Over the past couple of years, the talent difference between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots has been immense. Tom Brady has directed some of the most explosive offenses in recent memory, and of course, they have had the ultimate trump card in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick The Jets on the other hand, have had to deal with Mark Sanchez under center, and a defense that had been slowly declining under the tutelage of Rex Ryan. The combination of these two things have led to Patriots domination in this series, as they have won 10 of the last 13 meetings.
However this discrepancy in talent is not the case here in 2013. The Patriots are going through a tough transition on the offensive side of the ball, which has led to some incredibly close contests. The New England defense, which has played very well thus far, is dealing with some big injuries as both of their captains are now gone for the season. I am confident that Bill Belichick and company will keep their defense on the right track, despite being without Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. But it certainly will make Sunday’s game with the surprisingly solid Jets, a good one.
The struggling Patriots offense will probably be without wide receiver Danny Amendola in this game, after he took a scary hit to the head in last week’s win over the Saints. There has been no official word on the timetable for his return, but I would say that it is doubtful that he returns in less than two or three weeks. With this being said, the key for the Patriots offensive unit this Sunday should be ‘staying alive’.
The Jets have one of the top defenses in the NFL, and trying to attack them in an aggressive manner, specifically through the air, would be a bad idea. The rookie receivers are definitely making strides in this complex offense (as evidenced by that terrific game winning drive), but relying on them to win a game versus this Jets defense is too much. One big positive that I took out of the Patriots last game, was the terrific performance that Stevan Ridley put forth. He ran aggressively, and decisively, resulting in a 96 yard, and two touchdown outing. If the Patriots can get Ridley the ball early against the Jets, it will make throwing the ball much easier, as the linebackers will be begin to cheat up to stop Ridley and the ground attack. This won’t be easy, as the Jets defense is currently second in the league in stopping the run. They are led by a terrific front four, which thrusts the Patriots struggling offensive line into focus. The protectors of Tom Brady have given up nine sacks in the last two games, and they have not been much better in opening up holes for the running backs. Their struggles cannot be attributed to one guy slipping up, as I have noticed that every single one of them hasn’t been up to par in the last few weeks (although some more than others…I’m looking at you, Nate Solder). Keeping the likes of Quinton Coples, and Muhammad Wilkerson at bay will be a key aspect of this game, if the Patriots have any hope of establishing a solid running game behind Stevan Ridley. One thing to monitor is the health of right guard Dan Connolly. Connolly suffered a concussion early in the Patriots win over the Saints, and his availability for this game is in question.
The last thing New England wants to do, is spread out this talented Jets defense, and get burned with a couple of turnovers. As I have already mentioned, the Patriots defense is without Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo for the remainder of the season, and there is a good chance that cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly will be gone for this week’s tilt in New York. Geno Smith’s offense isn’t as bad as you may think, and he could take advantage of a beaten up Pats defense.
New England’s best option on the offensive side of the ball, is to run the ball early and often, not only to take advantage of Ridley’s exceptional running skills, but it will also set up the play-action pass later on. Taking care of the football should be the Pats top priority, and I think they will be content with playing field position football while the offense (and defense) deals with some big injuries.