case, backup running backs Michael Carter and Ty Johnson will pick up the rushing load left by Breece Hall.
A Must-Win Game For New England
The New England Patriots (3-4) enter the Week 8 matchup away to the New York Jets (5-2) as slight favorites (-135). The Jets (+115) may find themselves wondering why they are the underdogs after winning four games in a row, but the loss of Hall may prove to be the deciding factor in this AFC East clash.
Considering James Robinson won’t be fully integrated into the lineup, expect more reliance on the passing game by the Jets. If safety Kyle Dugger is able to suit up for the Patriots, that could force the Jets to scramble on the offensive side of the ball. Coming out of this game with a victory is vital for the Patriots’ chances at making the playoffs, making it a must-win game for New England.
Prediction: A close 20-17 victory for the New England Patriots.
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