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Patriots vs Jets: Shutting down Le’Veon Bell should be priority number one for New England’s defense

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Related: Asking Gang Green Nation: Tom Brady needs to attack the Jets’ cornerbacks

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

While the New England Patriots’ defense has been outstanding through two weeks this season — the unit surrendered just three combined points against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins — the New York Jets’ offense has been anything but. Not only did the unit score a mere 11 points so far this season, it also lost both its first and second string quarterbacks along the way. Needless to say that the Jets offense has seen better days.

With that in mind, the group will still present a challenge for the Patriots despite starting third-string quarterback Luke Falk and missing number one wide receiver Quincy Enunwa. MacGregor Wells, managing editor at our sister site Gang Green Nation, spoke with Pats Pulpit about the Jets’ offense and also mentioned a few names New England still needs to have on its radar when going up against their division rival today.

“The Patriots need to account for slot receiver Jamison Crowder on underneath routes and wide receiver Robby Anderson on deep routes,” he said. “The Luke Falk-to-Jamison Crowder connection is a natural emphasis for the weak armed Falk, but I suspect the Patriots are well aware of that and will flood the middle of the field. Robby Anderson has developed over the years into a quality deep threat, but I doubt Falk has the goods to make much use of that threat.”

“On the ground obviously free agent acquisition Le’Veon Bell is the big gun for the Jets, and I suspect the Jets will be feeding him the ball to excess in an effort to keep the chains moving and keep the potent Patriots offense off the field,” continued MacGregor when breaking down the key names on New York’s offense. “Realistically if Bell doesn’t have a huge, huge day the Jets have little chance to keep this game close.”

Needless to say that Bell should be the number one priority for the Patriots today: stop him and there is a good chance you stop a Jets offense led by a third-string quarterback in his first NFL start. Through two weeks this season, teams have had a hard time slowing the perennial Pro Bowler down: the dual-threat running back registered 92 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in Week 1 before adding 129 yards in Week 2.

“If you have to choose the best way to attack this offense, I’d say you should focus on shutting down Bell,” said MacGregor. “Stack the line of scrimmage and dare Falk to beat you through the air. Falk has a very weak arm, making deep patterns problematic for the Jets, so when the Jets are in passing situations, flood the middle of the field and dare Falk to beat you on throws that take more arm strength. If Falk is able to consistently beat you on the boundaries and on deep balls, so be it. I very much doubt he is capable of that.”

In general, MacGregor also noted, defending the Jets offense has not been too tough of a test for defenses (New York faced the Buffalo Bills on opening week, and the Cleveland Browns last Monday) — in large parts because the offensive line has had its fair share of issues no matter if run blocking or pass protecting. If the Patriots can find a way to win in the trenches, the day could be a long one for Gang Green.

“The Jets’ offensive line has struggled to open holes for star running back Le’Veon Bell, and the Jets’ offensive line has been disastrous in pass protection, leaving edge rushers completely unaccounted for, sliding protections in ways that make little sense, and losing battles at the line of scrimmage,” said MacGregor when talking about how to best stop the Jets. His conclusion is telling: “It shouldn’t be difficult to shut down this Jets offense.”

So what could the Jets do to still come away victoriously? According to MacGregor, the kicking game might be the way to go: “My X-factor for the game is special teams. The Jets are outgunned on offense and on defense. However, every once in a while a great effort on special teams can overcome what is otherwise a mismatch. Perhaps the Jets can produce some long returns, maybe even a touchdown, and block a punt or a kick or something.”

“It’s not much to hang your hat on, but what else do we have? The only way to win a game like this is for some crazy stuff to happen. Maybe special teams carry the day for the Jets. Not likely, but any given Sunday and all that.”