The New England Patriots and New York Jets will square off in East Rutherford for what will be an excellent Thanksgiving Day rivalry matchup. Alan Schechter of the Jets blog The Jet Press was kind enough to answer five questions about the game for the Musket Fire site. You can view my answers to his questions here.
1. What do the Jets do in order to force the Patriots outside the numbers in the passing attack? It seems like the Jets are the only team in the league that knows how to scheme against the Pats, and I want to know some of the tactics that Rex Ryan employs in order to do this.
I took a look at some tape to answer your question, as I haven’t been sure myself. They play defense against the Pats, differently than you would play most any other team. Instead of focusing on guys on the outside, the Jets get physical with the guys inside the numbers. Now boosted by their improved safety play with LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, the Jets do what they can to make contact with these guys coming off the line. Even on a Gronk TD in the last meeting, the Jets bumped him off the line, he just made a terrific catch because he is so freakishly talented. The Jets get physical inside the numbers, and let the corners do their thing on the outside.
2. Ryan said that the Jets are going to be using a running back by committee approach with Bilal Powell and Shonn Greene. Any thoughts on how the carries are split? What about Joe McKnight? Any news on him?
The Jets have to go with the committee approach. The Jets don’t have a 25-30 carry per game back on their roster, so this is the only way, and it worked well on Sunday against the Rams. As far as the split, Greene will carry the load, probably 15-20 times as he did last week. Powell will be behind him, and you will see McKnight as well. He did carry the ball a few times on Sunday, and caught a pass out of the backfield. It will be a three-headed monster on Sunday, no doubt.
3. How will the Jets attack the Patriots secondary and who do you view as the weakest link(s) in the Pats defensive backfield? Any thoughts on how the targets will be split among the Jets receivers?
It’s hard to say how the Jets will attack through the air, because their passing attack has been so “hit or miss” through the air. I think the Patriots’ backfield is equally weak, but the Jets won’t air it out. They are not the type of team that can do that, and if they try to, the game will get ugly. The Jets have to grind the football, and manage the clock. Stephen Hill, despite what the team says, I see losing targets to Chaz Schilens. Hill has a lot of potential, but he’s not ready to be a starting WR. He simply drops too many passes. I see a lot of targets going to Mark Sanchez’s favorite target, Dustin Keller. Kerley, despite being banged up, will see his fair share of targets as well, along with a split between Clyde Gates and Chaz Schilens.
4. Is it even possible to make a case that Nick Mangold isn’t the best center in the NFL?
To me, absolutely not. Mangold is far and away the best center in the league. He holds that offensive line together, and we have seen how bad they are when he is injured. He could possibly be the most valuable player on the Jets offense. That being said, I don’t think anybody does the job of nose tackle than Vince Wilfork. One of my favorite things to watch, any time our teams match up, is Wilfork vs. Mangold on the interior.
5. Who wins this game and why?
I think this one will be a close one too. Despite the fact that Rex is not doing anything to tweak your guys, which is a good idea, he will have them ready to play a big game Thursday night. The turnover battle will decide this one. I believe whoever wins the turnover battle will take this one by a 3-7 point margin.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.