Jets vs. Patriots Preview, Prediction

On Sunday the New York Jets continue their postseason journey as they take on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium (4:30 EST).  Gang Green enters the divisional playoff game flying high from last week’s victory over the Indianapolis Colts, while the Patriots return from a first round bye as they are the top seed in the AFC.  Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game.

Jets Offense

Key Regular Season Stats

Jets Offensive Line Protection Index rating: 67.8 (11th in NFL)

Sacks Allowed: 28 (9th in NFL)  Patriots Defense: 36 sacks (14th in NFL)

Points per game: 22.9 (13th in NFL)  Patriots Defense: 19.6 ppg allowed (8th in NFL)

Rushing ypg: 148 (4th in NFL)  Patriots Defense: 108 yards allowed (11th in NFL)

Passing ypg: 202 (22nd in NFL)  Patriots Defense: 258 yards allowed (30th in NFL)

1) Start out fast- As with their match-up against the Colts, the Jets offense must start out fast on Sunday.  Gang Green must execute a solid game plan that results with the offense consistently moving the chains.  Whether this is done through the short passing game or the “ground and pound” rushing attack, the Jets cannot afford three and outs early in the ballgame.  The last thing you want to see from a Jets perspective is a couple of quick three and out series on offense, while the Patriots put points on the board.

2) Offensive line play- Once again the success of the Jets offense hinges on the play of the offensive line (ranked 11th by NYL).  Gang Green’s line must find ways to open holes for the running game, while providing a clean pocket for the passing attack.  One of the key match-ups to watch will be between Jets center Nick Mangold and Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.  Wilfork is an absolute load in the middle of the Patriots defense that must be contained in order for the Jets to have any type of success running the ball.

3) Establish Dustin Keller- In order for the Jets to have success in the passing game they must establish tight end Dustin Keller early on.  Keller has had some success against the Patriots in the past (week 1: 7 catches 115 yards) and remains a match-up nightmare for their defense.  Once New England’s defense starts to key on Dustin, Mark Sanchez can start spreading the ball out to the remainder of his playmakers.

4) Sanchez must shine- This is the type of game where quarterback Mark Sanchez cannot make costly mistakes i.e. bad decisions that result in turnovers.  Sanchez must play within himself, make the correct reads, and take what the defense gives him.  There are plays to be made in the Patriots secondary, as evidenced by their 30th ranking against the pass.  The Jets can help Mark out by establishing their running game, but at the end of the day the young quarterback will still have to make some plays in order for the Jets to win.

Jets Defense

Key Regular Season Stats

Patriots Offensive Line Protection Index Rating: 72.8 (5th in NFL)

Sacks: 40 (8th in NFL)  Patriots Offense: 25 sacks allowed (4th in NFL)

PPG: 19 (6th in NFL)  Patriots Offense: 32.4 ppg (1st in NFL)

Rushing: 90 ypg allowed (3rd in NFL)  Patriots Offense: 123 ypg (9th in NFL)

Passing: 200 ypg allowed (6th in NFL) Patriots Offense: 240 (11th in NFL)

1) Stop the run- While many consider the passing game the strength of the Patriots offense, their running game has become quite a force averaging over 120 yards a game.  The combination of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead form a dynamic one-two punch that includes both power and speed, which can wear down a defense if not contained.  Gang Green must find ways to slow down the Patriots ground attack without completely exposing themselves in the passing game.

2) Beat up Brady- As with last week’s game against the Colts, the Jets must find ways to disrupt the Patriots passing game.  Gang Green must generate a pass rush that can at least get hits on quarterback Tom Brady.  While a sack is the goal for the pass rush, continuous hits on Tom would be just as effective.

If the Jets are unable to generate a pass rush, they must then rely on trying to confuse Tom Brady with their coverages.  Brady has become a master at reading defenses, therefore Gang Green must try to disguise their coverages in hopes of generating some confusion and possibly some turnovers.

3) Solid secondary play- The New England Patriots passing attack is equal opportunity as five players have 30 catches or more on the season (Wes Welker led the team with 86 grabs).  The Jets defensive backfield will be spread out by the Pats offense, leaving cornerbacks in several man-to-man situations.  Gang Green’s secondary as a unit must remain consistent in coverage and finish off their tackles.  The last thing that the Jets defense can afford is to routinely give up big plays on third and long situations.

4) Limit Hernandez and Gronkowski- One of the biggest challenges the Jets defense will face is covering New England’s two rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.  Both of these players have emerged as legitimate threats in the passing game, and have quickly become match-up problems for opposing defenses.  I would expect the Jets to assign either a safety or possibly even a defensive back to these players as I do not believe a linebacker has the speed to keep up with either of these guys.

Prediction

If you are looking at this game by the numbers there are some pretty amazing statistics that Tom Brady and his New England Patriots have racked up.

+28 turnover margin

335 passes (11 games) without an interception

8-0 at home

But as we all know games are not won on paper, so this game will come down to the execution on the field.  I expect this to be a very physical game with both teams having success running the ball.  In the end it will come down to the performance of the quarterbacks in the fourth quarter of the game.  Mark Sanchez has been resilient all year long, leading the Jets to several comeback victories, but I think he comes up short on Sunday.

Patriots 23-17  (Trust me Jets fans if there is a week I want to be wrong, it is definitely this one)

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