Patriots Run Offense vs. Jets Run Defense
The Jets run defense has been weaker this year than in years past, and the likely absences of defensive tackles Kendrick Ellis and standout Sione Pouha will make the Patriots job a lot easier against them. Brandon Bolden has emerged as a quality No. 2 back, but his absence won’t hurt the Pats much at all. Stevan Ridley leads the way and has been one of the best backs in the league this year, so there is a big chance that he ends up netting 100 yards.
Shane Vereen should be able to get some carries in there, but we haven’t really seen much of the explosive backup. He’s a decent No. 3 option the very least. The Pats usually No. 3 back is Danny Woodhead, who has been the best situational back in the league this year per down and distance, which is something he has underratedly done throughout his entire career. People need to give Woodhead more props for somehow converting third-and-longs on the ground at a better rate than anyone else in the league.
The Pats offensive line features top run blockers such as Nate Solder, Ryan Wendell, and Logan Mankins, and this is a matchup that the Patriots will be able to win this time around.
Jets Pass Offense vs. Patriots Pass Defense
I hope we end up seeing a lot more Alfonzo Dennard and Ras-I Dowling than Kyle Arrington in this game, but it might not matter either way. The Jets three best pass-catching options are all nicked up, and Mark Sanchez isn’t exactly a good quarterback either. The Pats secondary is clearly the weakness of this team, especially with Steve Gregory out. But, the Jets have the worst receivers in the NFL without Santonio Holmes, and Stephen Hill is too inconsistent to hang with Devin McCourty.
Outside of the rookie from Georgia Tech, the only other two top options in the Jets receiving corps are TE Dustin Keller and slot receiver Jeremy Kerley. Both players are solid and can move the chains, and the mid-range passing game is going to be something of a concern for the Pats if mis-communication at the safety position continues.
Sanchez has a better deep ball than people give him credit for, so the Pats safeties will also need to watch for Hill in case the ultra-talented but ultra-raw and inconsistent rookie breaks free from McCourty. He can cause some big damage, as the Buffalo Bills saw in Week 1, so that’s another thing to watch.
The Jets strength on offense is the offensive line, which features top pass blockers in D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, and Brandon Moore. Chandler Jones is the only true pass rushing source for the Pats but with a tough matchup against Ferguson, Rob Ninkovich might actually be the one to have the bigger day. Jones won’t get shut out or anything, but Ninko is facing an extremely raw right tackle in Austin Howard, who is Wayne Hunter’s “barely, barely better” replacement at right tackle. Ninkovich absolutely demolished Denver Broncos inexperienced, subpar RT Orlando Franklin, so the top run-stopper can also impose his will as a pass rusher if given that opportunity. He has that opportunity in this game.
Jets Run Offense vs. Pats Run Defense
This is going to be a great matchup to watch. The Jets ground-and-pound vs. one of the top front sevens in the NFL. The Patriots run defense has been absolutely stifling this season, as they’ve shut down top backs in Fred Jackson (he was injured though), Chris Johnson, Willis McGahee, and- the most impressive one- Marshawn Lynch.
The Jets run blocking has had something of a down year this season, except for center Nick Mangold. The best center in the league, Mangold has been a force this season and will be a force in this game despite being listed questionable on the injury report. Kyle Love was pushed around with ease last week against top Seahawks center Max Unger, and he’s going to have it tougher this week as well. Left guard Matt Slauson is a matchup Vince Wilfork can take full advantage of, but he’s also going to have his fair share of battles against Mangold and is in the midst of a somewhat disappointing start to the season.
Shonn Greene broke out in a big way against the Indianapolis Colts last week, but he’s definitely going to have a tougher task at hand this week. Backups Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight are likely out, with Powell being almost a definite no-go while McKnight is trying to come back after sustaining a high-ankle sprain against the Colts. He’s determined, but the injury is too severe to make me think that he can play in this one.
Tim Tebow is likely going to get some carries in this game, because I doubt Ryan wants to role with just UDFA Jonathan Grimes as the only rushing option to help out Greene. So yeah, be on Tebow watch.
The Patriots are clearly the better team and are better than the Jets in all four facets that I described above. This isn’t going to be a blowout though, because that usually doesn’t happen in rivalry games. I’d say it ends up being a 24-13 win for the Pats.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.