The New England Patriots just had the biggest win of their young season, as they had a miraculous comeback win in the dying seconds against the New Orleans Saints, and during those final seconds, we saw the return of the Tom Brady that we all know and love. This week they travel to New York and the New Meadowlands to play the New York Jets. I know some people will be saying, “All the Patriots have to do is show up, and they’ll win!”, because the Patriots totally always beat the Jets in New York. This is not a pushover team, and the Patriots have to take every advantage given to them in such a hostile environment. So let’s take a look at some of the big keys to the Patriots obtaining a win versus the Jets.
1. Rush Defense, Rush Defense, Rush Defense
The Patriots are beaten up pretty badly. Last week we saw Jerod Mayo be lost for the season due to a shoulder injury, and then Aqib Talib left the game with a hip pointer, after he shut down the unstoppable Jimmy Graham for the entire game. But I imagine this game will come down to whether or not the Patriots can stop the run, and then make Geno Smith put the ball in the air, and every Patriots defensive back should be licking their chops if that happens. Bilal Powell is a very underrated back, and I love what he’s been doing this season, and has made things easier on Smith in his rookie year. It’s going to have to be a team effort, but look for guys like Hightower, Spikes, Fletcher and Duron Harmon to play big roles. If the Patriots get beaten up on the line by the Jets offensive line, it could be a very long day.
2. Who Wants to Protect Tom Brady? Anyone?
The Patriots had their second worst pass blocking performance of the year versus the Saints, the worst coming against the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks ago. While the Jets may not have any big name pass rushers like Geno Atkins or Mario Williams, or seemingly any Chiefs player, they have plenty of players that could make the Patriots offensive line sweat bullets. I’m looking specifically at Muhammed Wilkerson, who’s quickly becoming one of the NFL’s premiere defensive lineman, and 1st round pick Sheldon Richardson, who’s had a fantastic rookie year so far. While the Patriots two tackles, Solder and Vollmer, have played well this season, the guards have been a struggle, and haven’t had much from the point of attack at center. Rex Ryan knows exactly how to get under Tom Brady’s skin, and he will do everything to disrupt the Patriots quarterback all day, so the Patriots will probably have to play their best pass protecting game of the season.
3. Keep Running Strong Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen is Nearly Healthy
After having probably the worst start out of any starting running back in the league not named David Wilson, Stevan Ridley finally busted out in a huge way against the Saints for two huge touchdowns. He finally seemed to be running with some conviction, and strength like last year, but be warned Ridley, Shane Vereen is almost ready to return. Recently this week Shane Vereen was spotted without a cast on his wrist, meaning that he’s getting close to returning, and Week 11 is when he will be available to return to game action. The first game of the season Shane Vereen exploded and showed that he was capable of handling a full load, and was one of the big difference makers in that game. If Ridley wants to keep that starting job nicely wrapped up, then he’s going to have to run like he did last week against a very good Jets run defense.
4. Gronk (Again)
Thank the good lord that our tight end is back. To some Patriots fans, the return of stud tight end Rob Gronkowski is like the second coming of Jesus, and… Wait a minute, I wrote this exact stuff last week. Oh well, it still isn’t any less true. When I wrote last week’s key to a Saints win, everyone was under the assumption that Gronk would make his return, and while he is still questionable this week against the Jets, the signs are all pointing towards him playing Sunday. This is the best overall tight end in football, he’s a boon in the run game, and is a god send in the pass game. Don’t understate how much he means to this team, he will make a big difference on the Patriots fortunes.
Once again, DO NOT, take the New York Jets lightly. This is a team that could easily be 4-2 if they had a couple good bounces, and cannot be taken with a laid back attitude. If the Patriots are just looking forward to next week versus what will probably be their division rivals for years to come in the Miami Dolphins, they will probably get run out of the building. And despite injuries to Talib, Mayo, Wilfork, Amendola, Vereen, Kelly and Connolly, the bright side is, Gronk is back, and that will count for something. God damn is that a depressing list now isn’t it? Oh well, “Next Man Up” right?