Patriots vs. Jets: A Rivalry with Playoff Implications

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There are many things to watch for on both sides in what should be a competitive contest. [scrapetv.com]

NEW JERSEY- The Jets have always played well against the Patriots; this is especially true when at home. However, this year they enter the game with more than their passion and drive to beat the Pats. This time they enter with a chance of making the playoffs and with each game essentially acting as a playoff game. Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs share the same 9-5 record, but hold tie-breakers over the Jets based on win percentage in either conference games for the Chiefs or common games for the Steelers. However, the Jets may leapfrog one of them if they either win-out and one of the two teams loses a game or they win at least one game and one of their AFC competitors loses out. It is not a difficult scenario to picture, but the most important step is winning the game today. However, the Patriots have their own playoff position in flux. At 12-2 the Patriots currently rank as the best team in the AFC having already secured the AFC East crown and a first round bye. However, they must win one of the next two games to lock up the first seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Patriots have historically done better when the path to the Super Bowl has gone through Foxboro. There are many things to watch for on both sides in what should be a competitive contest.

The Patriots Offense vs. the Jets Defense 

As has been the case in recent weeks, the Patriots offense will once again miss key contributors. Throughout the season their skill position corps have been considerably watered down by injuries. For this game there will be no WR Julian Edelman, WR Danny Amendola, or OL Josh Kline. And as usual the players that went down earlier in the season include RB LeGarrette Blount, RB Dion Lewis, FB James Devlin, WR Aaron Dobson, and LT Nate Solder. Expect key contributions in the passing game from Rob Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell, KeShawn Martin, Scott Chandler, and newly re-signed Chris Harper. Today we will see the Patriots new running back committee in action. After bringing up Joey Iosefa for last week’s contest, the Pats signed veteran Steven Jackson to help fill the void left by LeGarrette Blount. The two power backs join James White and Brandon Bolden to complete the backfield attack. However, it will be interesting to see who Belichick chooses to feature and how he utilizes each back against the Jets. In their first contest of the year, the Patriots walked out with the win but could only muster a net of 16 yards lead by none other than Tom Brady with 15 of them. A more experienced James White could play a big role in the passing game but don’t expect big numbers from Iosefa or Jackson today.

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Rob Gronkowski will attempt to carry the load on the offensive side with other key players out. [Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports]

The Jets defense is rather healthy with the only inactive players being CB Dee Milliner, S Dion Bailey, and linebackers Taiwan Jones and Josh Martin. This defense not only represents a major strength of this New York team but presents one of the biggest challenges the Patriots have faced all year. The Jets have many star players both upfront and in the secondary that will be integral in slowing down Tom Brady. Upfront Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams will look to get to Brady. One of the keys to this game for the Jets is getting to Brady. This means making him uncomfortable and have to move in the pocket. Brady is one of the best in the league at getting rid of the ball in a timely manner. Brady’s average throw time after the snap is 2.26 seconds according to PFF. so the Jets pass rush must be quick and consistent. It’s no secret that the key to disrupting a good pocket passer is putting pressure on them and going up against a patriots team with a weaker offensive line than they faced in October, the Jets should look to wreak havoc. The key, however, will be shutting down Rob Gronkowski. The Jets do not have to worry about shifty Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola, so Gronkowski will attempt to carry the load on the offensive side. In a secondary lead by corner-backs Derrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets must find away to shut down the Pats most obvious receiving strength.

The Jets Offense vs. the Patriots Defense 

The Jets offense has been far better than anyone expected going into this season. After acquiring Eric Decker a year ago, the acquisition of Brandon Marshall put the passing attack over the top. Both have shined this season as top targets. With two games still left Marshall has amassed 93 receptions for 1261 yards and 11 touchdowns and Decker has caught 72 footballs for 930 yards and 10 scores. These numbers are amazing for any top two receivers and should grow even more over the next two weeks but the Patriots will look to shut them down today. The rushing attack has been great as well. Chris Ivory has 951 yards and 7 touchdowns on the season. While in week 7 the Patriots allowed only 41 yards to Ivory, he did get injured and had to leave during the event. Watch for him to be a focal point in the Jets offensive attack. Bilal Powell should also play a role, but more so in the passing attack. Powell ranks as the third leading receiver on the Jets with 42 receptions for 354 yards and 2 touchdowns.

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It would not be surprising to see Logan Ryan follow Brandon Marshall for most of the game to try to shut him down. [CSNNE Associated Press]

The Patriots defense, like the offense, has been thoroughly depleted by injuries. It seems as though when one key player gets healthy another goes down. New England will be without both starting safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung as well as starting linebacker Jonathan Freeny.  However, the good news is Dont’a Hightower, who many view as the team’s defensive MVP, is returning from an injury that has plagued him for part of this season. The linebackers lead by Hightower and Jamie Collins will look to shut down the Jet’s rushing attack and defend the middle of the field. However, much of the burden will be on young cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. Butler has been a star, making the pro-bowl in his first year as a starter. Logan Ryan has also played very well after taking over the number two cornerback role early in the season. They will match up with Decker and Marshall. Ryan’s best game of the season came when he shut down Demaryius Thomas when the Patriots played Denver. It would not be surprising to see him follow Marshall for most of the game but Belichick may prefer to match Marshall up against Butler. Duron Harmon and rookie Jordan Richards will look to fill in for McCourty and Chung in the secondary. The key for the Patriots is limiting opportunities for Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick by shutting down his two primary receivers. By doing that and stopping the run the Patriots should come out on top.

 

Final prediction:

27-20 Patriots


Update/Disclaimer:

Final Score: 26-20 Jets

So I may have been off on who won the game, but I was crazy accurate on the score!

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