When I wrote about the week 13 matchup between the Jets and Pats, I referred to it as the matchup of the century. Well it turned out to be anything but that. The Patriots dominated from the first minute of the game and destroyed the Jets 45-3.
That said, the Jets are by no means incapable of winning this weekend. They have the momentum coming off a big last-second win away against the Colts. Playing on the road has never fazed the Jets in the playoffs and they won in Cincinnati and in San Diego, before losing last year to the Colts.
But the Jets will have to adjust their game-plan to face Tom Brady and the Patriots. Darelle Revis, who essentially eliminated Reggie Wayne from the game last week, holding him to one catch for one yard, will not be able to do the same thing against the Pats. Wes Welker is the Patriots’ number one receiver, but his speed makes him tough to cover especially on the quick slants and screens which make him so useful and got him 80 yards on seven receptions against the Jets earlier this season. Antonio Cromartie will most likely line up against Deion Branch who had 64 receiving yards last game.
But the main problem will be figuring out how to cover the Patriots’ duel threats at tight end. Rob Gronkowski has quickly become Tom Brady’s favorite red-zone target and Aaron Hernandez has proved to be too fast and too strong for most defenders to cover. Peyton Manning found Jacob Tamme five times for 46 yards when it mattered most last game and you can expect Brady to look for his tight ends all game long.
The next challenge will be for the Jets to contain the Pats’ running game while designating most of their attention to stopping the pass. The Jets did this well last week holding the Colts to 93 yards while almost always keeping five or more defensive backs in the game. But BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 72 yards and Danny Woodhead had 104 receiving yards out of the backfield last game. To win this week, the Jets will need to contain both backs and avoid big plays out of the backfield.
The last major challenge on defense will be to stop Tom Brady. It seems forever since Brady threw his last interception and last game, the Jets’ pressure didn’t faze him at all. Jets coach Rex Ryan supposedly has a plan to stop Brady but we will all have to wait until Sunday to see what that is.
The Jets struggles continued on offense in their week 13 loss to New England. Mark Sanchez looked like a high school quarterback facing the NFL’s best defense, and completed less than half of his passes and threw three picks. The Jets rushed for over 100 yards, but couldn’t rely on Sanchez to keep their drives going. The Jets bullied the Colts defensive line and ran easily all game, but they won’t find it so easy this week even with one of New England’s best run stoppers, Brandon Spikes, most likely sitting the game out. But to have a chance, they will need the same type of productivity from their ground game along with a great game from their young quarterback.
The Patriots defense has struggled this year, but when your offense hasn’t scored under 30 points in over eight games, that does not really matter. The Jets will have to put a lot of points on the board to keep pace with the league’s best offense.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Jets 21