On Sunday night the New York Jets (5-3) take on the New England Patriots (5-3) at MetLife Stadium (8:20 EST). The Jets enter this marquee match-up winners of three in a row, while the Patriots come to New Jersey battered and bruised from a two game losing streak. Lets take a look at the keys to the game from the New York Jets perspective.
Mangold vs. Wilfork- One of the key match-ups at the line of scrimmage will be All-Pro center Nick Mangold versus defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. In order for the Jets to have any type of success running the ball Mangold is going to have to do a very good job containing Wilfork.
Sanchez remains patient- It is no secret that the New England Patriots secondary is struggling, therefore there will be plenty of opportunities to make big plays in the passing game. Quarterback Mark Sanchez must remain patient within the offense and take what the defense is giving him. Sanchez and the Jets offense cannot afford turnovers due to forced throws and over-aggressive reads. Keep an eye on rookie Jeremy Kerley this week as he could make some big plays when the Jets go to the three wide formation.
Ground and pound- Over the past couple of games the New York Jets have started to get back to their ground and pound running game which has been very effective. Gang Green must continue to effectively run the ball on Sunday night in order to wear down an already beaten up Patriot defense. Once the running game gets going the play action pass becomes ten times more effective, especially against a weak secondary.
Redzone efficiency- The New York Jets offense has been very efficient in the redzone and that trend must continue on Sunday night. The Jets offense cannot settle for field goals, especially early on in the game where setting the tone is key. One play that Sanchez and company should continue to utilize is the fade pass to Plaxico Burress, which in my eyes is impossible to defend.
Get physical- The New York Jets defense as a unit must play very physical on Sunday night. The defensive line and linebackers must shed their blocks and get to the ball carrier. The defensive backs must get aggressive at the line of scrimmage by chucking/jamming the receivers and tight ends within the 5-yard allowance. The philosophy should be to get as physical as possible in order to disrupt the timing of the Patriots offense.
Beat up Brady- Another way to disrupt the timing of the Patriots offense is to get hits on quarterback Tom Brady. The more pressure the Jets can get Brady, the better off they will be in terms of forcing turnovers. (Note: Tom Brady is tied for 3rd in the NFL with 10 interceptions)
Welker vs. Revis- A key to slowing down the Patriots passing game, which is averaging 325 yards a game, is to find ways to contain wide receiver Wes Welker (66 catches, 960 yards, 6tds). The Jets will more than likely put All-Pro cornerback (and defensive player of the candidate) Darrelle Revis on Welker for the majority of the game. This formula worked in their first match-up earlier this season, minus one blown coverage which resulted in a 73-yard reception.
Contain Gronkowski/Hernandez- The Jets defense, which has struggled to cover tight ends for the majority of the season, will have their hands full with Aaron Hernandez (33 catches, 333 yards, 5 tds) and Rob Gronkowski (44 catches, 596 yards, 6tds). Gang Green must find ways to contain these huge targets which will be no easy task especially if safety Brodney Pool misses the game due to injury.
Stop the run- In their first meeting this season the Jets philosophy was to give up yards in the running game in order to slow down the passing attack. That strategy backfired on Gang Green as running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis carved up the Jets defense for a season high 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Jets must do a better job against the run and get off of the field on third down.
Injury Update: Running back Joe McKnight is questionable for Sunday’s game with a foot injury. If McKnight is unable to return kicks on Sunday, Antonio Cromartie and probably Jeremy Kerley will replace him.
Does it get any better than this Jets fans? A Sunday night match-up at MetLife stadium with the winner leaving the building on top of the AFC East. The atmosphere is going to be electric with the intensity at an all-time high. I expect the Jets defense fueled by a raucous home crowd to come out very aggressive and physical, which will set the tone for the game. I think the Jets will have success with their ground and pound which will open up some deep plays to Plaxico Burress. Sanchez shines on the big stage. Jets 28-24
One note: For those of you going to the game lets make this a true home field advantage on Sunday night. No sitting on your hands and sipping your coffee or favorite beverage. Get on your feet and make the environment as miserable as possible for Tom Brady and company. The Jets face all types of animosity when they head up to Gillette Stadium, now it is time to return the favor. This game has huge playoff implications, get your monies worth by supporting your team and making some noise.