NEPD Staff Writer: Brian Delabarrera
Last Week in Oakland, the Patriots were able to defend the No. 1 running attack in the NFL and to convincingly improve to 3-1. This team is by no means “elite”, but they are pretty darn good.
With the help of the Stevan Ridley and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tom Brady was able to serve an additional 226 yards and 2 TDs to the Raiders in a 31-19 victory.
Now Jets Week is finally here… and it couldn’t come at a better time if you ask me.
The 2-2 New York Jets had a complete meltdown last weekend in Baltimore and haven’t really looked like themselves lately. Two early losses have them one game behind the Patriots and the Bills in the AFC East, so you better believe the Jets will know what’s at stake.
A big performance from New England could set New York back further psychologically-scrambling for the playoffs for the rest of the season.
When I say that the Jets don’t seem like themselves, I’m mostly referring to one statistic. Last season, Rex Ryan’s boys didn’t allow a first quarter touchdown until the eighth game. This season they have allowed one in each game.
Mark Sanchize vs. The Comeback Kids –
Safety Patrick Chung, corners Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, and Ras-I Dowling have a great deal to prove to the league. A playoff contender cannot afford to have multiple liabilities in the pass defense, especially as the season drags on.
The cornerbacks need to be aware in their zones and physical at the line to keep up with speedy Santonio Holmes and the tough tight end Dustin Keller.
That’s only if Mark Sanchez can get the ball to the them though. He has been having some difficulty-only completing 55.5% of his passes for 6 TDs, 3 Fumbles, and 5 INTs.
We are all aware, by now, of the three touchdowns he handed to Baltimore and how weak the right side of their offensive line really is. The added wisdom and experience of the Jets’ second-highest-sack-totaling-DE Shaun Ellis certainly will not hurt us either. His familiarity with the ground and pound game-plan and the tendencies of Sanchez are a priceless asset.
Pro-Bowl C Nick Mangold will return to the trenches for New York this weekend and that will help their chances. It’s unfortunate for him that his return will line him up across the safety-nose tackle hybrid Vince Wilfork and the occasional Albert Hayneworth. That almost 700 lbs of Patriot won’t be easy for him to deal with. Bringing pressure early will bring the nightmares back and complicate the Jets’ offense.
Note: New England’s injury report listed a lot of names under Questionable, including game-time decisions on TE Aaron Hernandez and DT Albert Haynesworth. The list also included secondary members like S Josh Barrett, Dowling, and CB Leigh Bodden-who tortured Sanchez in 2009 stealing three interceptions.
All For Wes and Wes for All –
Do-it-all WR Wes Welker is having a monster season catching 40/58 passes thrown his way 616 yards and 5 TDs on a pace to shatter the history books. His presence on the field will draw attention from both Cromartie and Darrelle Revis, not to mention safety Jim Leonhard.
I expect him to get good looks and even a score, but when he is drawing double coverage it will definitely give guys like Rob Gronkowski and Deion Branch some opportunities.
Just like in the past, the Patriots can use Welker’s heat to open up the rest of the field. I think Revis will have a good game too, but I just can’t see him keeping up for 60 minutes. The image of him tripping while chasing Wes in 2010 always comes to mind. But really, who can keep up with #83? His contributions to the passing attack will also keep the Jets respectful of the run.
The Running Rookie vs. Bart Scott –
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the rookie Stevan Ridley, from LSU, leading the charge against the Raiders and even notching a score to an impressive game where he average 9.1 yards per carry. That kind of average isn’t something New England fans are used to and we love to see a lot more of it.
His production couldn’t have come at a better time due to RB Danny Woodhead tending to an injury. There a plenty of Jets defenders who could bother the young back, but Bart Scott has the ability to get in to opponent’s heads. Scott has been all over the field over the course of the first four games totaling 21 solo tackles (26 total) and 2 sacks.
If used, Ridley must remain as confident as he looked in Oakland to make it out of the backfield. The home fans will go nuts if they see that speed in person. Ridley truly has explosive potential.
BenJarvus is still a huge part of this running game. He is way more clutch than he is flashy. While he doesn’t make appearances on SportsCenter’s Top 10, he consistently falls forward or fights hard to move the pile ahead when we need conversions. He has a good awareness about him and will help sell the run in play-action situations.
Chung vs. Keller –
Another threat comes in the form of Dustin Keller, #81, Mark Sanchez’s 6’2″ comfort blanket. Having a knack for coming up huge just when his Jets need him, usually on third downs, Keller is averaging 14.5 yards per catch with 2 scores.
His biggest nemesis come 4:15 eastern standard will be #25, Pat Chung, whose favorite hobby is shutting down tight ends. He specializes in bumping them off of their routes at the line and if he’s not chasing them he’s sitting in the zone laying hits or eyeing passes down. He will be able to play with Keller and keep his receptions on the lower side. It’s going to take a team effort to keep Sanchez frustrated and Keller out of the endzone, but it starts with Chung.
Cheddar Plax vs. Ras-I Dowling –
You guys remember Cheddar Bob from 8 mile right? Well, now that Plaxico Burress is a New York Jet, I didn’t think i could dislike the guy anymore than I already did but I’m always willing to be surprised.
This week Burress thanked Coach Belichick for single-coverage in the Super Bowl and my thought is that Rex would like to replay that goal-line touchdown in Foxboro if he gets the chance. Using the 6’1″ CB Dowling in this situation will give us the best chance at defending that scenario.
Plax can clearly still play and has 10 receptions and 2 TDs with 160 yards as a member of Gang Green. The Jets are not going to merely roll over and let the Patriots win, we need to make sure we can silence guys like Plax who will be looking to provide the spark for the Jets. Score fast and defend hard.
NYJ: Special Teams – Joe McKnight, the second-yard RB out of USC, returned a kick for a TD against the Ravens. He has great athleticism and can break one off if given the space. The defenders must stay in their lanes and stop the returns before McKnight can pick up any steam. New England can’t afford to see a good effort squandered by a special teams mishap.
NEP: TE Rob Gronkowski – Gronk was quiet last week while Welker stole the spotlight, but I guarantee that no one is complaining. The Football Outsiders have New York ranked 25th for defending against tight ends this season so why not hit them where it clearly will hurt most. If the corners are manning the sidelines, covering Welker, Branch, and Ocho, then I’m glad that we have a solid receiver option in the middle of the field in Gronkowski.
I think we’ll see another impressive performance from the home team. Patriots win.