The New England Patriots return home on Thursday to host the struggling, 1-5 New York Jets, who are coming off a closely contested match-up with the Broncos. This game certainly serves as a must-win game for the Jets. While the match-up hasn't had the usual pregame smack-talk and hype from the Jets, it's not hard to imagine that they're quietly very focused for this one. Their season is on the line, and they've been all but counted out. They have a great, national stage to make an upset and turn their season around. Rex Ryan knows how to motivate his players, and the Jets are better than their record indicates.
How they Rank:
Total Offense: 303.3 YPG (30th)
Rush Offense: 121.2 YPG (12th)
Pass Offense: 182.2 (32nd)
3rd Down Offense: 38% (24th)
Points Per Game: 16.0 PPG (30th)
Total Defense: 327.2 YPG (6th)
Rush Defense: 92.2 YPG (8th)
Pass Defense: 235 (15th)
3rd Down Defense: 47% (T-25th)
Points Allowed/Game: 26.3 PPG (25th)
Turnover Ratio: -7 (T-29th)
Storylines to Watch
The Jets' Dominant Defensive Line
On Sunday against the Bills, the New England Patriots faired pretty well against one of the best defensive fronts in the league. Tomorrow, they will have their hands just as full against the Jets. The Jets deploy a 3-man front that includes three All-Pro caliber players. On the ends, the Jets have Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Both amongst the fiercest in the league at their position, they are big, strong, and can swallow up the run and get after the quarterback. Nose tackle Damon Harrison is one of the finest run-stuffing nose tackles in the league. With the Patriots expected to be without Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly, the Patriots might have a lot of issues in protection and inside-running, despite the Jets' mediocre linebacker play.
Issues at quarterback with Geno Smith
Although the Jets do have some talent on offense, they continue to maintain one major weakness: quarterback. Geno Smith has not shown much improvement in his second NFL season. He's thrown at least one interception in every game this year, his completion percentage and quarterback rating sit at the bottom of the league, and he just does not look comfortable in the pocket and handling the duties of an NFL starter. The Jets provided him with some weapons in the offseason in the form of Erick Decker and Jace Amaro, but the improvement just hasn't been there. Amaro, by the way, is another player to watch on offense for the Jets. The Patriots weren't able to effectively cover the athletically limited Scott Chandler against the Bills. Amaro has freakish athleticism, is coming off a career best 10-catch game and the Patriots don't have a healthy, starter-capable linebacker on the roster. So yeah...
Jets dealing with an ailing secondary
The New York Jets' secondary is a far cry from what it was in the Darrelle Revis days. This offseason, they also lost LaRon Landry and Antonio Cromartie in free agency. They struck out to the Giants in a pursuit of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Eventually, they entered training camp with a cornerback trio of Dee Milliner, Dimitri Patterson, and Dexter McDougle. McDougle went down for the year with a preseason injury. Patterson left the team before a preseason game without permission and was subsequently cut. Milliner tore his Achilles tendon this past Sunday. They now have a trio of Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls, and Phillip Adams at the position. Antonio Allen is back to his natural position of safety. The Jets managed to limit Peyton Manning to just 237 yards despite the depletion to the secondary. However, if the Patriots can manage to control the big three of the Jets' defensive line, they could have some opportunities to move the ball through the air by winning one vs. one match-ups with their skill players.
What are your thoughts on the match-up?