Breaking Down the Jets vs the Patriots
After a great win in Texas last Sunday the Jets donít get much of a break as they host Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots. To say that this rivalry has been fierce the last three years is certainly an understatement. These Patriots hate the Jets and the feeling is mutual. Rex Ryan seemed to add more fuel to the fire with his preseason comments about Belichickís rings and then the Jets went out of their way to sign Patriots cast-off QB Kevin OĎConnell seemingly to get an edge on their rivals. Ryan is preaching about how important this game is to the franchise and he has made it known that he expects his team to give New England all they can handle. The Jets will likely be coming out looking for blood on Sunday if he has anything to say about it.
Jets Offense vs. Patriots Defense
New England will be bringing a very different look on defense when they visit the Meadowlands. Similar to the dismantling
effort that took place after the 2002 season, the Patriots have begun the overhaul of the defense in an
attempt to get younger and faster. Gone are Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Teddy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Ellis Hobbs, all members of
Super Bowl teams with the club. The out of nowhere trade of DE Seymour was very similar to the dumping of S Lawyer Milloy before the 2003 season.
The team is using more and more of a 43 look rather than the traditional 34 everyone has grown accustomed to seeing the Patriots run.
Despite the departure of Seymour its likely that the strength of the defense still remains with the line.
DT Vince Wilfork, when healthy, is immovable in the center. DE Ty Warren may be the must underappreciated Patriot during the great run they have had.
Jarvis Green has been a good situational rusher for the team in the past and has done a good job filling in for Seymour prior to this season.
Veteran Derrick Burgess will see some time both on the line and as a pass rushing linebacker.
The Patriot defense will likely go as far as their linebackers take them. The team looks to have been dealt a crushing blow as LB Jerod Mayo looks to be out for half the season with an MCL sprain. Pierre Woods, Tully Banta-Cain and Gary Guyton have to find a way to replace
alot of tackles and bring some life to the pass rush. New England needs Adalius Thomas to have a bigger impact. While Thomas continues to be versatile
player he has not been the impact player the club thought they signed from the Ravens. What happens with the secondary is anyoneís guess. The team brought in Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden to play corner, but neither is very good. Springs is barely hanging on and likely wont come close to playing the season out. Bodden always gets a chance to make plays because teams always throw on him. Both guys play up on their receivers and take chances.
The Jets passing offense exploded last week against a Texans team that generated almost no pass rush and had a suspect secondary. Mark Sanchez had one of the greatest debuts you will ever see for a QB. Sanchez made great plays with his legs and his throws were almost all on target, with maybe three really bad throws all game. The Jets will be hoping for that type of effort again this week as they have not had much success running on the Patriots in the recent past, but have had a good deal of success when they have attacked the defense through the air. The Jets will look to spread the Patriots defense thin with Jerricho Cotchery, Chansi Stuckey, and Dustin Keller all split wide. It would not be surprising to see another wideout or running back lined wide most of the game as well. The Jets will likely look to take advantage of a secondary that may not be able to cover one on one which will force some of the linebackers off the line. In order for that to work Cotchery and Stuckey have to be able to fight Springs and Bodden off as they will both look to jam them at the line. If they are successful, the key player for New York on offense will be Leon Washington. The Jets will be going to work on the Bills game plan from this past week which saw the Patriots having a terrible time containing RB Fred Jackson out of the backfield. When the Pats got caught blitzing he was there for a dump off. When the Pats defensive line tired out he was there for an important run in the 4th quarter. If the Jets are successful clearing out the middle of the field itís going to give Sanchez a lane to run, Washington room to work, and maybe the room for the unexpected player like Ben Hartsock to get open for a big gain. What the Jets need to stay away from is over-reliance on one play. What keyed the Jets last season against the Patriots was mixing the play calls up on offense to keep the Patriots off balance. If the Jets simply run screen left-screen right-screen left, one route is going to get jumped for six. Using the whole field is what will keep them off their game plan. The Jets will probably try to establish Thomas Jones at some point in the first quarter to see if the defense is a step slow after playing on Monday night. If we see the Jets control the clock like they did last week and Jones running in the 4th quarter it will be a happy day for fans of the team.
The Jets have to be prepared for New England to try a number of looks. Unlike against Buffalo, which kept the Patriots from substituting by calling plays at the line, the Patriots should get their full complement of players and personnel packages on the field versus the Jets. The offensive line will not have to account for a freakish talent like Mario Williams, but must recognize who they need to pick up and not allow someone to get a free hit on the young QB due to a missed assignment. The Jets have had problems in the past when this defense switched in and out of the 34 into a 43 base. It seemed to cause confusion and allowed the Patriots to get penetration into the backfield. Expect some different looks this week to keep them guessing. Brandon Moore, Alan Faneca, and Hartsock are the three main guys who will have to play a smart game and make the presnap reads and adjustments to what is coming. While Sanchez played tremendously on 3rd down last week the Jets do not want to have him in a position where he is facing 2nd and 3rd and long, especially if it comes right after a play where he has been thrown to the ground. That is a recipe for disaster, especially if the youngster starts to press to impress the home fans.
Jets Defense vs. Patriots Offense
It may have taken close to 50 minutes on Monday, but eventually Tom Brady and the Patriots passing offense began to look like the high scoring act from 2006, putting up 14 points in a matter of minutes. There were times early in the game where Brady looked very rusty, missing open players and making some bad decisions with the football, especially when the Bills collapsed the pocket. Once the game was on the line he looked very much like his old self stepping into all his throws and tearing apart a conservative defense to snag a week one victory. There is not much more that can be written about the great receivers the team has. Randy Moss is one of the greatest of all time and is a deadly talent before the cold weather hits. Wes Welker controls the middle of the field as well as anyone in the game and has knack for grabbing the ball on crucial third downs. The two combined for 24 receptions against Buffalo. With all the attention paid to those two receivers it gives the team an opportunity to target their tight ends Ben Watson and former Jet Chris Baker, who will look to prove the Jets made a mistake letting him walk away, as well as RB Kevin Faulk perhaps the most underrated 3rd down back in the NFL for close to a decade. The Patriots are built to pass the football and score a ton of points to win the game. While they do have a stable of running backs including Laurence Maroney, veteran Fred Taylor, and Sammy Morris this is a team that is built to pass the football and score points. The only NFL team perhaps more reliant on the pass is in New Orleans. The two spots where New England likes to use their runners is off the playaction and then in the fourth quarter to seal away a game.
The Jets are coming off their most complete defensive performance since the 2002 playoffs in Houston. The team physically dominated the Texans line and battered QB Matt Schaub. Kris Jenkins, David Harris, and Bart Scott embarrassed Houston and will look to do the same to the Patriots. The Jets know the book on the Patriots and Tom Brady. The key to hinder Brady has always been to pressure him and not allow him to set up in the pocket, a book that was written long before the Giants beat him up in the Super Bowl. Despite carrying three pro bowl linemen the Patriots offensive line has trouble with speed and can also be overwhelmed at times. When Brady and his quick release disappeared from the lineup last year so did the impressive sacks allowed numbers. The return of DE Shaun Ellis should help as Ellis has 10 career sacks and over 60 tackles in 17 games against the Patriots, by far his best numbers against any team in the NFL. Jenkins had real good success against the team as well last season, utilizing his size to get right through the Patriot line. The Jets should try to let Jenkins set the tone as he should have a big advantage throwing around C Dan Koppen, who has problems with players like Jenkins. With those two on the line and Harris and Scott right behind it will hopefully open up some lanes for Bryan Thomas, Kerry Rhodes, and Vernon Gholston to sneak through. Though New England has some runners that could cause trouble from time to time, expect the run simply as a change of pace with Brady in the game. The Jets did an excellent job containing Steve Slaton and should do the same to Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk, whose bigger presence will be felt in the passing game. It would be hard to imagine Fred Taylor finding anything in the middle of the field. The big question becomes who gets what assignment in the secondary. Do you lock Darrelle Revis on Randy Moss and try to take the long ball out of the game or allow Revis to out physical Welker and take him out of the game? In order to stop Welker you have to be able to take him out of his timing on his screens and slants and make sure he gets brought right down as soon as he catches the football. The Jets linebackers will be told to put a big hit on him across the middle, but the Pats do a better job than any other team in the NFL in picking guys to keep them out of the play. Watson and Baker are an intriguing matchup. Owen Daniels had his moments and the Jets troubles with tight ends goes back some time. Watson is a terrific athlete and has had some real strong games against the Jets. The Patriots have always tried to exploit that matchup when Watson is healthy. It is also a guarantee that the Patriots will try to target Baker, especially in the red zone, to rub it in. Lito Sheppard was not tested often in the last game, but likely will not be so lucky this week. He needs to make sure to keep his hands off whomever he covers since that player will get the benefit of the doubt every time when it comes to illegal contact or pass interference. If you give this offense free yards and free plays it is going to be a disaster.
Most importantly the Jets have to make sure they keep their gameplan in attack mode and live with the consequence that you may give up a huge play down the field to Moss. We have seen it with Mangini and countless other coaches throughout the years--- when you drop everyone in coverage the Patriots still find the soft spots in the zone to make a play. Last year against a complete unknown in Matt Cassel the Jets came out and played the most passive defense you possibly could and he was able to make enough plays to beat the Jets. When you let this offense find a groove they can be unstoppable. You are much better off keeping them on their heels and off balance and allowing the occasional bomb to hit than letting them just pick you apart down the field as they did on Monday night to the Bills in the final five minutes of the game. There is little reason to think that the Jets wonít be aggressive, but this is a big game and you never know how tight a team can be for a game like this one.
Stephen Gostkowski has emerged as one of the best and most dependable kickers in the NFL. He gets excellent distance on his kickoffs and has a strong leg in the event the offense falters inside the 40. Chris Hanson has somewhat stabilized the punting position since they never have to rely on a big leg and Hanson is an adequate directional punter. When he canít pin a team inside the 20 he gives plenty of return chances. The return teams are among the best in the NFL, something the Jets need to be prepared for.
With the Texans doing nothing offensively it was hard to get a feel for the Jets return game. They look as if they will be holding two guys back on most punt returns which probably can be a big advantage with Washington and Jim Leonhard both being very good. Jay Feely had a strong game in the dome on kickoffs and Steve Weatherford looked to settle down the punting game for at least a week. You could probably put major blame on the punting for two of the Jets last three losses against New England.
Bill Belichick hates the Jets. If he had a team that he knew would only win two games, he would elect to win those two games against the Jets. Belichick is the current standard in the NFL that every other coach is compared against. Teams are desperate in their attempts to find the next Belichick by plucking assistants off his staff every season. He has a great football mind and finds ways to hide weaknesses better than any coach in the league. He has ruined the Jets seasons many times since 2003.
Rex Ryan has been waiting for this chance since he called a timeout right before his Ravens defense stopped the unbeaten Patriots on a 4th down in Baltimore that would have sealed the game. Ryan became the goat that day and can become the hero if he wins this game. Ryan knows how important this game is to his career, the Jets, and the Jets fans. Ryan wants to be the best and you start that journey by beating Belichick. Hopefully he stays loose, because this team definitely feeds off the personality of the coach.
Expectations for this team began to be rise in the preseason once Sanchez settled down against the Ravens and then looked tremendous against the Giants. After last weeks thrilling win the expectations went through the roof, especially when the Patriots laid a dud against the Bills, barely escaping with a win. Itís a position the Jets and their fans have been in many times before and have fallen short every time, including the disaster last year in the Meadowlands. Ryan has already begun imploring the Jets fans to be loud this week and the stadium should be rocking come kickoff. Itís up to the Jets players to keep that crowd going by coming out and looking just like they did in Houston.
The Jets have to protect themselves from letting their emotions get the best of them this week, especially on defense. Though the win in Foxboro was a major highlight for the team last season it is also fresh in the players minds that that game that gave the blueprint on how to not just beat, but embarrass the Jets defense. Once teams went to work on that game film the season really fell apart. Though Jenkins wearing down certainly hurt, the pass attack the Jets faced was all based on what teams saw in that New England game. There is also the fact that the last time Scott saw this team he ended up getting penalized up and down the football field as he just lost self control as he felt the officials were stealing the game from his team. He has been waiting for this game for two years. Last year in the home opener we also saw Ellis smash his helmet apart after the final of the game when they lost yet again to New England. Cotchery has come out and said its time to end the Patriots streak. If the Jets players come out a little too overzealous you will see way too many penalties whether its offsides calls or the personal fouls on the overprotected Brady.
This is a measuring stick game for Ryan and the Jets. The Patriots are probably the first team since the Bears of the mid 80ís that seemed to be the standard by which all other teams are judged. Itís a combination of the unbeaten season and the perceived smugness of the organization, from the coach on downward. Beat New England and it is like you won the Super Bowl, despite the fact that the Patriots have not been a Super Bowl winner since 2005. No other team in the NFL is treated the way the Patriots are treated. The Patriots have owned the Jets in the Meadowlands for close to a decade with the Jets last home victory coming in 2000, so you can imagine the party that will follow the game if the Jets win.
The Jets were as good as New England last season and the perception has changed simply due to the Jets bringing in a rookie at QB and Brady coming back for New England. For one week, the reality, however, was that Sanchez did not play like a rookie and Brady didnít play like ďTom TerrificĒ. If that holds true again this week, this is a toss-up matchup between two very even teams. If the Jets win this game they will be taken for real as a potential division winner. If they get blown out this might be the most demoralizing loss for the fans since the 2004 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs. Brady and Belichick seem to live for these games and while they should not blow the Jets out they should find a way to win this game and keep their streak alive. Close game with New England pulling it out late.
Jets 20 Patriots 24