The NFL season continues this weekend with Week 3, as the New York Jets make the short trip to Boston to take on rivals New England Patriots in our highlight game from the third round of matches. Who will come out on top? Inform your NFL Week 3 predictions.
NFL Week 3 predictions
We checked in on the beaten Super Bowl team from 2018, the LA Rams in week one, so now let’s see how the six-time and current SB Champions, the New England Patriots have kicked off the campaign.
The enduring appeal of the NFL is the cyclical nature of success, with the draft system assisting the needy, along with a subtle tinkering with the fixture schedule to serve up a handful of matchups where the best more often meet the best, and weaker sides are also paired together in the regular season.
Typically, we see contenders slowly slip from prominence to be replaced by those teams who have attempted a successful, draft driven, rebuild.
New England Patriots analysis
The exceptions are the New England Patriots, and it is difficult to overstate the achievements of their two “goats”, QB and Tom Brady; and Coach, Bill Belichick.
Belichick took over in New England in 2000, followed a year later by a lowly and unconsidered draft pick in Tom Brady, and the 18 ensuing years have all been winning regular season ones.
All but two have led to the post season. Six ended with the ultimate trophy, along with countless MVP and coach of the year awards.
Belichick’s continued strategic and tactical acumen shouldn’t surprise. He’s quickly appreciated the primacy of offense, particularly via the passing game, and has also juggled an underfunded defence that’s capable of stepping up for an assignment, usually in the post season.
However, it is 42 years old Tom Brady whose continued levels of performance continue to amaze.
Sack, touchdown rates, and yards per attempts are each at comparable levels to those he achieved in his prime. His current completion rate, which has never fallen below 60% in the regular season, remains at the high end of his career numbers, bolstered partly by an ever-improving ability to avoid interceptions.
If Belichick is adaptable and inventive, his core values rarely change. The Patriots invariably have a top five rated offense, always led by the passing game, but a regularly below-average defence. You must go back to 2006 to find a defence that was of comparable quality to the Brady-led offense.
2018 proved no exception.
Brady threw for 0.7 yards per attempt further than opposing defences usually allowed, the running game was near league average, and the defence also defended the pass at league average, whilst largely conceding the running game.
Overall, the offense scored four more points per game and a toughening of the defence in the red zone leaked yards, but not points.
New England’s biggest challenge in 2019 may be if they can successfully assimilate the wide receiver talent of the newly acquired, but hugely disruptive and troubled, Antonio Brown
New England had the fifth best turnover differential in 2018, but the regressive nature of extreme turnovers may not wholly apply to this franchise.
Over the last ten seasons, the average turnover differential per regular season for 24 teams has fallen to between a range of +/- 4 turnovers.
The lowest extreme value is an average of -6 for the NY Jets, the second highest is +8 for Green Bay. The highest positive turnover differential is a campaign average of +13 for the Patriots.
They’ve had positive turnover differentials in every season, and this has been driven by Brady’s accuracy as well as the partly skill and scheme based contribution from defensive interceptions.
Normally, such game winning contributions fall back from seasonal highs, but New England’s ability to generate turnovers appears to be a resilient feature of their skill set.
They won just one more close match than they lost in 2018, and their 10.7 Pythagorean wins were close to their actual 11 win total.
They’ve opened the year with two wins, scoring 76 points and conceding just three, most impressively against Pittsburgh and more predictably against a Miami divisional rival, who are currently performing more like an expansion team.
A possible showdown with Kansas City for the top AFC seeding will take place on home turf, and New England’s biggest challenge in 2019 may be if they can successfully assimilate the wide receiver talent of the newly acquired, but hugely disruptive and troubled, Antonio Brown.
An in-depth look at New York Jets
The Jets provide New England with their second divisional match of the season and it is the Patriots’ unsurpassed record in these games that has guaranteed their post season dominance.
Neither the Jets or Miami and Buffalo have provided a consistent challenge to their dominance since realignment in 2002. The Patriots’ winning margin in their 15 titles from 17 seasons since then has averaged over 3.5 wins better than the second placed team.
Again, since realignment, the Patriots have gone 80-22 (78%) within the division.
The Jets have finished at the foot of the AFC East for the last three seasons, and 2018’s four wins equalled their poorest showing in the four-team division.
However, there was encouragement to be found. They had a -10 turnover differential, the 27th best in the NFL. This should be less extreme in 2019, although two guaranteed matches against the regression-resistant Patriots may reduce the upside.
More can be expected from five narrow losses and just one solitary win under such circumstances, along with a 5.5 Pythagorean win expectation, a win and a half above their actual record.
That being said, they are still a long way from being a winning team. The Jets generated little offensive threat, passing for 0.7 fewer yards per attempt and rushing for 0.4 fewer yards per carry than the average conceded by their 2018 opponents.
They were similarly below par on the defensive side of the ball, ultimately conceding nearly six points per game more than their offensive opponents typically scored.
New York Jets at New England Patriots: Where might bettors find value?
Scoring rates project the Patriots to score around 36 points, with little upside beyond ten for the Jets, who have already given snaps to three different quarterbacks, due to illness and injury.
The Patriots are being asked to cover a huge number, currently around 20 points. While they can’t truly be accused of running up the score on Miami in Week 2, (two scores were 4th quarter pick sixes), they did still have Tom Brady in the game and throwing from the shotgun when up by 37.
To add the Jets’ problems, they are coming off a short week, following their near shutout on Monday night, and the Patriots are taken on the spread as they rumble to yet another post-season appointment.