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Sunday’s Patriots-Jets rematch could have playoff ramifications

Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was hounded by Devin McCourty and the Patriots defense in a Week 8 loss.Elsa/Getty

The Patriots have undergone a number of changes in recent years, but Jets coach Robert Saleh sees a common thread in how they win games.

“You walk away, like, ‘Man, if we just don’t do this,’ ” Saleh said. “They do it all the time. They force you into mistakes. They force you into shooting yourself in the foot.”

Against New York in Week 8, the Patriots struggled to find the end zone, scoring just one touchdown, but managed to secure a 22-17 victory thanks to Nick Folk’s 5-for-5 effort on field goals and some critical errors by Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.


New England’s defense lured Wilson into throwing three interceptions, all of which displayed ill-advised decision-making. Wilson recorded his lowest completion percentage of the season, connecting on 20 of 41 pass attempts (48.8 percent).

Sunday’s rematch will likely hinge on whether the Patriots can continue to fluster Wilson, who has not played well against New England. In three career games, Wilson has completed just 53.7 percent of his passes, throwing seven picks and two touchdowns, with a rating of 50.5.

This season, Wilson has registered a dismal 6.6 rating when under pressure. With outside linebacker Matthew Judon, the NFL’s leader in sacks, anchoring their pass rush, the Patriots should look to keep Wilson under duress in hopes that he once again commits mental errors.

After the game in Week 8, Wilson acknowledged he made some “boneheaded plays,” but stressed the importance of learning and moving on.

“I can get rid of those mistakes,” he said. “We’ll be good.”

Sunday’s game has considerable significance in the AFC playoff race, as the Patriots and Jets both hope to maintain their wild-card spots. Buffalo may have entered the season as the heavy favorite, but the AFC East is up for grabs, with all four teams above .500.


“It is a very good division,” Saleh said. “New England, they’re not going anywhere any time soon as long as Bill [Belichick] is the head coach. I think [Mike] McDaniel is doing a phenomenal job over there in Miami. They’re loaded with talent. Obviously, Buffalo is loaded also.

“It’s a very competitive division. Every team has an identity that just stands out on tape in terms of their style of play and how hard everybody plays. It’s cool to be a part of.”

Even though the Patriots have lost considerable star power over the past few seasons, their approach remains the same, according to Saleh.

“New England’s been that way forever,” he said. “They’ve got a saying over there: ‘Do your job.’ I’m sure if players have been there long enough, they’ve probably heard that one thousand times in a week, to just do your job and do it to the best of your ability.

“They do their job as good as anybody. They’re very disciplined. They’re very sound in all three phrases.”

Early returns positive

Marcus Jones has had plenty of reasons to smile lately.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Patriots special teams coordinator Cam Achord has plenty of praise for rookie Marcus Jones, who has taken over as the return specialist. Asked what Jones has done to earn his role, Achord highlighted Jones’s improvements in all aspects of the return game, namely his ballhandling and decision-making. Since replacing safety Myles Bryant, Jones is averaging 13.4 yards per punt return and 24.3 yards per kick return … The Patriots created about $250,000 in salary-cap space by restructuring safety Cody Davis’s contract, giving them about $2 million in total room. Davis will still become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season … Kevin Harlan and Trent Green will call Sunday’s Patriots-Jets game for CBS.


Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her @nicolecyang.