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Game Preview: Jets @ Patriots

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Division game, folks.  As much as we're hurting from the Colts loss, it's time to move on.  It is, afterall, a week after.  As Belichick would say, "Time to focus on the Jets."  And he's right.  3-6 means Bo Diddley.  Any given Sunday and all that.  Never take any opponent for granted.  Historically, we're 49-50-1 against the Jets.  However, our fanbase has cause to be confident.  Since Kraft purchased the team, we're 20-12 against the Jets; since the 2003 season, the Patriots are 20-1 after a regular season loss; Bill Belichick is 14-8 against the Jets; and since 2001, our New England Patriots dominate the division with a 41-12 record.

As we discussed in Focusing on Jersey: Patriots take on Jets this Sunday, there's a lot of history between these 2 teams and it's not just on the field.  Coaching contracts, the fact that it's New York...you name it.  We love to get up for these games.  But, the most important reason to get up for these games AND to win them is this: it's a divisional game.

Winning your division is the surest way to make the playoffs.  Tying the division bites, plain and simple.  Do you remember the nail biting we did last season?  Yeah, you're left at the mercy of the tie-breaking procedures.  And wildcard berths are raft with "Gee, I hope so-and-so wins this Sunday" as well.  No, we need to soundly thrash everyone in the AFC East because our nemesis, the Miami Dolphins, are right behind us.

The Jets seemed to have quite the swagger at the beginning of the season.  Rex Ryan was talking about not kissing Belichick's rings and how his defense was going to own the division.  Nine games later, NY is 3-6, NE is 6-3, and Ryan is crying at team meetings.  Hey, I'm not going to pick on the guy for getting emotional with his team; I only point this out to document the contrast in attitude over half a season.  Hence why Belichick usually keeps an even keel when he's at the top or the bottom (which doesn't happen too much).

New York faced a VERY different New England in our Week 2 9-16 loss.  Tom Brady had significant rust on him and Joey Galloway couldn't hang on to the football for what seemed like 2 certain touchdowns.  Remember those?  One in the numbers at the front of the end zone and one in the back where he forgot where his feet were.  Bleh.  At any rate, New England has gotten very good at protecting Tom Brady.  LT Sebastian Vollmer has done very well handling the pass rush, but he's also had some creative help in doing so.  We'd all like to think rookie "Sea Bass" soundly handled one of the best pass rushers in the league, but that's not the case.  Don't feel bad.  I think it's a good thing.  It means that as a team, we're doing a good job of handling pass pressure from the defense.  Remember, blitzing and pass pressure are the hallmarks of a Rex Ryan defense.  As Belichick is so good at doing, take away what a team is good at and make them play YOUR game.

The Jets are facing some serious trouble with 2 high profile guys placed on injured reserve: DT Kris Jenkins and RB/JR Leon Washington.  The absence of these 2 is like losing Vince Wilfork and possible Laurence Maroney for the season.  Not good.  Jenkins, like Wilfork, swallows up offensive linemen and is a big reason why the Jets defense is rated 3rd in the league.  Interestingly enough, their offense is first in rushing.

I think Belichick and company may do something similar to what was done against Indy.  That is, creative pass protection to allow Brady some time.  With Julian Edelman AND Sam Aiken questionable, it's anyone's guess who will be the third wideout, but I'd guess Edelman; afterall, he toughed it out for the Colts game.  It's also been good to see Randy Moss improving at some crossing patterns instead of simply sprinting vertical; it adds another weapon in the Patriots' arsenal.  Why leave all the fun to Wes Welker?

With the Jets' Kris Jenkins out, it may be easier for us to generate and sustain a decent rushing attack - key to a balanced offensive plan.  Combine that with Brady's improvements during the season and I think we'll see a VERY different football game today than we saw in Week 2.