The Patriots should be familiar with slot receivers as they are responsible for bringing the role to the foreground of the NFL discussion. This means that there's no excuse for Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley to have a big day on Thursday.
Kerley has gained 79 or more receiving yards seven times in his career. Four of those games are his last four games against the Patriots. In fact, his number one and two games in his career both came in Week 7 against the Patriots in each of the past two seasons. This is his favorite match-up on his favorite week.
Kerley's 417 yards against the Patriots in five games since he entered the league in 2011 is twice as many as the next highest ranked Jet over that time frame (Santonio Holmes, 204). It's the most by any player in the league against the Patriots in that time frame. The Dolphins Brian Hartline ranks second with 405 yards, but that's in seven games. The Bills Scott Chandler ranks third and has 364 in seven games- he's also coming off a 100 yard game.
There are certain players that give the Patriots trouble. They need to stop Kerley.
Yes, Eric Decker and his questionable hamstring is the Jets undeniable top receiver. But in this match-up, Kerley is the engine that drives the Jets offense and he's the player that the Patriots need to give additional focus.
I think Darrelle Revis matching up on Kerley makes the most sense. Let Brandon Browner, who should be active, post up against the taller Decker. If the Patriots can slow Kerley in the sloppy rain that's expected on Thursday, then they'll help to slow the Jets offense.
Another player pairing of note: Jeff Cumberland and Jace Amaro. The rookie Amaro leads the Jets in receptions with Cumberland ranking fourth. Similar to how the Patriots offense functioned early in the season, the Jets rely heavily on getting the ball out to these players inside the hashmarks. Cumberland, Amaro, and Kerley are all key and will help the Patriots keep linebacker traffic in the middle of the field to help slow the run.
It's likely that Jamie Collins will pair up against Cumberland with bracket coverage due to the lack of depth at the position. This will keep Collinsi in the middle of the field and available to slow the run.
If I were the Patriots, I'd match Devin McCourty against Amaro. This will limit the Patriots secondary as they won't be able to play cover one, but there has to be a cornerback-caliber defensive back on Amaro or else he'll run wild.
Due to the weather, it's likely the Jets will try and run the ball and feed Chris Ivory (or Chris Johnson). The Patriots should play in a heavy 3-4 front, with Chris Jones, Casey Walker, and Vince Wilfork as the down linemen, while Chandler Jones mans the elephant role as a rusher. Rob Ninkovich can help in bracket coverage against linebackers and will allow Collins and (hopefully) Dont'a Hightower to man the middle of the field and attack the run downhill.
The strong safety position is the only one not listed and it's likely to feature a rotation. If McCourty is helping to cover Amaro, then there isn't a deep safety to help against the outside receivers. It's likely that the Patriots rotate with Pat Chung on early downs and Duron Harmon- or maybe even Logan Ryan- on passing downs.