The Patriots made a risky move this season, when they traded the disgruntled Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings. Moss has been quarterback Tom Brady's favorite touchdown target since the Patriots traded for him when he was with the Oakland Raiders. In order to accommodate Brady, they brought back one of his former favorite receivers when they traded for longtime Patriots hero Deion Branch from the Seattle Seahawks.
Since these trades have taken place, Branch has since found himself with the Patriots after spending four frustrating seasons in Seattle; totalling 48 receptions 706 yards and five touchdowns in eleven games with the Patriots this season.
There have been times where Tom Brady wished he had the big target of Randy Moss when most of his receivers were covered. However, this won't be one of those days.
The Jets feature two different type of cornerbacks, as they have 5'11 Darrelle Revis and 6'2 Antonio Cromartie. When the Patriots had Randy Moss, the Jets would win the battle in the secondary, as the taller Cromartie would match up against Moss, while Revis would take on the shorter Wes Welker.
However, with Branch on the team, this creates an interesting mismatch as Branch will likely be covered by Cromartie. Here is why:Branch Is Very Similar To Pierre Garcon
Why is this important? Well if you look at the stats from the Jets 17-16 victory over the Colts, Garcon had a terrific day against Cromartie, totaling five receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown.
Garcon was targeted often by Peyton Manning, as Revis was able to limit leading receiver Reggie Wayne to one catch for one yard. Revis will likely go up against Wes Welker, the Patriots leading receiver and will try to take him out of the game, like he did Wayne.
Meanwhile, Branch's 5'9 build will match up against the taller Cromartie, which should create a clear mismatch. Garcon (6'0) had a great day against Cromartie, this should tell us Branch is going to get a lot of targets and have relatively good success on Sunday.
Branch Does Well Against Taller Cornerbacks
Branch had his best performance of the season against Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, as he exploded for eight receptions 151 yards and a touchdown. Branch caught his touchdown on the most notable play of the game, as the Patriots decided to try a long play leading into the half as Tom Brady threw to Branch for the long score. Branch used his speed against the 6'1 Tillman well, totaling 151 yards receiving.
Branch also had a great performance against the 6'0 Nathan Vasher of the Detroit Lions as he turned in is second best performance of the season, totaling three receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Branch only caught three balls, but was able to turn his three catches into big gains, totaling his 113 yards.
Other notable performances include his seven reception 71 yard performance against the 6'2 Ike Taylor and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his seven reception 70 yard performance against the 6'0 Kelvin Hayden and the Indianapolis Colts.
Even though Branch is 5'9 and not many cornerbacks can match his size, Branch has shown he can use his size as an advantage against taller cornerbacks.
Branch Did Pretty Well Against Cromartie This Season
The two did meet in Week 13 when the Jets and the Patriots squared off in Foxboro. The Patriots defeated the Jets 45-3 in that game, while Branch did his part with three receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown scored. Branch was not with the team in their Week 2 meeting.
Branch's touchdown was on a Brady slant route, where he was able to beat Cromartie and dash into the end zone. Branch's speed clearly outmatched Cromartie during the game. Cromartie also allowed Brady's touchdown to Brandon Tate.
When the Patriots had Randy Moss and not Branch, the Patriots had a different style of offense, and they ended up losing the game because the secondary matched up well with the receivers. However, now that Branch is back with the Patriots, Brady now has two 5'9 receivers in Branch and Wes Welker, and thrashed the Jets secondary the second time around. Look for this to happen once again with both Branch and Welker playing on Sunday.