After a disappointing loss against the Seattle Seahawks last week, the 3-3 New England Patriots travel back home to take on one of their fiercest AFC East rivals, the New York Jets. With the whole division tied at 3-3, every game becomes crucial. This one is especially important for the Patriots to win at home after they have had all their struggles in close games this season. Being a New Yorker, I listen to Rex Ryan and the Jets every week so this game has more meaning to me than most games on the schedule.
For the Jets, all the talk around them has been their two quarterbacks in Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. Tebow was brought in the offseason, but has not made much of an impact so far. For Rex Ryan, he is looking for guys on his team to step up after some key injuries so far this year to cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Santonio Holmes. They are getting healthier at the wide receiver position, but the question around the Jets has to be their lack of a pass rush and can their offense score enough points to keep up with Tom Brady and the gang? Plus, can they do it against a Patriots’ offense that now has tight end Aaron Hernandez back into the lineup.
Here are my three keys to this weekend’s matchup in Foxboro:
1. The Grass Is Always Greener: With injuries to running backs Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight, most of their carries for the Jets are going to fall into the hands of Shonn Greene. Greene barely ran for over 1,000 yards last season and so far this year, his struggles in terms of ground and pound have forced Mark Sanchez to make more throws. However, Grreene is coming off of his best game as a Jet when he ran for 161 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts. New York comes in with confidence that they can run the football to slow down Brady and the offense. However, the Patriots’ rush defense, which is top five this season should be able to contain Greene and maybe even Tim Tebow.
2. Pick Up The Pace: You can always guarantee that during Jets’week, there will be a comment that gets said from New York’s side that the Patriots use as “bulletin board material”. This week’s quote comes from linebacker Calvin Pace. Pace called the Patriots’ offense “borderline illegal” on Wednesday. Pace and linebacker David Harris talked about how the Pats’ pace limits the time for the defense to get set for the next play. The Patriots will need to continue that pace to neutralize a Jets defense that despite its inefficiencies is still 6th in the league against the pass. I look for the Patriots to run the ball with Stevan Ridley a lot more than they did last week.
3. Single Out The Coples: Another Jet that had his breakout game against the Colts was defensive end Quinton Coples. The 1st round pick out of North Carolina had two sacks last week in New York’s 35-9 victory. Coples was a key cog in getting Andrew Luck under pressure and eventually taking him down for the sack. One of the problems for the Jets has been their pass rush, which only has 9 sacks in 6 games. You might not need to sack Brady to win, but the Pats’ offensive line has to at least keep Brady from being pressured like they did in the 1st half against the Seattle Seahawks.
This is, in my opinion, a must win for the New England Patriots. Yes, it is only Week 7, but New England is vastly superior to this Jets’ team. If I am Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels this week, I give the Jets a healthy dose of their own medicine. I would run the football down their throats with ground and pound from Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and Shane Vereen. The Jets are 28th this year out of 30 teams against the run. Yes, Brady can throw the ball downfield to the tight ends, but like we have seen all year, the Patriots are most effective on offense when they bring the balance to the football field. Look for that this week and for some interceptions against Mark Sanchez.
PATRIOTS 34 JETS 20