The Mets might be the story of the town, but they’ll take a back seat on Sunday when the New York Jets (4-1) travel to New England to face the Patriots (5-0). The game will kickoff at 1 p.m. and will be broadcasted on CBS.
The coaching staff and players won’t say it, but this is a statement game if I’ve ever seen one. The Jets are 4-1, but I’m not sure how many are believers in a team with a rookie head coach, journeyman quarterback and streaky wide receiver. Even with the great start, I think it’s safe to say New York is still flying under the radar.
That could change this week. There’s nothing quite like Patriots week. Let’s take a look at the matchup:
Getting to know the Patriots
The defending super bowl champions are cruising right along in 2015. You might not be able to tell judging by some of the final scores, but the Pats have hardly been tested this season. Last week in Indianapolis was maybe the best anyone played against them all year. They did some things that the Jets will hopefully learn and benefit from.
Of course, it all starts and ends with the head coach and quarterback. Bill Belichick usually has his team prepared for everything at any given time. Tom Brady rarely makes a mistake, which again has been the case this year. He’s completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,699 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception.
It’s not like the Pats are loaded with offensive talent. Julian Edelman is one of the game’s best wide receivers, Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end, but everyone else kind of blends right in.
Running back LeGarrette Blount was suspended week one and a non-factor week two, but he’s been a steadying force in the run game for the Pats. Blount and fourth year back Dion Lewis average 5.1 and 5.0 yards per carry, respectively.
The Patriots defense, even with the offseason loss of Darrelle Revis, is playing good ball. That unit has to be considered one of the most athletic defenses in the NFL, especially in a loaded front seven that includes Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich on the edges and a linebacker core of Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower.
The Patriots rank ninth in the NFL in total defense, but can be pushed around in the run game. New England gives up 114 yards per game on the ground.
Flip the script?
The Jets have been able to rely on their top-ranked defense for most of the year. The Jets have given up just 74 points all year, and 14 of those came at the hands of the special teams, who have given up a punt return and had a punt blocked for touchdowns.
Their hands will be full with Brady and company. This could be one of those games where the offense really needs to control and move the ball early while the defense settles in.
Of course, the Patriots are going to go on long, methodical scoring drives. it’s just what they do. The Jets have to limit those drives to three points instead of six. That’s easier said than done, as the Patriots are second overall in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns at a 73.9 percent clip.
Bring the noise?
It’s no secret that the Jets like to blitz. It’s just in the DNA of head coach Todd Bowles. However, Brady’s completion percentage of 69.2 percent against the blitz is tough to ignore.
The Jets defensive line had a very underwhelming performance against the banged up Redskins. They controlled the run game, but many expected quarterback Kirk Cousins to be flat on his back most of the game. That wasn’t the case, with just sporadic pressure reaching Cousins.
It goes without saying that the Jets’ defensive line needs to have one of their best performances of the year. I’d expect the Jets to blitz a little less and hope that their line of Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and whoever else is out there can knock around Brady.
Top target returns
Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell sounds like he’ll be playing for the first time this year. LaFell is one of the patriots top targets. His return means there’s just another guy the Jets will have to keep an eye on.
Last year, he caught 74 passes for 953 yards and seven touchdowns. At the very least, LaFell out there means it’s less time for the likes of a Revis to cover Edelman.
One other thing to note about the Patriots passing game: New England looked out of sync last week with the Colts throwing double coverage on Gronkowski. I’d look for the Jets to do the same. Hopefully David Harris and Demario Davis are up to the task.
Rolling right along
For as much time as I’ve spent talking about the matchup problems the Patriots offense brings, things won’t be easy on the other side. The Jets have the seventh best scoring offense in the NFL, and do it with a balanced attack.
A lot of credit has to go to the Jets offensive line, which has helped get Chris Ivory do his thing at the second level and is keeping Ryan Fitzpatrick upright. Fitzpatrick has only been sacked twice this season.
There’s also the beast that is wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall is looking to get his fifth straight 100 yard receiving game, and his size is going to be a problem for a smaller Patriots secondary. I’d expect to see the Pats spend a lot of time trying to take Marshall out of the game, stack the box to take away the quick hits and dare Fitzpatrick to beat them even a little down the field.
Cornerbacks Marcus Williams (hamstring) and Buster Skrine (concussion) are probable. Wide receiver Chris Owusu (knee) is also expected to return. Guard Willie Colon (knee) is expected to play again. Running back Bilal Powell has been ruled out.