PREVIEW: JETS (3-3) @ Patriots (3-3)

Sunday will be installment number eight of the Jets vs. Patriots rivalry since Rex Ryan has been head coach.  The overall record is 3-4 (including playoffs) in the favor of the Patriots, and the Jets have dropped two straight since their playoff road victory in 2010.

Although the rosters have gone through changes, Ryan’s philosophy towards the game has not.  To Ryan, the headline is Ryan vs. Belichick, whether you want to hear it or not.

“When I look at him [Coach Belichick], I see him as the best coach in the league,” said Ryan.  “I’ve said that from the day I took the job, but again, he’s going to get my best.  If it was just between Belichick and me, he’s going to win that battle.  I recognize that.  It’s not going to be by a lack of effort on my part.  He’s going to get everything I’ve got.”

“I want to compete against the very best.  I’m not worried about competing with somebody down here, I want to compete against the guy that’s up here.  That’s eventually where I want to get one day.  If I’m fortunate enough to get there, that’d be great.  Maybe people (will) want to compete against me the same way.”

A key matchup on Sunday will be the Jets safeties against the Patriots tight ends.

But you won’t find Belichick buying into the coaching showdown.  “The only thing that matters is this weeks game and that’s all we’re focused on.  We’re not really that concerned about what did or didn’t happen some other year or some other game,” said Belichick.

If Ryan can’t beat Belichick alone, he will need his offense to attack the 28th ranked passing defense in the NFL.  The Patriots are allowing 288.8 yards through the air, something Mark Sanchez will try to take advantage of when given the opportunity.

“We’ll see (and we’ll) take what they give us,” said Sanchez.  “We have to be sharp in the passing game.  If it calls for a long ball, we have to be prepared for it.  We just have to be efficient whether it’s underneath, intermediate or down the field.  The same thing in the running game, we have to be able to sustain drives, convert on third down and be sharp.”

Even though the Patriot’s secondary gives up yards in bunches, their front seven has shut down the opposition’s rushing attack again and again.  “There’s no doubt they have an excellent front seven,” said Ryan.  “They have those front seven guys and they always do a good job stopping the run.”

The Patriots have the sixth ranked run defense, allowing 82.7 yards per game on the ground and only conceding two rushing touchdowns.  They held Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch to 41 yards on 15 carries, Denver’s McGahee to 51 yards on 14 carries and Buffalo’s running back tandem of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson for a combined 62 yards on 21 carries in their last three games.

But when you think you have the Patriots pegged, expect the unexpected.  “I think that’s what makes him so good,” said Sanchez.  He’s so multiple, not only with his schemes, but (with) his personnel.  He can change up coverages (and) schemes from week-to-week.  It’s something that you just deal with, but you tip your hat to the guy.  He’s a heck of a coach and that’s why he has been so successful for so long.”

Here we go.

WHEN: Sunday, October 21, 2012 @ 4:25 pm EST (Can be seen on CBS).

WHERE: Foxboro, MA / Gillette Stadium (capacity: 68,756)

SERIES HISTORY: Patriots lead 53-52-1

LAST MEETING: Jets 16 — Patriots  37

NOTABLE: Only second time team is 3-3 since Tom Brady has taken over at quarterback.

HEAD COACHES:

  • JETS — Rex Ryan / Fourth Season with Jets / 35-25 (career, including postseason).
  • Patriots – Bill Belichick / 13th Season with Patriots / 192-104 (career, including postseason).

INJURY REPORT:

  • JETS — DOUBTFUL – DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), DT Sione Pouha (back), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder), S Eric Smith (knee). QUESTIONABLE — WR Edmond Gates (shoulder), C Nick Mangold (ankle), RB Joe McKnight (ankle). PROBABLE — WR Stephen Hill (hamstring), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), WR Jeremy Kerley (finger), S LaRon Landry (heel), G Brandon Moore (hip), LB Calvin Pace (shoulder), QB Mark Sanchez (back), LB Bart Scott (toe), G Matt Slauson (knee), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring).
  • PATRIOTSOUT — RB Brandon Bolden (knee), S Steve Gregeory (hip), LB Tracy White (foot). QUESTIONABLE — DT Ron Brace (back), S Patrick Chung (shoulder), WR Julian Edelman (hand), TE Rob Gronkowski (hip), TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle), LB Dont’a Hightower (hamstring), G Logan Mankins (calf,hip), C Nick McDonald (shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), T Sebastian Vollmer (back, knee), WR Wes Welker (ankle). PROBABLE — Kyle Love (knee).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • Jets Ball Handlers vs. Patriots Turnover Ability – The Patriots are tops in the league when it comes to creating turnovers.  It is just one of the defenses that has a knack for forcing fumbles at the right time.  Whoever it handling the ball for the Jets, whether it is a wide receiver, quarterback, wide receiver or tight end, they must hold on to the football.
  • Sanchez and 60% — As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Sanchez has a 3-1 record against the Patriots when completing over 60% of his passes.  With their poor pass defense, Sanchez should have one of his easier throwing days.

X-FACTORS:

  • Tom Brady, QB, Patriots — Although it is easy to assume Brady does everything perfect, this year has not been usual for the Patriots.  The Patriots three losses have been by a combined four points, and although it may not be fair to place those losses on his shoulders alone, maybe some late game magic has worn off.  Since this Patriots team has not been able to close games late, maybe a lead in the fourth quarter could be enough for the Patriots to trip over themselves again.
  • Safeties vs. Patriots TE’s — It is not a secret that the Patriot’s passing attack runs through their two tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.  The Jets play at safety has certainly improved since last year with Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry.  The physicality of this matchup should be something you will not be able to take your eyes off of.

THE PICK: I personally believe there is not enough talent in the Jets secondary to be able to guard the weapons of the Patriots.  Also, if the Patriots use their no huddle and ‘trap’ some of the slower linebackers on the Jets into defending the spread, no-huddle run the Patriots use, it could be a very, very long afternoon.  Patriots 27 – JETS 20.

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