The Jets make their first road trip of the season to face the team that has dominated the division for two decades. It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for the Patriots, with the signing of Antonio Brown, the playing of Antonio Brown and now the release of Antonio Brown. Still the Patriots will not miss a beat because they never miss a beat. The Jets on the other hand will continue to struggle with all the players they will miss.
Playing the Patriots is tough enough as is, but to have to play them with such a depleted roster and missing your starting quarterback makes this even more difficult than usual. Through two games the Patriots have a positive 73-point-differential while the Jets have only scored a total of 19 points. No one expects this game to be close, which is why the Patriots are currently 21-point favorites.
When: Sunday, September 22, 1 pm
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
How to watch/listen: CBS (Play-by-play – Kevin Harlan, analyst Rich Gannon). 98.7 ESPN Radio (Play-by-play – Bob Wischusen, analyst – Marty Lyons)
Jets – OUT: QB Sam Darnold, OLB Jordan Jenkins. DOUBTFUL: LB C.J. Mosley, DL Quinnen Williams, WR Demaryius Thomas. QUESTIONABLE: G Kelechi Osemele, WR Josh Bellamy, RB/KR Trenton Cannon, CB Brian Poole, OT Kelvin Beachum, DL Steve McLendon, S Rontez Miles, G Brian Winters
Patriots – OUT: FB James Develin. QUESTIONABLE: LB Shilique Calhoun, OL Marcus Cannon, TE Ryan Izzo, TE Matt LaCosse
Keys to the game:
Pressure Brady up the middle – You know the drill by now. The best way to beat the Patriots is to pressure Tom Brady up the middle of their offensive line. Since there’s no way to magically cure Sam Darnold of his mono and/or convince Brady not to play this week, pressuring Brady becomes the most important key to the game. Brady is a magician when it comes to moving around the pocket and buying time until one of his receivers inevitably shakes free. The best way to counter this ability is with direct pressure right in his face.
Stop the Patriots running backs – No Antonio Brown and no actual threats from the tight end position, but there’s still plenty of receiving options for Brady. Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and even Phillip Dorsett will give the Jets cornerback group plenty of trouble. Being able to stick those receivers in coverage will obviously be important, but the Patriots are a week-to-week team. They can air it out one week then pound the rock the next week and do everything in between.
Sony Michel is that they tough to tackle, run it between the tackles back that can truck his way to first downs. Then there’s the receiving ability of James White and Rex Burkhead, without weapons at tight end the Patriots have leaned even more on their receiving backs and will continue to do so.
Throw the ball downfield – The Jets aren’t likely to win this game, we all know this, but if they can win this game they will need to be more aggressive on offense. That’s easier said than done when the team is already on their third quarterback, but you can’t beat the Patriots by playing it safe. Yes, Le’Veon Bell will need to have a huge game on the ground, but it would help even more if he can make some plays downfield in the passing game. Wheel route after wheel route then some more wheel routes. Have Robby Anderson run more slants, drags and crossers. Have Stephon Gilmore run into some legal picks to help Anderson break free. Basically do everything the Patriots usually do to beat the Jets and everyone else.
X-Factor – Pray to the football gods that some weird football things happen.
Football is weird sometimes. The best team doesn’t always win and sometimes they lose when you least expect it. Being a 21-point favorite definitely qualifies. The Patriots don’t usually fall victim to this trap, they are so good at avoiding self-inflicted mistakes and capitalizing off of the mistakes of others. Still that remains the Jets best chance.
Prediction: Patriots 30-6
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