The New England Patriots will be without many of their top players for tonight’s game against the New York Jets. Shane Vereen is out until week 11. Danny Amendola is likely out for tonight’s game as well. Zach Sudfeld, Brandon Bolden, Leon Washington, and rookie receiver Aaron Dobson are listed as questionable.
With the early injuries piling up, the rookies need to emerge, and the veterans need to show up tonight if the Patriots expect to win this game. Two weeks ago, I had the Patriots pegged as double-digit favorites. Now I see this as a much closer game. Here are some things and players to watch for tonight.
The Jets had an impressive win over Tampa Bay in week 1, thanks largely to a lack of discipline from the Buccaneers, who committed 13 penalties for 102 total yards. No penalty was bigger than the 15-yard personal foul on Lavonte David with seconds left, which was the only reason the Jets had a field goal opportunity. New York gained five first downs off of penalties, compared to zero for Tampa Bay. I expect the Patriots to play very disciplined, and limit the number of penalties they commit so they don’t extend drives for the Jets. The Pats were only flagged four times against the Bills on Sunday.
Nov 22, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) runs with the ball while being tackled by New York Jets linebacker David Harris (52) during the first half on Thanksgiving at Metlife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
Geno Smith is the second rookie quarterback the Patriots play in as many games. Belichick has a great track record against first-year QB’s. The Patriots are 13-4 under coach Belichick when facing a rookie quarterback, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Overall, Geno Smith played a pretty good game last week against the Bucs, but there is a little hidden wrinkle in his stats. He went from 80.8% completion against four or fewer rushers down to 25.0% when pressured. I hope to see Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick dial-up some creative, well-timed blitzes and keep the pressure on Smith for the majority of the game.
Key Players for the Patriots
Aqib Talib is one of the best players in the New England secondary, so he will likely draw the duties of covering Santonio Holmes. With Jeremy Kerley ruled out for the game with a concussion, the Jets have Stephen Hill, Clyde Gates, Ben Obomanu, and rookie Ryan Spadola behind Holmes at WR. If Talib can lock-down Santonio Holmes, the Pats secondary will have a great game.
As I mentioned earlier, Geno Smith has been awful against heavy pressure from the defense. If Chandler Jones can keep Geno Smith from getting comfortable in the pocket, the Jets offense will have a long night. New York passed on roughly 57% of offensive plays vs. the Bucs. With the Patriots having one of the better run defenses in the league, the Jets may be limited to a higher percentage of passing plays tonight. The New England defense didn’t register a single sack against the Bills. A few sacks from Jones means a great game for the defense.
Stevan Ridley was given a second chance as New England’s starting running back due to Shane Vereen’s broken wrist. Ridley has everything to prove tonight, and I expect him to come out fired up. Honestly, Ridley was having a good game against the Bills until the fumble that got him benched. He is still a top talent on the Pats, and will be counted on to put up a big game. Ridley absolutely must have a turnover-free game. He cannot afford to put the ball on the ground, because Belichick wouldn’t hesitate to go to LeGarrette Blount. The lack of wide receivers puts even more emphasis on the running game. Stevan Ridley wants to earn his starting role, so he is all-in on this game.
The entire Patriots offensive line needs to have a solid game in order to beat this Jets defense. They played alright against the Bills, only allowing Tom Brady to be sacked twice, but he was hurried more often than I would like to see. If the Patriots plan to move the ball, then Tom Brady needs to stay clean in the pocket. With a lot of Brady’s top targets nursing injuries, he will need as much time as he can get to allow the younger players to get open. The Jets use plenty of creative blitzes, and have had some success pressuring Brady in the past.