On Sunday the New York Jets (3-3) take on their bitter division rival, the New England Patriots (5-1), at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. EST). The Jets are coming off of an ugly performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers while the Patriots are flying high following a last second win over the New Orleans Saints. Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game from a New York perspective.
Establish the physical tone early- The Patriots 24th ranked run defense will be without both Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. The Jets offensive line must dominate the line of scrimmage and establish a physical presence that will open up the running game. A ground and pound style of approach will help keep the Patriots offense off of the field while wearing down a banged up defense.
Feature Cumberland- The Jets wide receiver group has been decimated by injuries leaving rookie quarterback Geno Smith searching for a safety valve. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg should look to get tight end Jeff Cumberland involved early and often in the game plan. Cumberland (198 receiving yards, 2 tds) has the size and speed to create match-up problems for opposing safeties and linebackers.
Limit turnovers- Limiting turnovers is a weekly goal for the Jets offense that features a rookie quarterback who seems to be learning new receivers every Sunday. Geno Smith must take what the defense gives him and not be scared to either run the ball or throw it away when the opportunity presents itself. Bill Belichick is going to try to confuse Smith and the young quarterback must rely on his instincts.
Stop the run- The first step in slowing down the Patriots offense is to stifle the running game which is ranked 11th in the NFL. Gang Green's front seven must attack the line of scrimmage and prevent running backs Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount from consistently moving the chains. The linebacker group led by David Harris has to prevent yards after contact and wrap up the ball carriers upon initial impact.
Defend the short passing game- The blueprint to slow down the Jets defense is to utilize the screen and short passing game. Rex Ryan and his staff must come up with zone schemes to thwart the quick passing game allowing the defense to get after Tom Brady. This is going to be a huge challenge for the New York Jets secondary.
Beat up Brady- One of the biggest keys to disrupting the Patriots passing game is to get consistent pressure on Tom Brady. As mentioned, New England will look to the running game and short passing attack to slow down the defense. The goal for the defense should be to get the Patriots in 3rd and long situations where they can pin their ears back and get after Brady. The Jets defensive tackles including Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison, and Leger Douzable must get pressure up the middle which will help the outside pass rushers. Linebacker Quinton Coples has to increase his productivity in terms of generating pressure on the quarterback.
Generate turnovers- Remarkably the New York Jets defense is struggling to generate turnovers this season ( 1 interception, 2 fumbles recovered). This trend has to change with the defense providing the offense with some favorable field positions.
Return game anyone? The Jets return game has been relatively non-existent this season providing little assistance in terms of improving field position . The team signed Josh Cribbs this week who could give the return game a much needed boost. At some point the special teams units need to come up with big plays to help the offense.
Both of these teams enter the game banged up which makes this match-up very difficult to predict. The Patriots will be without three of their best defensive players (Wilford, Mayo, and probably Talib) while the Jets will be without Winslow and Holmes on offense.
I think that the Jets are going to be able to run the ball which will take some pressure off of Geno Smith. An effective ground game should open up the play action pass and possibly a big play or two for Stephen Hill.
On defense I believe that the Jets front seven will do enough to disrupt the passing game.
In the end a special teams return or defensive play wins the game for Gang Green. 21-17 Jets