On Thursday night the New York Jets (4-6) take on the New England Patriots (7-3) at MetLife Stadium (8:20 p.m. EST). The Jets are coming off of an inspiring victory over the St. Louis Rams while New England has won four in a row after blowing out Andrew Luck and the Colts. Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game from the Jets perspective.
Physical line play- In order for the New York Jets to have any type of success on offense the offensive line has to play very physical and control the line of scrimmage. The Jets line must remain consistent in pass protection, communicate on blitz pickups, and allow Mark Sanchez time to spread the ball around the field. Keep an eye on the Vince Woolfork/Nick Mangold match-up.
Pound the rock- Last week the Jets went back to their ground and pound roots and that trend should continue on Thursday night. Gang Green must use all three of their running backs (Greene, Powell, McKnight) to wear down the Patriots defense (ranked 10th against the run), sustain drives, and keep Tom Brady off the field. I would like to see the Jets use McKnight a bit more, especially on draw plays, as he is the most explosive back on the roster.
Smart decisions by Sanchez- It is no secret that the Patriots pass defense has struggled (30th in the NFL) which means that there will be plenty of opportunities for Mark Sanchez. The Jets quarterback must play within the offense and not force passes into coverage. The short, quick passing game could be used to open up some big plays down the field. I would not be surprised to see Sanchez go to Dustin Keller early and often to loosen up the New England defense. Keep an eye on defensive back Aqib Talib who played his first game with the Patriots last week.
Stop the run- The first step in defending the Patriots offense is to stop/slow down the running game (ranked 5th in the NFL). The Jets defense cannot afford to give up huge chunks of yards on the ground as Tom Brady will then take advantage with the play action pass. It is essential for Gang Green’s defensive line to get penetration at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the rhythm of the New England offense.
Defend the quick passing game- If the Jets are effective stopping the run they then must be prepared for the quick passing game. Tom Brady does an excellent job of spreading the ball around and will consistently hit Wes Welker and Julian Edelman over the middle on crossing routes. Gang Green must play physical with the receivers at the line of scrimmage and remain consistent in terms of tackling and wrapping up. The Jets defense must avoid giving up a lot of yards after the catch. Note: Gang Green must also be prepared for the hurry up offense which is often used by Tom Brady.
Beat up Brady- Last but not least the Jets must get pressure/hits on Tom Brady. If Brady gets time to scan the field Gang Green will be in for a long night. Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson has been playing very well as of late and has to generate some type of pass rush.
Injury note: Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been ruled out for this game, while Aaron Hernandez is slated to return from injury.
The last time these two teams met the Jets had several chances to win the game but self destructed when it mattered the most. In order for Gang Green to win on Thursday night the team must play smart, physical football. The Jets cannot play scared to lose which means Rex Ryan and his team must leave it all out on the field.
In terms of a prediction a lot of it is contingent on the performance of Mark Sanchez. If the Jets quarterback plays well this could be a very competitive game in the fourth quarter. How many times have you heard that before? Going to take New England 27-17.
I would like to wish all of you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving! Take a moment to remember and thank all of the men and women that are serving our country.