Dante Scarnecchia is supposed to be too old for this.
Three years after the 69-year-old offensive line coach retired from the New England Patriots, leaving behind a liability that was ultimately angling to get quarterback Tom Brady quarantined in a TB12 hyperbolic chamber, Scarnecchia, now in his 46th year of coaching, has to get hands-on in his approach to a sieve of an offensive wall.
Brady has been hit 32 times over the first five games of the season, one shy of his total for 2016. According to Business Insider, “Brady is on pace to be sacked 51 times this season — nearly as many times as the past two seasons combined (53) and a number that would easily be the most in his career.”
Now, with Brady listed on the Patriots’ injury report with an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, protection becomes even more imperative.
Oh, where have you gone, Bryan Stork?
As bad as Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and company have been, it’s imperative to note that the last time things were this egregious on the line was before Bill Belichick coaxed Scarnecchia to take back his long-standing coaching role. That team only saw enough dramatic improvement in its line to go on to win the Super Bowl.
Scarnecchia is looking to pull from that history beginning with the Jets on Sunday.
This week’s picks:
Benjamin Hoffmann, New York Times: Patriots. “The Jets (3-2) are, without equivocation, far better than anyone expected. They are more capable on offense and more stingy on defense. They are by no means a postseason contender, but they have been playing at or near mediocre all season and that is light years ahead of where anyone expected them to be. A soft schedule has helped, but their 23-20 victory over the Jaguars is especially impressive when you consider how well Jacksonville has played against teams of higher regard. The Patriots (3-2), however, are not a team that can be beaten with a little pluck and a lot of luck. To beat New England you need talent — lots of it — and the Jets are still lacking there.”
NJ.com staff: All three writers pick New England. Says columnist Steve Politi: “The party is over. The three-game winning streak has shown that this Jets team still believes in head coach Todd Bowles and the coaching staff, but it’s happened mostly with smoke and mirrors. The Patriots are still the class of the AFC, and while their defense is no good, Tom Brady will pick apart the Jets as usual and restore order in the world.”
Hank Gola, New York Daily News: Patriots. “The Pats are just 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight games vs. the Jets, which is something to consider. All right, we’ve considered it. The Patriots, who played their best game of the season the last time they had 10 days rest, are due to bust out. They settled down their defense by playing a lot of zone coverage in Tampa Bay and they won’t have to do much more against the Jets. Josh McCown isn’t Alex Smith, Deshaun Watson or Cam Newton, the three QBs who’ve put up numbers on them. On the flip side, the three QBs the Jets have beaten: Jay Cutler, Blake Bortles and DeShone Kizer. i.e., not Tom Brady. We respect what Todd Bowles and the Jets have done for three straight weeks. But it ends here in a big way.”
Greg Cote Miami Herald: Patriots 34, Jets 20. “Banged-up Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski with nine days to get ready are safe win-bet. Division rival at home a fair bet with points, but just can’t do it.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 30, Jets 17. “This game features two 3-2 teams, with the Jets being the shock in that pairing. They’ve won three straight games, but this is a big step up in competition. New England will have been off for 10 days, which shows up. Tom Brady lights up the Jets.”
CBS sports staff: Six out of eight pick the Jets (plus 9.5 New York). Seven of eight pick the Pats straight-up.
David Steele, Sporting News: Patriots 31, Jets 29. “Normally this would be the point that the Jets are sent plunging back to earth by their tormentors. The Patriots, however, are certifiably dreadful on defense right now (last in the NFL by a scandalous 50 yards a game). Josh McCown has done well against similarly bad defenses (the Browns, for example). Doing that and outselling Tom Brady, though, are separate challenges.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 34, Jets 17. “The Patriots and Jets somehow are tied for first place in the AFC East at 3-2. New England has underachieved, and New York has overachieved. The balance of the universe is restored here, though, as the Patriots will be healthier after bonus rest, and the Jets just can’t take enough flight on the scoreboard. Side note: Somehow, Tom Brady is older than Josh McCown.”
Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times: Patriots 34, Jets 20. “Even though the Patriots typically don’t play great at the Jets, watch for Tom Brady & Co. to gather some momentum in the division. Todd Bowles is doing a tremendous job with overachieving Jets.”
Chris Simms, Bleacher Report: Patriots 27, Jets 17. “This isn’t a good matchup for the New York Jets. They have won three in a row, but they didn’t play good ball last week in Cleveland. The New England Patriots have found their formula in the secondary with simple coverages, and they’re big enough up front to not let the Jets running game get off.”
Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “These games were more fun when Rex Ryan would run his mouth all week despite having a far less accomplished resume than his opponent.”
Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Jets (plus-10). “It’s tempting to sit here and say, “This is the week the Patriots look like the Patriots and blow doors and win by 100 and yada yada yada.” And I do feel that way. But I can’t ignore the history of the Patriots at MetLife Stadium, Post-Butt Fumble division. Since 2013, the Patriots are 2-2 when visiting the Jets. Their two wins were by five points and one point. They lost twice in overtime. The Jets overall in those four years went 27-37. The Patriots went 50-14 with two Super Bowl wins. I don’t get it, either. But hey, the Patriots generally have trouble in New Jersey. That’s enough to take the 10 spot.”
Five Thirty Eight: Patriots with a 67 percent chance of victory.
SB Nation staff: Pats. Unanimously.
ESPN staff: Only Seth Wickersham throws his support toward the Jets.
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 30, Jets 20. “he Jets have been impressive this year, but the Patriots are still the Patriots, and they’re getting better on the fly. Like they always do.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 28, Jets 17. “No one expected the Jets to be playing for first place in the AFC East in Week Six. Todd Bowles has done a good job putting his team in this position, but they’re not going to beat the Patriots with the division lead on the line.”
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 28, Jets 17. “Could the Jets possibly pull off the upset and move to two games over .500? Put another way: How much are they going to ruin next year’s draft position? In order to upset the Patriots, New York’s defense must stay disciplined. Now that Rob Gronkowski is good to go, my original thought that the Jets would have to clog the short passing lanes and make Tom Brady beat them deep won’t necessarily work. Remember, Gronk missed one game against Gang Green the last season and got hurt in the other. I trust New York’s defense against New England’s ground attack. I shouldn’t, though — the Jets rank 30th in the league in run defense right now. Could this be a Mike Gillislee game? Maybe it will be a Chris Hogan game, actually. Hogan has posted five touchdown receptions in the last four games, including one in each. He’s the first Pats wideout to notch a receiving score in four consecutive games since Randy Moss in 2007. Hogan = Moss. Alright, maybe I got carried away there.”
It says here: Patriots 27, Jets 23. The Patriots did little more than survive playing the Buccaneers, which makes this week the first, true test for the beleaguered Patriots defense. Tied for second place or not, these are still the Jets, the same Jets who were supposed to be 0-16 this season. Patriot fans know how those projections of perfection tend to work out.