Preview: Jets (2-2) at Patriots (3-1)
Florham Park, N.J.- With the Yankees now having joined the Red Sox on vacation, we are left with the Jets and the Patriots carrying the torch for the New York/Boston rivalry until the spring. Since Bill Belichick ditched the Jets and took off for New England the Patriots had dominated the Jets to the point of the match-up being unworthy of an actual rivalry, but since Rex Ryan has taken over the Jets, the rivalry has been rekindled. While the Patriots have finished with a better regular season than the Jets these past two seasons, it has been the Jets making it further into the postseason both years with the Jets sending the Patriots packing in the playoffs last season.
Think of the Patriots as a classic example of a team built to roll through the regular season with ease only to face unconquerable obstacles in the playoffs if you’d like, but remember this is still a regular season game which makes this task of ending their two game losing streak that much tougher for the Jets.
WHEN AND WHERE: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro MA. Sunday @ 4:15 p.m. EST (TV-CBS/Radio-ESPN 1050)
INJURY REPORT (10/7)
Jets - OUT: Garrett McIntyre (concussion), Logan Payne (wrist), Bryan Thomas (Achilles)/ QUESTIONABLE: Nick Mangold (ankle)/ PROBABLE: Plaxico Burress (elbow), Antonio Cromartie (ribs), Mike DeVito (shoulder), David Harris (toe), Calvin Pace (abdomen), Eric Smith (tricep), Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder).
Patriots - DOUBTFUL (but really out): Julian Edelman (ankle), Jerod Mayo (knee), Sebastian Vollmer (back), Danny Woodhead (ankle)/ QUESTIONABLE: Josh Barrnett (thumb), Leigh Bodden (groin), Ras-I Dowling (hip), Albert Haynesworth (back), Aaron Hernandez (knee), Kyle Love (ankle), Mike Wright (concussion)/ PROBABLE: Patrick Chung (hand), Shaun Ellis (knee), Dane Fletcher (thumb).
Run the Ball – With Nick Mangold back for the Jets the offensive line should be able to function in a positive manner again. The line got off to a slow start with Mangold and all but crumbled in his absence, with Mangold returning the offensive line can start to regroup and do what they are supposed to, which is protect Sanchez and open up holes for the running backs. As bad as the numbers are for the Patriots passing defense (they rank last in the league in passing and total defense), the Jets need to commit to running the ball early and often to open up the passing game and eat up clock and keep Brady on the sidelines. A solid running game will buy Sanchez more time and comfort and open up big plays on play-action, but abandon the run early and you’re asking Sanchez to win a gunslinging contest against Brady and that’s not the recipe for success.
The Patriots rank 18th in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up 435 yards on 91 carries for 4.8 yards per carry and 108.8 yards a game and four touchdowns and they just lost their start middle linebacker, Jarod Mayo, for the next few weeks which should open up the running game even more for the Jets. If the Jets can’t get their running game at least somewhat on track this week, one will start to wonder if they’ll get back on track at all before the season is over.
Contain Double Tight End Threat - They mixed up coverage on the Ravens, Ed Dickson, between corners and linebackers, losing the battles with the linebackers and they’ll damn sure lose them if they try that this week. Brodney Pool has to see more playing time and it should be at the expense of Eric Smith. Joe Flacco decided to pick on Smith and Brady will too, especially with the size, speed and strength of the Patriots tight ends. Smith will get torched if he’s responsible for trying to stop one of them, Leonhard will too if he’s one one-on-one coverage which is something I’d expect the Jets to avoid. The Jets will likely use their corners on the tight end combo of Gronkowski and Hernandez, Cromartie will have his hands full but the Jets will need him to take one of these guys out of the play every time he’s on them.
The Patriots are like no other team in the league, while Welker is the team’s leading receiver they run the offense through their two tight ends, who are arguably two of the absolute best tight ends in the league. No other team in recent memory has had two dominate tight ends like the Patriots, which is why the Patriots offense is clicking at such a high level right now. If the Jets can slow down the production of the two tight ends they have a chance to win this game, if not it’ll be yet another long day for the Jets.
Rattle Brady - In the playoff game last year the Jets rattled Brady early and often and they did so mentally as much as physically. With the Jets surprising Brady by backing off pressure and flooding the middle of the field they were able to completely disrupt Brady’s timing which led to him getting smacked around and throwing terrible passes. Brady is as accurate and precise a passer as there is in this league, but like any QB get him rattled and confused and he suddenly seems embarrassingly human. The Patriots will be ready for the wide variety of looks the Jets have used with success in the past, but the key will be disguising the looks to confuse Brady into guessing wrong. It’s also likely that the Jets have a few new tricks up their sleeve on how to defend and confuse Brady, it’s anyone’s guess what it’ll be, but it should be fun to find out.
Protect Sanchez, Protect the Ball - Sanchez had beyond terrible numbers against the Ravens, but he also never really had a chance. Yes there were times where he needed to get rid of the ball faster or make a more accurate throw or better read, but more often than not he was finding himself on his back before he had a chance to make a play. The Patriots obviously don’t possess the same pass rushing ability as the Ravens, but that makes it even more crucial that the offensive line has to give Sanchez enough time to make a play.
As much as the line needs to protect Sanchez, Sanchez needs to protect himself and the ball at all times. Sanchez has a history of being inconsistent and committing back-breaking turnovers and this is not the week for that. In order for the Jets to win, the defense can’t be asked to bail out the offense after careless mistakes from their quarterback. Sanchez doesn’t need a perfect game in the sense that he must throw for over 400 yards at 80 percent completion rate, but he does need a perfect game in the sense of no turnovers and finishing drives in the end zone.
Revis vs. Welker What will Revis do? My guess is he’ll spend the majority of the game covering Welker, as he should. It’d be nice to be able to have Revis cover one of the two tight ends (preferably Gronkowski in the red zone and Hernandez everywhere else), but then who covers Welker? It’s hard to trust Cromartie to cover him, Welker is too sneaky and slippery for Cromartie and we’d likely see a lot of yellow flags being tossed around with that match-up. Wilson could handle the duties for a few plays at a time, but leave him on Welker for too long and the savviness of Welker will eventually get Wilson beat.
Which leaves us with Revis as the only real viable option to cover the NFL’s leading receiver (40 receptions on 56 targets, 616 yards for 15.4 yards per catch, 154 yards a game and five touchdowns). With gaudy stats like those the only logical play for the Jets is to try and cancel out those stats by matching them up with their own equally ridiculous example of dominance from one of their players. According to Profootballfocus.com, ”QBs throwing at Darrelle Revis through 4 games have a QB rating of 3.6 – He has allowed 3 receptions in 4 games.”
The Jets won’t stick Revis on Welker on every play. They will still mix up the matchups, if for know other reason than to keep Brady guessing, but he should spend the majority of his time covering Welker. When they do switch it up he should spend the rest of his time covering one of the tight ends, preferably Hernandez.
Bill Belichick vs. Brian Schottenheimer - Naturally everyone is talking about the coaching match-up of Rex Ryan vs. Bill Belichick, but for the most part it’s Brady running that offense once the clock starts and with everyone in the world seemingly saying the Jets offense is predictable it’s only natural to worry about how Schottenheimer will attack Bilichick. Opposing players have been saying they can predict the Jets plays since at least last season, current Jets are talking about it and former Jets, David Clowney, are tweeting about it, “What’s sad is I swear I’m sitting here calling out plays before they run them and I haven’t been with the #Jets in a year come tomorrow.”
If all these people say the Jets offense is predictable what do you think Belichick sees in this offense?
After the Raider’s game LT told ESPN’s Rich Cimini that opposing defenders could tell if they were going to run or pass based on the distance of the running back from the line, “They’re like, ‘We were looking at your guys’ depth. When you’re deep, it’s a run. When you’re close, it’s a pass.’ Certain things like that. Defenses, they pick up on that stuff.” So couldn’t one use that to their advantage, line them up closer and run the ball or line them up deeper and pass the ball and do that until the defense doesn’t know what’s what? That’s the type of simple basic thinking that this offense has been lacking, Schottenheimer simply has to get more productively creative.
Mangold’s Ankle - It’s doubtful Mangold will be at 100 percent, but the Jets will be happy with a 75 percent Mangold. If they can get through the game with him at 75-80 percent they definitely have a chance.
Aaron Maybin - I was skeptical about Maybin when he first signed in training camp, then I thought he earned a spot on the roster when he was let go and thought he definitely deserved to be brought back, but I certainly didn’t expect he would be as successful as he was against the Ravens. But Maybin used his superior speed to flash that pass rushing ability the Jets have been lacking and they will need to see more of that this week against Brady. If Maybin can come in and apply semi-constant pressure on Brady the Jets will have a great shot at making Brady look like an ordinary mortal.
Joe McKnight - It sure seemed like every time Joe McKnight stepped on the field something good happened for the Jets last week, so the obvious thing would be to get him on the field more starting this week, right? I mean the guy came in on defense, blitzed, caused pressure and aided in a pick six for David Harris, who cares how and when you do it, just get the guy on the field. Having McKnight come in to blitz in the Dwight Lowery/Drew Coleman role makes all the sense in the world, either offense will get beat by his speed or they will have to take attention away from other defenders to slow him down. Keep McKnight on kickoff duties and mix him into the offense every so often, just to give the Patriots one more thing to think/worry about.
Also while I’m no fan of the ‘Wildcat,’ I thought the Jets should have tried some of it against the Ravens. Don’t use the ‘Wildcat’ when the offense is in rhythm, use it when you can’t do anything. That’s the time to use the ‘Wildcat’ or other gadget plays and McKnight is the man to do just that.
PREDICTION: 28-20 Patriots
Basically it comes down to this. Do I think the Jets are capable of winning this game? Yes, I certainly do. But do I trust them to play (and coach) the perfect game necessary to pull off such a feat in the regular season? No, no I do not. As of this second I trust Brady to have more success against one of the better defenses in the league than I trust Sanchez to keep up with Brady while playing the 32nd rank defense in the league and that’s not a knock on Sanchez, it’s respect for Brady and Belichick. I think the Jets come out and keep this game competitive and show some signs of improvement, but if I have to choose, and clearly I do, I’d say Brady outlasts Sanchez and the Jets and the Patriots escape with another regular season win.