The Patriots opened as 8.5-point favorites for their Divisional Round playoff game Sunday against the New York Jets. The last time these two teams met, the Jets tried to put their blowout loss behind them by burying the game ball. This time, Patriots fans are hopeful that Rex Ryan and Company will need to dig a deeper hole.
Forty-five to three. 45-3. Patriots 45, Jets 3. Patriots fans could write poetry about that fateful night just six weeks ago. In fact, I tried to do a little haiku of my own, but my wife (an award-winning poet in her own right) forbade me from sullying the family name here for all the world to see. She probably has a point.
This game will not be as lopsided as the Week 13 blowout. The Jets seem to have realized in recent weeks that they can’t put the game on Mark Sanchez’s shoulders, as he has thrown 6 interceptions with just 2 touchdowns in his last 5 starts. Those numbers aren’t just bad; they’re Chad Henne-esque. The Jets ran the ball 37 times against an accommodating Colts defense and dominated time of possession last week, and that figures to be their best chance against the Patriots as well. The only way they can win is by keeping Brady on the sideline.
The outcome of this game is going to rely heavily on New York’s ability to run the ball and keep Sanchez out of unmanageable situations. If the Jets can keep their down and distance manageable and convert on third down, they can keep it close. They did both of those things in their Week 2 win over New England and won by two scores, but they didn’t do either of those things in Week 13 and lost by a unit of measurement that may not have been discovered by modern science.
In games between two playoff-caliber division rivals that feature a large spread, the smart money often lies in taking the points. This game should be close enough to be decided by a score or less. I’ll take the Jets at +8.5, but I’m still confident that Bill Belichick will be greeting Rex Ryan at midfield with a game ball and a shovel.
What about the other games this weekend?