New York Jets at New England Patriots
Week 11 - 11/22/09, 4:15 PM: CBS.
9 weeks ago, the Jets made a statement saying that they were here to stay in the AFC East. Today, the Jets sit a 4-5 team having completely choked away the momentum they earned from their 3-0 start. However, that win over the Patriots is also the reason why there is reason to have some optimism as a Jets fan. Beat New England Sunday, and the Jets would be just one game out of 1st with the tiebreaker in hand. Of course, that is no easy task, and a loss, and the Jets can pretty much kiss their season goodbye. Las Vegas seems to think they are done, as the Patriots are 11.5 point favorites. Can New York prove everybody wrong and finally win a close game?
When the Jets have the ball...
The Jets want to be a run-first team with Thomas Jones, and against a Bill Bellichick-led defense, they will definitely want to try to run the football and limit the opportunities Mark Sanchez has to lose them the game with turnovers. Jones and Shonn Greene have been a terrific tandem since Leon Washington was hurt against Oakland, but the Patriots are much better than any of the defenses the Jets have played recently.
But does Bellichick feel that way about his defense? His call to go for it on 4th and 2 against Indianapolis at their own 28 yard line says otherwise. Still, they've been a very effective run defense all season long, and Jerod Mayo did not play in the first matchup.
In the first game between these two teams, Washington and Jones each had 14 carries for 58 and 54 yards respectively. Greene didn't get a carry in the first matchup, but he's been just as effective running the ball as Washington. He's nowhere near the receiving threat Washington is though.
Ideally, the Jets would get ahead early and hide the passing game as much as possible. But against a strong Patriots team on the road, that's unlikely, so Mark Sanchez will need to play mistake-free football. He has another weapon this time around in Braylon Edwards, who should keep Bellichick honest and open up the middle of the field a little more.
Still, Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller will probably receive the bulk of the targets, as they're the better short receivers. Cotchery has been consistently good all season, and has had some amazing plays against New England over the years. Keller has been a poor blocker, but he's been coming on lately as a receiver, making some very nice plays against Miami and Jacksonville. However, he has to hang onto the football, as he's had some problems with drops over the past two years, just like Edwards.
Sanchez threw well in the first game, but with more tape on him, opposing teams have adjusted more and more to his tendencies. Look for Brian Schottenheimer to get Sanchez rolling out and on the move a little bit to try to make things easier on him. Still, even though the Jets have weapons on offense, it's hard to predict too many points. The keys will be scoring touchdowns instead of field goals, and not turning the football over. If the Jets can do that, they should have enough to win. The offense has shown flashes of putting it all together, as Sanchez has had his ups and downs. It's going to be a tough atmosphere for Sanchez, but the Patriots' defense could still be reeling from last week, and the Jets have the weapons to put up points.
When the Patriots have the ball...
In the first game, the Jets completely clamped down on the Patriots' offense because they kept hitting Tom Brady over and over again. He came out bruised, battered, and rattled, as he was misfiring on receivers that he normally hits, even in the face of pass rushers. The Jets deserve a lot of credit for hitting Brady a lot, but keep in mind that was his second game back from missing almost all of 2008, and he was missing Wes Welker.
Welker is probably the key to this game. Darrelle Revis could shadow Randy Moss for a lot of the game, preventing big plays, but the Brady to Welker combination will be nearly impossible to stop. Lito Sheppard and Dwight Lowery have not been effective recently, and Welker should abuse them. Julian Edelman had 8 catches for 98 yards in the first game, but he was thrown to a startling 16 times. Welker would have made more of the plays that the rookie Edelman couldn't.
As for the Jets, they lose Kris Jenkins from the first matchup, but Calvin Pace is back. Pace might be the Jets' best pass rusher, and he has the ability to be a difference maker. Unfortunately, Jenkins's absence means the Jets have to prove every week they can stop the run. The Patriots ran 19 times for 81 yards in the first game, but Fred Taylor was the leading rusher. He's not playing this time around, as Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk will take the lion's share of carries.
The Jets probably won't worry a whole lot about the run, worrying more about Tom Brady and the passing game, but it's going to be important that they don't give Brady easy 2nd and 3rd downs. Putting Brady in 3rd and long situations will allow the Jets more free reign to blitz and get off the field.
Also, in the first game, the defense held twice in the red zone and didn't allow the Patriots to score a touchdown. The margin for error for this game and for this season are very slim, and the Jets can't afford to let the Patriots walk into the endzone when they get into the redzone. They've been good at that department for most of the season, but the Patriots are the Patriots.
Last week the Jets didn't show up on defense until the 2nd half. If they do that again, they will get slaughtered. As it is, there has been so little consistency out of this defense in recent weeks that it's hard to give them the edge. If Chad Henne and David Garrard can march right down the field to score the game winning points, what do you think will happen when Tom Brady gets the ball?
New England hasn't lost two straight under Bill Bellichick in a long time. The Jets have the desperation factor behind them, but hasn't that been the case the past couple weeks as well? They've already lost "must-win" games against Buffalo, Miami, and Jacksonville. Still, they always show up against the Patriots, and they should again in this one.
It's always something with this team. One week, Sanchez plays like a rookie and can't throw the ball to the right jersey. One week, the special teams break down. One week, the defense can't stop the run. One week, the defense can't stop the pass. New England is the type of team to take advantage of any mental lapses by the Jets, and while I think they will put together a big effort, Wes Welker will prove deadly on third downs, and late in the game, do you trust Mark Sanchez in a hostile environment, or Tom Brady in his friendly confines? Patriots win a tight one that has everyone looking for more excuses.
New England 23, New York 20
UPDATE (1:40 AM): Apparently, the fire alarm just went off in the Jets building. Dustin Keller and Justin Miller both tweeted about it. Good thing it's a 4:15 game! The Jets have been terrible at 4:15 starts in recent years, so maybe this puts them on the right schedule? I don't know.