On Monday night the New York Jets (9-2) take on the New England Patriots (9-2) at Gillette Stadium (8:30 EST). The Jets enter the game winners of four in a row, while the Patriots have won three in a row including impressive performances over the Colts and Steelers. This game is as big as it gets for Gang Green as a victory would give the team sole possession of first place in the AFC East, as well as an inside track for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game.
1) Offensive line play- Statistically the New England Patriots defense is not very good, but there are several match-ups the Jets must win in order to have success on offense. One of the biggest match-ups will be center Nick Mangold against defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. Mangold has often said that Wilfork is the toughest player he faces each year, therefore Nick along with the rest of his offensive line must do a good job controlling Vince.
2) Spread out the defense- It is no secret that the Jets want to run the ball, it is just a matter of how they go about it. Will Gang Green use the pass to set up the run, or just come out smash mouth style? The thinking here is that Gang Green should spread the field with 3 receiver sets, which will loosen up the Patriots defense. The Jets should try to limit New England’s ability to stack the box.
3) Aggressive play calling- The Jets cannot approach the game with a “play to not lose” mindset. New England’s defense struggles against the pass (ranked last in the NFL) and the Jets should look to capitalize. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer must get quarterback Mark Sanchez comfortable early on with some short to mid-range passes. Once Sanchez gets in rhythm Gang Green should look to push the ball down the field exposing a young secondary. The one thing the Jets should try to avoid is predictable formations and packages as Patriots coach Bill Belichick is one of the best in the business in terms of deciphering offenses.
1) Beat up Brady- The Jets defensive philosophy is pretty simple: Hit Brady early and often. The Patriots offense is built around their passing game, therefore the Jets cannot allow Tom Brady time to throw the ball all over the field. This point is further accentuated with the injury to safety Jim Leonhard. Failure to generate a pass rush could result in a long night for Gang Green.
2) Contain the run- New England’s ground game is spearheaded by the one-two punch of BenJarvus Green Ellis and Danny Woodhead. Green Ellis is a powerful back averaging over 4 yards a carry, while Woodhead is a explosive scat back that is dangerous in open space. The Jets defense must slow down the Patriots ground game in order to prevent big plays in the passing game through play action pass.
3) Pass defense- Tom Brady does an excellent job spreading the ball around which will put a lot of pressure on the Jets defense, especially in the secondary. One of the players to keep an eye on is tight end Aaron Hernandez who is a match-up nightmare for most defenses. In addition Gang Green must be prepared to defend Danny Woodhead catching passes out of the backfield. Note: If there was an area of concern for the Jets this would definitely be it, especially now that safety Jim Leonhard is out for the year. The Jets have had communication problems in the secondary and the Patriots will definitely look to confuse safeties Brodney Pool and Eric Smith.
This game is as big as it gets for the New York Jets. There are the obvious playoff ramifications but there is also the pride and confidence factor. Gang Green has talked about being the best team in the NFL, now they have a chance to prove it on the huge stage that is Monday Night Football. I truly expect a big-time performance out of the Jets as you know Rex Ryan has this team more than prepared. This is the type of game that players like LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor came here for. This is the type of atmosphere where a player like Santonio Holmes shines the most. This is the type of game where Mark Sanchez will show the NFL that he is ready to take his game to the next level. Jets 31-21