Jets vs. Patriots Round III – 12 Pack of Predictions

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Another week of Jets football means another 12 pack of predictions. TOJ actually fared well with his wild-card picks, going 3-1 on the games against the spread. In terms of my specific picks for Jets/Colts…eh, it was very hit or miss. Let’s see how we fare this week –

1. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson will combine for 40 carries as the Jets attempt to control the clock and shorten the game. They will the run ball with some success but neither will crack the 100 yard mark individually.

2. Mark Sanchez will manage the game effectively. The Jets will be conservative with their playcalling, especially in the passing game. Sanchez will have at least one turnover but will also hit one big play down the field off play action when given the chance to go deep.

3. Tom Brady isn’t going to turn the football over.

4. The Jets will get one big play from their special teams, whether it is a return from Antonio Cromartie (who will be deep on kicks), a fake punt, or a surprise onsides kick. This play will help keep the game close into the fourth quarter.

5. The Jets defense will dare New England to run the ball to beat them and won’t stack the box. You will see plenty of Marquice Cole, Kyle Wilson, James Ihedigbo, and Dwight Lowery on the field and less of Bart Scott and Bryan Thomas. BenJarvus Green-Ellis will run for at least 65 yards and Danny Woodhead will add 65 total yards of offense.

6. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will both have big games working against the Jets safeties. One of them will score a touchdown and they will combine for at least 90 yards receiving.

7. Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards are going to beat Kyle Arrington for a touchdown on a long pass off play action.

8. Dustin Keller is going to have at least 6 receptions and be Mark Sanchez’s favorite target on third downs.

9. The Jets won’t attempt a field goal over 45 yards with Nick Folk, instead opting to go for it or punt on fourth down. Shayne Graham is going to miss at least one field goal attempt.

10. Brad Smith or LaDainian Tomlinson is going to throw a pass for the Jets.

11. There is going to be at least 3 or 4 scrums after the whistle and a personal foul or two in the first half alone.

12. My heart wants to pick the Jets, but in a lame attempt to be somewhat objective I have to admit the logical pick is New England. I do think the Jets will play them tight into the fourth quarter and ultimately lose something like 27-20. However, if the Jets can get the big special teams play I mentioned, and a signature performance from Mark Sanchez, and catch a break on defense with a tipped pass turned into an interception or a timely forced fumble, I wouldn’t be stunned if they stole the game late…I know those are a ton of ifs but this is the NFL and on any given Sunday…anything can happen.

Divisional Round Picks

Jets (+8.5) at New England

Baltimore (+3) at Pittsburgh – Wow, am I excited for this game. You know you could almost take a low-scoring game decided by 3 points or less to the bank. Baltimore is due to knock Pittsburgh out and I think this is the year for them to do it. The Steelers have problems on the offensive line and will miss Aaron Smith on defense. I expect the Ravens to steal a close one in the final seconds of what should be a great game.

Green Bay (+2.5) at Atlanta – I know everybody is on the Green Bay bandwagon, but guess what? So am I. Aaron Rodgers is going to be the best player on the field Saturday night and now that it looks like Green Bay found a running game, they will be balanced enough on offense to steal a tight, high-scoring game.

Seattle (+10) at Chicago – This line just feels too high after watching Seattle last week and knowing Jay Cutler is under center. This is going to be a close one and I wouldn’t be shocked if Seattle won the game, however in the end I do think Chicago will do enough to escape with a victory.

Time To Step Up: Antonio Cromartie

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Antonio Cromartie didn’t hesitate to throw himself in the middle of the Jets/Patriots firestorm this week by saying how he really felt about Tom Brady to the media. Yet beyond Cromartie grabbing headlines for his words or his clutch kick return in the wild-card game against Indy, is this reality: he needs to play much, much better on defense this Sunday if the Jets want a chance at an upset.

Cromartie had a relatively strong start to the year, however he has struggled in coverage lately. New England picked on him in their 45-3 route, particularly with Deion Branch. He was beat for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears by Johnny Knox and last week Pierre Garcon beat him up and down the field, including for a 52 yard touchdown.

We know Darrelle Revis is taking the player he is covering out of the game. However, the Jets need Cromartie to compliment him with the Pro-Bowl level play that he is capable of. He has the size to occasionally match-up with one of the Patriots tight ends and the speed to handle any of their receivers.

You can bet that Tom Brady will be throwing at Cromartie early and often on Sunday. If the Jets want to pull off the upset, Cromartie better be ready to tackle in the open field and make at least one of those highlight reel interceptions he is known for.

There is no question #31 has the physical skills to shut down whomever he is matched up against on New England. The question is, can he rise to the occasion in a big game?

Jets Best Defense Will Be Their Offense

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Rex Ryan has talked up the “Ground and Pound” since arriving in New York and we saw it in full force last week.

The primary reason the Jets beat the Indianapolis Colts last week was because their offensive line and running backs completed dominated the second half. Their running game set up manageable third downs, which the Jets routinely converted.

It can’t be any different this week against the New England Patriots, who can be run on. Before you throw away 111 yards on 23 carries, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene had in the 45-3 beatdown, remember 84 of those came in the first half when the game was still competititve. The two of them also combined for 128 yards in their week 2 match-up, with Tomlinson averaging 6.9 yards per carry.

The Jets must control the clock to keep Tom Brady off the field. It doesn’t start and end with the running game either. Mark Sanchez must be accurate in the short passing game and find ways to convert third downs.

Look at the Jets third down situations in the second half against the Colts –

  • 3rd and 2 – 5 yard by Shonn Greene. First Down.
  • 3rd and 3 – 20 yard pass to Dustin Keller. First Down.
  • 3rd and 7 – 9 yard pass to LaDainian Tomlinson. First Down.
  • 3rd and 1 – 6 yard run by Mark Sanchez. First Down.
  • 3rd and 1 – 1 yard run by LaDainian Tomlinson. Touchdown.
  • 3rd and 5 – Incomplete pass to Santonio Holmes.
  • 3rd and 5- Incomplete pass to Braylon Edwards.

As you can see the Jets were getting themselves in manageable situations through their running game. They finished 5/7 on third downs in the second half. Their only two misses were on a dropped pass by Santonio Holmes and an overthrow by Mark Sanchez to an open Braylon Edwards.

The Jets can’t afford those mistakes this week. No dropped passes. No overthrowing open receivers. Most importantly though is control the clock and setting up third and short through the running game. LaDainian Tomlinson and ShonnGreene both looked fresh and healthy last week and they should be the same this week, as neither reached 20 carries against Indy.

The less time Tom Brady is on the field and the more Jets shorten this game, the more likely it will be a one possession game in the 4th quarter, where one play can swing the game.

Thoughts On Divisional Round Lines

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Betting on the NFL this week offers some intriguing options for gamblers.

In the first game of the weekend, Pittsburgh is currently a 3 point favorite over Baltimore. Both of their games this year were decided by 3 points, with the road team winning each game. The over/under is currently at 37, which could offer some value considering the point total in their two games was 31 and 23, respectively.

In the Saturday night game, Green Bay is only 2.5 point underdogs despite facing the NFC’s number one seed in Atlanta. Many people are on the Packers bandwagon and it is showing in the spread.

Seattle remains heavy underdogs this weekend, as the Bears are favored by 10 points even though they lost at home earlier in the year to Seattle. It will be interesting to see if gamblers have gained any faith in the Seahawks after last week.

The Jets are also heavy underdogs to the New England Patriots, who are 9 point favorites. It will be interesting to see how they respond to losing 45-3 to the Patriots earlier in the year.