The New York Jets at the New England Patriots
At the start of the 2015 NFL Season, no one would have expected that the Jets’ annual trip to Foxboro in Week 7 would be a pivotal game not only for the AFC East but the Conference as a whole. The Jets’ offseason was overshadowed by the annual stories that the AFC East has recycled over the last several seasons: The decline of the Patriots, The Dolphins overspending and ‘closing the gap’, and the Buffalo Bills finally ending their playoff drought.
In an uncharacteristically quiet fashion, the Jets have started off strongly this season with a surprising 4-1 record and look to knock New England from the ranks of the undefeated and take the division lead. For New England, they have beaten the Jets in 7 of the last 8 meetings though the last four games have been very close with each contest being decided by 3 points or less.
Though we are months away from the playoffs, this has turned into a significant division game so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – Patriots: If we are having a discussion about Global Economics, it’s a pretty safe bet that Harvard Graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick would edge out Tom Brady. However this is the NFL and to compare the below average talent of Fitzpatrick to Brady is not even fair
Running Backs – Push: When healthy, Chris Ivory is a solid NFL running back who plays a bruising style that reminds people of Marshawn Lynch. However, there is a significant drop off when Ivory is not on the field. The Patriots, on the other hand, have versatility with all of their running backs allowing them to change their offensive style during a game if needed. Interesting Stat comparing yards from scrimmage from both of these teams: New York Running backs have gained 829 total yards and the Patriots’ running backs have gained 783 total yards….Surprisingly even.
Wide Receivers – Push: Though Brandon Marshall is a legitimate #1 receiver in the NFL and is getting a lot of press clippings as of late, the overall group of Jets receivers are average at best. Though New England’s wide receivers are nothing to write home about, they have been making timely plays and keeping drives alive for the Patriots’ offense.
Tight Ends – Patriots: Even if starting Jets Tight End Jace Amaro was healthy, the Jets entire TE group couldn’t matchup with the third Tight End on New England’s roster.
Offensive Line – Jets: A key to the Jets’ early success this year has been the play of the Jets’ offensive line. They have done a good job with both run blocking and protecting their quarterback. The Patriots Offensive line has played well considering the amount of injuries and new players that have been used so far. However, it’s hard not to give the nod to Jets in this comparison.
Defensive Front Seven – Jets: With the return of Sheldon Richardson last week, the Jets have one of the best defensive lines in the AFC if not in the NFL. Though they have not started piling up sack numbers yet, they certainly have done a great job with stopping the opponents’ running game. The Patriots front 7 certainly is not going to be confused with the Jets’ defensive group but they do have some depth and they have had their moments disrupting quarterbacks this year.
Secondary – Jets: Shocking, especially for the Patriots, both teams are in the top 10 in fewest passing yards allowed per game in the NFL. Though the Patriots received their fair share of criticism for letting their top 3 Cornerbacks go last offseason, they have pieced together a secondary that has been serviceable. The Jets do feature All World Contract Negotiator Darrelle Revis who is off to another solid year in 2015.
Special Teams – Patriots: The Jets have a slight edge in the Kick Off return department but the Patriots have a huge advantage with Stephen Gostkowski who is the best statistical kicker in the division right now.
Coaching – Patriots: After the first six weeks of the 2015 season, Todd Bowles should certainly be in the conversation for Coach of the Year. He walked into a circus like atmosphere with a roster filled with loud mouth underachievers and has brought some respectability to the Jets. However, it’s hard to give Bowles the edge, or for that matter call him an equal , to Bill Belichick who has mastered the art of hiding his team’s weakness, exploiting his opponents’ deficiencies, and generally outsmarting opposing coaches with his in depth knowledge of the game and the rules. Though it may be way too early to say, Bowles may be the best hire for Head Coach that the Jets have made since hiring Bill Belichick.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
1) Protect Tom Brady: This has to be the number one priority for the Patriots when they have the football. Todd Bowles loves to blitz and, much to the discomfort of Brady, Bowles like to use the Double A-Gap blitz. Brady needs to use as much of the play clock to figure out what the defense is doing and use the quick passing game to slow down the Jets’ pass rush.
2) Make Ryan Fitzpatrick Beat You: There is a reason that Ryan Fitzpatrick is on his sixth NFL team: At every stop he has turned into a turnover machine and has killed his teams’ chances in close games. Slowing down the Jets’ running game and forcing Fitzpatrick to throw into tight throwing lanes should result in a turnover or two.
3) Field Goals are not a Bad Thing: The Patriots have been scoring at a franchise record pace. Though these stats may look nice in the newspaper, that Patriots cannot get impatient, pass up field goal opportunities, and start trying to convert on every short 4th down. This strategy did not work well in Week 2 (against a lesser opponent than the Jets) and every score will be critical especially when points could come at a premium in this game.
For the first time in many years, this game between the Jets and Patriots does not have the backdrop of some controversy, coaching betrayal, or some blowhard trying to make his ego bigger than the game itself (Yes Rex Ryan…I am talking to you). It is simply a classic matchup of strength against strength: The Jets with their defense that has allowed the fewest points per game vs the Patriots with their offense that has scored the most point per game.
Had this game taken place earlier in the season, the Jets would have had a greater advantage mainly due to their new coaching staff. Not knowing what schemes they would be running or what there tendencies were certainly would have been a serious concern for the Patriots. With 5 games on tape now available, the Patriots offense should have a solid plan with the appropriate adjustments ready for whatever the Jets’ defense will throw at Tom Brady.
At the very least it has been a while since there was a game of this magnitude in the AFC East and both fan bases should be in for a treat even though this may end up a nail-biting close game.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 23 – Jets 21