JETS-PATRIOTS: AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND PREVIEW
Settling the score in Round 3 at ‘The Razor’
Trash talk begone. 45-3 begone. Week 2 at the Meadowlands begone.
No detailed discourse is necessary to gauge the less-than-stellar odds the visiting Jets possess against the New England Patriots on Sunday in Foxboro.
No more needs to be said of the grandiose offensive orchestration of composer Tom Brady, whose MVP-worthy 2010-11 campaign has handily arranged the leagues most prolific offensive attack, restoring the Pats atop the Mount Everest of the NFL’s elite.
Redundant rehash of the inconsistencies of Rex Ryan’s group running congruous to their consistent season-long smack talk, week in and week out–need no more.
It’s all been said. It’s all been done. The only plausible explanation lies within sixty minutes of frosty January football at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
For all of the diatribic prognostication that has been sent the way of the New York Jets in the week approaching their divisional three-match in New England, a shot at redemption and tough-talk vindication is tangible, not irrational.
Belichick and Brady, the class of the National Football League for three months and running, are far from unbeatable. No team with a shoddy secondary is. Or one with no semblance of a pass rush.
Rex Ryan has referred to this matchup as the “second-biggest game” in the history of the New York Jets franchise. This comes on the heels of a dramatic, awe-inspiring triumph over Peyton Manning and the defending AFC champs in Indianapolis. While the similarities between New England and Indianapolis are few and far between, the gameplan will be eerily similar.
KEYS TO VICTORY FOR GANG GREEN
- PRESSURE, PRESSURE, PRESSURE: In the New Yorks’ 28-14 Week 2 victory over New England at the Meadowlands, the Jets were able to establish a consistent pass rush, keeping the heat on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady all game. The result? Two interceptions and a passer rating of 72.5, Brady’s second-lowest of the regular season. In the Week 13 debacle in Foxboro, Mike Pettine and Rex Ryan were much more conservative with the defensive gameplan diverting from what brought them much success in the first matchup. If the Jets are to have any shot at a date with destiny in Pittsburgh next Sunday, it starts with the pass rush. Four and five-man rushes, early and often. The only way to slow down Brady is to prevent him from getting in the groove or establish any rhythm with his receivers.
- PUT WELKER ON THE ISLAND: Since his arrival in Foxboro three seasons ago, Wes Welker has emerged as the league’s most dangerous slot receiver as well as the insidious key to New England’s aerial attack. Under Ryan, Welker has served as one of the few consistent thorns in the side of the Jets secondary. There is only one possible foil to another gamebreaking performance by Brady’s go-to receiver. His name is Darrelle Revis. Time and time again, No. 24 has proven to be capable of nullifying any big-time receiver in the NFL. Moving Revis to the inside to match-up against Welker would take away a majority of the underneath routes Brady relies on.
- DON’T STOP GRINDING: Early on in their Week 13 matchup, the Jets offense exhibited a strong ability to move the ball on the ground against the Patriots’ defense. Faced with an early deficit, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer abandoned that gameplan, forcing Mark Sanchez and company into panic mode. Patience is key on Sunday, and Schottenheimer must ride-out running backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson as long as they possibly can, eating clock and keeping Brady’s unit off the field while taking the pressure off Sanchez.
- FEED THE HORSES: The ultimate weak link of the young Patriots defense lies in an inconsistent and unproven secondary. Receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes were brought to New York for the big-time moments like this, with a big-time chance to shine. Sanchez has demonstrated an ability to thrive when the deep ball is dialed up, most notably at the end of games. Taking some serious shots downfield from the onset will keep the Patriots on their heels, forcing them to put less men in the box, opening up the ground ‘n pound running game for Greene and Tomlinson. If there was any opportunity for Schottenheimer and the offensive unit to gamble heavily, it comes Sunday against the New England secondary.
PREDICTION: JETS 28, PATS 24
It most certainly won’t be easy, but with a third look at Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, Rex Ryan and his staff will devise a defensive gameplan to limit the first downs and keep the high-volume Pats offense off the field. If the Jets can stay true to their gameplan and identity, they can move the ball on the ground against New England all day, and control possession which in itself spells the ultimate key to the game. The maturation of the neophytic Sanchez will continue Sunday, symbolizing the passing of the guard in the AFC East and sending the New York Jets to Pittsburgh next week.
Broadcast Info: Saturday, 4:30 P.M. ET, TV: CBS (Jim Nantz/Phil Simms) Radio: 1050 AM ESPN Radio (Bob Wischusen/Marty Lyons)