Guys, this was terrible. Like, bad. Really, really bad. You're lucky I like you because I just subjected myself to the past two weeks of New York Jets football and I feel like I didn't learn anything.
Don't get me wrong: the Week 14 game between the Jets and the Vikings was actually really entertaining. Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked very good and Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes looks to be a star on the rise. There were defensive touchdowns, multiple big hits that led to turnovers, a safety, overtime, and flashy offensive touchdowns.
But after all that, I didn't feel like I learned a single thing. Don't get me started on the Week 15 throwdown with the Titans (a nominee for worst game of the season, even if Geno Smith looked like an actual quarterback at times against that atrocious defense).
Still, I watched. I took notes. I watched and rewatched. Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson is incredible. Cornerback Darrin Walls is pretty good. The offensive skill players would make a team with a quality quarterback salivate- or a team with an innovative offensive coordinator could find some way to squeeze out a modicum of competency.
I even had fallout memory from the Jets game against the Dolphins in Week 13, from my Dolphins prep. This Jets team is willing to throw their running backs at brick walls and just hold out on hope that they'll break through and sustain a drive. Geno will chuck it deep every once in a while to keep defenses honest, but they're never too real a threat for completion. This is a boring offensive attack for an otherwise electric offensive roster.
Here's what else I saw.
When the Jets run the ball
The Jets love to run the ball and their offensive line isn't imposing enough to do it consistently. Their 120 carries over the past three weeks leads the league (average of 40 a game?!), and their 4.66 yards per carry is 7th over that time frame. Still, nearly 55% of their runs have gone for three or fewer yards, and nearly a third have gone for 1 or fewer.
For context, this matches the Patriots splits and no one would confuse the Patriots for a power rushing team.
The Jets right side of the line is fairly week, with tackle Brent Giacomini the weakest link on the line as of late. Right guard Willie Colon looks like he doesn't have any lateral speed left, which would make Chandler Jones an ideal candidate to slice in between to make plays in the backfield in sub-packages.
Chris Ivory is a runner after Bill Belichick's heart as he'll lower his shoulder to pick up an extra three or four yards after contact every time. He's a harder hitting Jonas Gray with more acceleration. He's quick enough to make teams pay up the middle, but the Jets haven't really be consistent in creating openings (although Nick Mangold is back to his old top notch form); he's better running off-tackle to the left where he can hit defensive backs in the open field.
Look for the Patriots to counter with a 3-4 front to let the Patriots have both a heavy interior and additional outside defense. The Jets can't generate an offensive rhythm if they don't set up the run so the Patriots need to stop the Jets early, create a lead, and then force them to throw.
The Patriots defense was gashed last time around, but that was in the first game without Jerod Mayo; Jamie Collins is a whole different player.
The Jets also enjoy sending Percy Harvin on jet sweeps, which are particularly succcessful, as well as using Chris Johnson in the Wildcat. They have a great group of runners, but they need some extra creativity to be successful. As this is Rex Ryan's last chance to stick it to the Patriots, you can be certain they will hold back nothing.
When the Jets pass the ball
You can expect the Patriots to sell out to stop the run early, and then try to force Geno Smith to make long drives. Gemo loves dump offs, and crossers to try and get his talented the receivers the ball quickly and with open field in front. The Patriots will likely give up lots of yards, but that'll be the cost of business of trying to have Geno win the game with his arm.
The Jets have very little red zone creativity while throwing the ball, so you can expect some new wrinkles on Sunday. They typically just send the receivers up and have then turn around to wait for the pass. It's easy to sit on the top of the route, but look for the Jets to use their quick players to try and manufacture some rub routes, should the Jets make it that far.
Geno gets high in his stance when he winds up to throw deep, which makes it a prime candidate for a centerfield interception by Devin McCourty. Beyond those big shots, he'll mostly look for passes inside the 10 yard depth.
Eric Decker hasn't changed. He folds under defensive pressure and will look for the flag every play. Brandon Browner should be able to cover him into submission; remember that Browner made his season debut against the Jets earlier in the year and wasn't in football form.
The Patriots should match up Browner on Decker, Darrelle Revis on Percy Harvin, and Logan Ryan on Jeremy Kerley (pending Kyle Arrington's hamstring status, who should start if healthy). This is definitely a Pat Chung type of game as he'll be asked to cover the tight ends and possible outlet running backs.
Don't expect the Patriots to rush the pocket that frequently, but do expect a couple A-gap rushes to keep Geno off balance and hopefully force an errant throw.
When the Patriots run the ball
The Patriots won't be successful running up the middle, especially with the state of the guards on the line. Sheldon Richardson is fantastic and he can make some noise up front. Fellow defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson has missed the past three games with a toe injury and is still up in the air for Sunday.
If Wilkerson can't play, the Jets will feature a lot of Quinton Coples, whom the Vikings ran at often and with plenty of success.
The Jets have some quality linebackers in their 3-4 front, all very athletic and with a nose for a big hit and tackle. Still, they're all very aggressive and can leave the middle of the field vulnerable and ripe for play action passes. Look for the Patriots to run a few up the middle to open up seam routes for Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright later in the game.
This is going to be a Shane Vereen type of game for the Patriots as the receiving back will be used to spread the defense thin and out of the box. He should get a lot of play early on until (hopefully) the Patriots get a lead, at which point Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount should be able to close the game running to the outside lanes.
When the Patriots pass the ball
To counter the Jets fierce defensive line, the Patriots should use dump offs as the Jets rush attack is overaggressive and can get out of position. Quick swing passes to Vereen, or screens to Julian Edelman (if he plays) and Brandon LaFell will be crucial to keep the Jets from crashing the box.
The Jets defensive backs looked particularly vulnerable to stop-and-go routes, similar to the Patriots, so look for Brian Tyms and LaFell to see a couple deep shots to see if they can get the Jets to bite on a shallow route.
Rex loves his blitz looks and will show four or five additional rushers beyond their standard three defensive linemen, before ultimately dropping any amount of the rushers back into coverage. It makes it hard for Tom Brady to decipher and it's had success in the past.
Look for a big day from the third and fourth receivers on the field (whether that's LaFell, Tim Wright, maybe even Tyms or Danny Amendola) as the Jets just lack the defensive depth to match-up across the board in the passing game.
Rex isn't holding anything back. Look for trickery in the special teams units in particular.
The Jets share the Patriots penalty luck- they get hit a lot and benefit from very few. A lot stems from discipline, where they have the seventh most pre-snap penalties in the league.
Kick away from Percy Harvin. No question there. They have a pretty okay special teams unit.