Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
In Week 7, the New York Jets will travel to Foxboro to face the undefeated New England Patriots. Sitting upright at 4-1, the Jets have a chance to actually gain the AFC East lead by pulling off a road victory over their hated rivals, as a Gang Green win would give them the tiebreaker over the Patriots. One thing will determine the winner: the line of scrimmage, regardless of who’s on offense.
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Focusing on the line of scrimmage alone, the Patriots are the underdogs. The Jets are averaging an entire yard more per rush than they are allowing; Chris Ivory and the other Jets’ backs are gaining 4.5 yards per carry, and their pals on the defensive line are allowing just 3.5 yards every time the opposing team attempts a run.
Meanwhile, the Patriots rank smack in the middle of the NFL with 4.1 yards per rush, and fourth-worst with 4.8 yards allowed per rush. The resurgence of LeGarrette Blount as the primary ball carrier is encouraging on offense, but the defensive line must tighten up against Chris Ivory on Sunday.
The Patriots wisely rested Dont’a Hightower against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6, recognizing that he needed to ice those ribs before facing arguably the best rushing offense in the NFL. It’s encouraging that Hightower will be back in the fold, as he’s the Luke Kuechly of the AFC.
Mark these words: the Patriots will be in trouble if they don’t find a way to keep Ivory under 100 yards on the ground. The Jets’ offense builds outward from Ivory; with a potent run game, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a very competent quarterback with two very competent weapons in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, both of whom have favorable matchups on Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, respectively.
Additionally, mark these words: the Patriots will be in trouble if they don’t find a way to run on the Jets’ stout defensive line. Fresh off a return from suspension, Sheldon Richardson told the media earlier this week that the Jets’ front seven is licking their chops to face Tom Brady and the Patriots in Week 7. Richardson is fully aware that the Jets boast a formidable threat to the Patriots’ undefeated record because of their elite run defense.
When Brady is stranded without any semblance of a running game, that’s when his age could start to show. It hasn’t happened yet this season, but a fiery Jets’ defense that isn’t budging for Blount could pose some serious threats to Brady, possibly forcing him to make throws toward a certain owner of the Jets’ No. 24 jersey.
It’s paramount that the Patriots get the ground game going early and often in Week 7. Likewise, it’s vital that the front seven fills any and all gaps that Ivory might exploit. The winner of this divisional showdown will leave the field knowing that they won the point of attack on both sides of the ball.