It has been a long time in Patriot land where a Patriots’ fan can say that this team is reeling. Now, the 5-3 New England Patriots travel to East Rutherford, New Jersey to take on the 5-3 New York Jets in a battle for first place in the AFC East. The Patriots fell last week to the New York Giants by giving up a late touchdown to Jake Ballard with 15 seconds left in the 4th quarter. There is a lot of negative vibes surrounding this team and it only got worse when they released Albert Haynesworth earlier this week.
Three weeks ago, the Jets had the same negative vibes the Patriots have now. However, Mark Sanchez is starting to find chemistry with his receivers, especially Plaxico Burress. Rex Ryan’s defense has only given up 38 points in the last three games, which includes the forcing of eight turnovers. Tom Brady has not won a game in the New Meadowlands Stadium. Considering that the Jets are 4-0 at home this year, this will be a tall order for Brady and company Sunday night.
Here are my keys to the game Sunday Night:
Ground And Pound: With all the talk surrounding the two quarterbacks in this game, I think the team that runs the best is going to win. Ever since center Nick Mangold returned for the Jets, Rex has seen the ground and pound come back successfully. During their three game winning, New York has averaged 130.7 rushing yards per game after having just 76.2 the first five games. This element is huge for New York if they want to make Sanchez comfortable with going to his strength, which is the play action pass.
The Patriots need to, dare I say, run the football more! This will re-create the balance they had the first quarter of the season that made the offensive rhythm much more effective. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the only running back to go over 100 yards against New York this year. If the Law Firm can make the field shorter, this allows Brady to go to his short and intermediate passing game.
Revis Island: With Chad Ochocinco being invisible on the Patriots’ offense, Wes Welker has to continue to have 9+ catches and 100+ yards to win football games for the Pats. I don’t think that is going to happen against Revis. Darrelle Revis always keeps other teams’ wide receivers in check on his island. Welker did make a 73 yard catch in the first meeting, but if you take that away, Revis held him to a miniscule 51 yards. This is because he jams him at the line of scrimmage and does not allow Welker to get free for his yards after the catch.
Plexi-Glass: I think we all know that the Patriots have the 32nd ranked pass defense in the NFL. This is going to be a chance for Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress to redeem themselves for the lackluster performances they had up in Foxboro. The guy I want to focus on is Burress. After chemistry rifts between him and Sanchez to start the year, Plax has gotten it together. He had a three touchdown game against the Chargers and had five catches for 79 yards last week against the Bills. Sanchez is going to look at him towards the middle of the field and this will hurt the Patriots, who have no depth at the cornerback position. If both Holmes and Burress make an impact, it will be a long night for New England.
PREDICTION: The Patriots have not lost three in a row since 2002 and Mark Sanchez has never lost to New England at home. The odds are stacked up against New England, but I thought the same thing around this time last year after they lost to the Cleveland Browns. However, this is where Belichick coached teams usually rise to the occasion. For the Patriots to win, they have to run the football with the Law-Firm. If you are too one dimensional, Rex’s defense will feast on that. This will be a close rivalry game and I think Brady takes the ball at the end with his team trailing and leads the team to a last second win, leaving no time for the defense.
PATRIOTS 23 JETS 20