New York Jets (4-1) at New England Patriots (5-0)
The Patriots are in a good spot this week, as they are 9 point favorites before being favored by a bunch of points again next week, as they’re expected to be 10.5 point favorites at home over the Miami Dolphins. Big favorites tend to cover before being big favorites again, as 6+ point favorites are 109-67 ATS since 2010 before being 6+ point favorites again. This makes sense, as good teams tend to take care of their business pretty easily when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. That being said, I’m still going with the Jets as 9 point underdogs for a bunch of reasons.
For one, the Patriots don’t deserve to be 9 point favorites here. They’re good, arguably the best team in the league, as they rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains differential, carrying over their strong play from down the stretch in 2014 into 2015, but the Jets are also a very good team, ranking 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential, just one spot below the Patriots. The Patriots are much more likely to finish the season in the top-3 and are the more talented team on paper, but the Jets are much improved from last season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has bounced back well from a broken leg that ended his 2014 season and has continued his surprisingly solid play from 2013 and 2014 in Tennessee and Houston, giving the Jets arguably the best quarterback they’ve had since Chad Pennington. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker give him a pair of solid targets to throw to and running back Chris Ivory has broken out as a legitimate feature back. Meanwhile, a veteran offensive line has rolled back the clock a little bit and played very well.
Defensively, new head coach Todd Bowles has improved a defense that was already pretty solid to begin with, in large part due to big contributions from free agent acquisition cornerback Darrelle Revis and first round pick defensive end Leonard Williams. Last week, the Jets got defensive end Sheldon Richardson, one of the best defensive players in the game in 2013 and 2014, back from a 4 game suspension, adding to an already stacked 3-man defensive front in their 3-4 defense, with Damon Harrison, Leonard Williams, and Muhammad Wilkerson. They rank #1 by a wide margin in rate of moving the chains allowed and could give the Patriots’ offense a lot of problems. This is the toughest game of the Patriots’ season thus far and they shouldn’t be favored by much more than 4 or 5 points. We’re getting great value with the Jets at +9, even with the Patriots having an easy game on deck. The Jets shouldn’t be 9 point underdogs anywhere.
On top of that, the Patriots’ easy game next week might not be as easy as it seems, as they have to turn around and face the Dolphins in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. That hurts them, as teams, particularly favorites, struggle before Thursday Night Football, as having another game in 4 days understandably provides a distraction. Favorites are 41-66 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football. I wouldn’t worry too much about that aforementioned trend about 6+ point favorites before being 6+ point favorites because the Jets are such a tough opponent and the Patriots’ next game is in 4 days.
The Jets, meanwhile, also have a relatively easy game on deck, as they head to Oakland, where they’re expected to be 3 point road favorites. Teams are 105-80 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point road favorites and 68-48 ATS before being 4+ point road favorites. The Jets aren’t guaranteed to be 3+ point road favorites, but the logic would still hold either way. This is a way more important game for the Jets than their next game will be and that should show on the field, especially against a New England team that has to play again in 4 days. The Jets are also in a much better injury situation, with no one of note expected to miss this game, besides backup running back Bilal Powell. The Patriots, meanwhile, were already without left tackle Nate Solder for the season going into last week and now are also without replacement left tackle Marcus Cannon, along with defensive end Jabaal Sheard and Dont’a Hightower, very big parts of their defense. I’d take the Jets +9 easily.
New England Patriots 24 New York Jets 20
Pick against the spread: NY Jets +9