On Sunday the New York Jets take on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium (4:15EST). The Jets (2-2) are coming off of two disappointing road losses, while the Patriots enter the game with a 3-1 record following a victory over the Oakland Raiders. Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game from the Jets perspective.
Return of Mangold- New York Jets center Nick Mangold is expected to return from an ankle injury on a Sunday which should be a huge lift to the offensive line. Mangold will more than likely be tasked with handling defensive tackle Vince Woolfork, one of the Patriots best defensive players.
Offensive line play- The Jets offensive line as a unit must raise their level of play and dominate the line of scrimmage. The line must clean up their mental mistakes and impose their will on a pedestrian defense. With the return of Mangold there are no excuses for a poor performance by the Jets offensive line.
Ground and Pound? Statistically the New England Patriots have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, especially against the pass where they are ranked #32. Add in the fact that linebacker Jerod Mayo will be out on Sunday and the Jets offense should be licking their chops. Now the question comes down to how should Gang Green attack the Pats defense? While I appreciate the fact that the Jets want to establish their running game, I would come out with the hurry up offense and spread the field with the passing game. Get Dustin Keller going early on and hit some quick slants with Holmes and Mason. Once the passing game gets going then start pounding the rock with Shonn Greene. As the ground game gets going, the play action pass opens up, which will keep the Patriots defense honest and off balance.
Play of Sanchez- The Patriots are going to do whatever they can to stop the run in order to force Mark Sanchez to try and beat them through the air. Sanchez has struggled of late but the Jets cannot handcuff the young signal caller, especially against a suspect pass defense. Mark must enter the game with confidence and a solid grasp of the offensive game plan. Sanchez must find his rhythm early and cannot make poor decisions, erratic throws or turn the ball over. The last thing you want to do is to give the Patriots offense a short field to work on.
Can’t settle for field goals- The Patriots offense is averaging over 33 points a game which puts a premium on each possession that you have. The Jets cannot settle field goals and must take advantage of every opportunity in the red zone.
Watch out for Ellis- Defensive end Shaun Ellis will get his first start against his former team and you just know he will be giving everything he has to make the Jets look bad for releasing him.
Hit Brady- The New England Patriots offense is firing on all cylinders right now putting up ridiculous numbers in the passing game (384 yards a game). The Jets must find ways to get to quarterback Tom Brady and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Far too often Brady stands flat footed in the pocket looking for his receivers and this cannot happen on Sunday. Look for Gang Green to try and generate pressure up the middle as a method to disrupt the passing game. (Keep an eye on Aaron Maybin who the Jets could use in a variety of ways to go after Brady)
Revis on Welker- Wide receiver Wes Welker is off to an incredible start this season with 40 catches for 616 yards. The Jets must put their All-World cornerback Darrelle Revis on Welker in an effort to try and slow him down. This will be no easy task for Revis as the Patriots like to use Welker in a variety of formations, but in the end it is the Jets best chance to contain Wes.
Physical DB play- The Jets defensive backs must play very physical, especially at the line of scrimmage when the receivers are trying to release. The corners must try to disrupt the routes and timing of the passing game which will give the rest of the defense some time to get to the quarterback. The secondary also must remain consistent in their tackling and eliminate excessive yards after the catch.
Cover the Tight Ends- The New York Jets defense must find ways to cover Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots love to use their tight ends in a variety of packages and the Jets defense must account for them at all times. The last thing Gang Green wants is for the tight ends to start making big plays, which will then open up the field for Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco. Keep an eye on safeties Brodney Pool and Eric Smith who could be assigned to the tight ends exclusively.
Ground game- While the Patriots passing attack is getting all of the attention, New England has several running backs that can do some damage as well. The Jets must remain stout with their run defense and keep an eye on running back Stevan Ridley. Note: Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas is out for the year, which is a huge blow to the defense especially against the run. As of now the Jets will be using a linebacker by committee which includes Jamaal Westerman, Aaron Maybin, and Josh Mauga.
The Jets are in a tough spot here as the Patriots are going to be out for revenge from the playoff loss last year. If the Pats can drop 50 points on the Jets, they will shoot for 60. Gang Green enters the game with a struggling offense and some inner turmoil, while the Patriots are putting up record numbers offensively. I expect Rex Ryan to rally his troops and for the Jets to come out with a physical, intelligent game plan. Mark Sanchez will play well and the Jets offense should be able to move the ball effectively and control the time of possession. In the end it will come down to the Jets defense and their ability to slow down Brady and the passing attack. The Jets defense must get off the field on third down and cannot allow receivers to run around in open space.
Call me crazy but I think Mark Sanchez and his Jets are going to find a way to win this game. The return of Mangold is huge for Gang Green and I think defensively the Jets are one of the few teams in the NFL that can match up with the Patriots in the secondary. Jets 31-30