It’s safe to say the Jets are at a crossroads. New York (9-5) will play host to the New England Patriots (12-2) Sunday, with kickoff starting at 1 p.m. There’s always a lot at stake when the Patriots are in town, but they’re higher than ever this weekend.
A loss, combined with wins by Pittsburgh (at Baltimore), Kansas City (vs. Cleveland) and Denver (vs. Cincinnati) would eliminate the Jets from the playoff hunt. A win, combined with a loss from any of the above teams puts the Jets in a win-and-their-in situation entering week 17.
Things won’t be easy, but this is a game the Jets can grab. This is the biggest home game the Jets have probably ever played at MetLife Stadium. The crowd will be into every play and provide a lot of energy. Can the Jets capitalize?
It won’t be easy but Santa could provide some gifts come Sunday. Wide receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive backs Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty and linebacker Dont’a Hightower were all limited in practice this week and are questionable for Sunday. Some question whether New England, having already locked up a playoff spot, will use key players who aren’t feeling their best. The Patriots can clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win.
The Jets really need to prepare for this game as if the Patriots offense will be close to full strength. That means finding a way to slow Edelman and Gronkowski, which is near impossible. However, if there’s a secondary matched to do it, it’s this one. New York has had success limiting Edelman’s yards after the catch in the past, and hope to do so again. Safety Calvin Pryor is exactly the type of hard hitting, athletic safety that can stick with the physicality a Gronkowski offers.
New England will also welcome in veteran running back Steven Jackson. Jackson has been one of the most steady backs of this era, running for over 11,000 yards in his 12 year career. Due to some injuries and inefficiencies at the running back position, Jackson will suit up for the first time as a Patriot.
Even after a shaky performance in Dallas, Jets fans should still feel good about stopping the run. This New England offensive line doesn’t roll through people like Dallas. Whether it’s Jackson, James White or LeGarrette Blount, the Jets need to do what they do best: make teams one dimensional.
That was the case the last time these two teams met, but by design. New England ran the ball just nine times in the entire game, and quarterback Tom Brady was the leading rusher with four carries for 15 yards. He dropped back to pass 54 times in that game.
The Jets did have a lot of success against that gameplan… then the fourth quarter came, Brady took it up another notch, and the Jets ended up losing by seven.
It’ll be interesting to see what New England does this time around. Do they try and run the ball more, even if they think they can’t do it? How will injuries affect their gameplan? How will the Jets defense respond?
So far, much of this preview has been spent discussing New England’s offense, their weapons, and what the Jets will have to do to stop it. However, the Jets offense has some adjusting to do too. They didn’t exactly light the world on fire against an okay Dallas defense last week, as the Jets leading rusher had 37 yards and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw his first interception in nearly a month.
You can always count on the Patriots doing one or two things really well. As much as it hates to type this, they’re a well coached team. Last time out, New England not-so-discretely doubled Brandon Marshall and made someone else beat them. For the most part, no one did. It didn’t help that Ivory was battling a bad hamstring and missed most of the game too.
The Jets are doing a better job with in-game adjustments since then. They’ll find ways to get the ball in Marshall’s hands, and I’m sure there will be a good balance between run and pass. If there was ever a time to for Ivory to run like a possessed man (and not fumble in the process), Sunday seems like the right time.
The biggest takeaway from the Dallas game was role players stepping up in big moments. We’ve seen Bilal Powell do it the last month, but last Saturday, Quincy Enunwa and Kenbrell Thompkins had perhaps the two biggest receptions of the game. It’s that type of team effort that wins big games.
Finally, special teams just needs to be better. Whether it’s punt coverage, kickoff coverage or field goal kicking, the Jets just can’t let special teams be the downfall of this season. I encourage New York to punt the ball out of bounds every time Sunday.
Sunday will be tough, but winnable. This has been a persistent team all season. Their true colors will be shining in the biggest game yet.