Well folks, it’s here. The Jets are on a three game winning streak at home playing the Patriots for the division lead. Yes you read that correctly. This is this the Jets first real test of the season. Winning three games against Miami, a Jacksonville team off of a London game and Cleveland is fine but this is the real test for this young group of guys. I take a look at the position comparisons between the two teams.
I mean come on. It’s Tom Brady. He’s 40 years old and he’s playing like a 24 year old. He’s thrown 11 touchdown passes to only one interception so far this season. While New England’s defense has suffered, Brady has risen to the occasion.
Josh McCown is no slouch however. He’s been a very competent quarterback for this Jets team. He’s shown the ability to throw an accurate deep ball and is good enough to drive the Jets down the field. He hasn’t made nearly as many mistakes as past quarterbacks (looking at you Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick) and actually gives the Jets a chance to win week in and week out. However, he’s no Tom Brady.
Running Back: Patriots
James White and Dion Lewis are deadly against these Jets linebackers. They have the ability to turn eight yard outs into 30 yard gains with one move. Throw in Bills castoff Mike Gillislee as the touchdown maker and the Patriots once again have a group of guys who you may not have heard of but can cause a ton of damage.
The Jets are most likely without Bilal Powell and Matt Forte is a go for Sunday. My hope is that the Jets use Elijah McGuire a lot more than Forte. Forte should be seeing little to no play time but for some reason the Jets coaching staff has some sort of hope that he can be some sort of help in the Jets offense.
Wide Receivers: Patriots
Much like the Patriots running backs, the wide receiving core has the ability to turn short routes into huge touchdowns. Chris Hogan has turned into a very competent number two receiver in the absence of Julian Edelman and Brandin Cooks is doing Brandin Cooks things in the new scenery. The Patriots don’t have big receivers but they are perfect at what they do. They all have good hands and are good route runners.
The Jets receivers stacked up against the Patriots receivers seems like an odd matchup. The Jets receivers don’t really have an identity up to this point. Robby Anderson is a deep threat but other than that, does any Jets receiver scare you? Jermaine Kearse is a formidable receiver and Jeremy Kerley has caught every pass thrown to him but are they guys you really game plan for? I’m as high on these receivers as anyone but they just don’t stack up against the Pats
Tight End: Patriots
If Gronk plays, which all signs point to him playing, then it’s a no brainer. The guy is a once in a generation talent at the position. He creates a mismatch against anybody that is forced to guard him. The most interesting part about this game is if the Jets put Jamal Adams on him (which they should). Adams had his first sub-par game last week against the Browns, even giving up a touchdown to David Njoku. My hope is that that was an off game from Adams but he certainly has his work cut out for him against Gronk.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins isn’t a slouch but he’s certainly no Gronk. Ideally, I’d like the Jets to use him to exploit the weak Patriots secondary and linebackers. I think he can do a bunch of damage this week.
Offensive Line: Jets
The Patriots offensive line is very bad. They average 3.9 yards per rushing attempt, which is 22nd in the league, and Brady has been sacked 16 times already in five games. By comparison, he was only sacked 15 times in 12 games last season. He’s been hit so many times already that he’s missing practice because of a shoulder injury. If the Jets pass rush had to pick any game to get it going, it would be this one.
The Jets have allowed 29 QB hits which is 20th in the NFL and have allowed the 12th highest sacks in the league. They are averaging 4.5 yards per carry which is good for seventh in the NFL, but have been aided by two long runs in that. Neither of these offensive lines are very good but if I have to pick one, I have to go with the Jets on Sunday.
Defensive Line: Jets
These two respective units aren’t great for either team. New England doesn’t cause any negative plays and they can’t stop the run either. They’re better than the Jets at rushing defense and they have more sacks than the Jets. So why am I giving the Jets the edge? I think the Jets defensive line is more likely to make an impact than New Englands.
Leonard Williams has been non existent to start the season. He’s being double teamed more with the absence of Sheldon Richardson and Mo Wilkerson is still on a milk carton somewhere. This is the game where he gets his first sack and he might not just stop at one. I’m very high on Big Cat this week.
The Jets can’t cover running backs. A lot of that falls on the linebackers and they will be tested on Sunday. Doesn’t it seem like somehow someway, Demario Davis is always getting beat by a Patriots running back on a wheel? I’m positive Belichick will look to exploit that early and often.
On the other side, New England’s linebackers aren’t really striking fear in you. Dont’a Hightower is still their best guy. There’s no Rob Ninkovich aka the Jet killer. Chris Long is on the 5-1 Eagles. Kyle Van Noy is the guy that scares me outside of Hightower. While they aren’t the most talented, the Patriots scheme well and I don’t expect that to change even with the depleted roster.
I could start this every week with how great Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye are playing and I think all Jets fans would be happy about it. They’re facing their first real test against a Hall of Fame quarterback in a division rival game for first place. They can’t let the emotions of the game impact their play negatively. Morris Claiborne has played very well to start the year and has even stayed on the field, which was his biggest knock. The second cornerback spot scares me for the Jets but Todd Bowles has done a great job so far at adjusting. Expect Brady to pick on Buster Skrine and whoever else the Jets put on the outside.
Stephon Gilmore hasn’t been playing up to that hefty contract he got in the offseason. As I’m writing this, he has been listed as out for the game which makes the Pats secondary even weaker. Eric Rowe is also out for the Patriots. They’ll being going with Malcolm Butler (hasn’t played great and typically gets burned by Jets receivers), Jonathan Jones (who hasn’t done much this season), Devin McCourty (down year) and Patrick Chung (who is a do it all player). The Jets can exploit them and they can have success against the Patriots in a down year.
Special Teams: Patriots
The Jets special teams has played well during their three game winning streak after a bad start to the season. They have to play near perfect on Sunday. They can’t fumble a punt or bring kicks out to start drives inside the 20. They have to tackle on kick offs and punts and not let a missed tackle turn into a touchdown. Chandler Catanzaro has only missed two field goals this season but hopefully he’ll be kicking more extra points than field goals.
Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of my time and probably in the history of football. This is a no brainer. It shouldn’t go without saying that, though, that Todd Bowles has had his team ready to play this entire year and while they may not have the most talent, he puts belief in his guys that they can compete with anyone. That’s a lot for a guy who was coaching for his job coming into this season.
Photo courtesy of: newyorkjets.com