The New York Jets season received a shot of life with a 27-13 win over the St. Louis Rams. However, it will take an upset over the New England Patriots this Thursday night to truly make them relevant in the AFC playoff picture again. Here is a collection of early thoughts –
1. The big injury news this week is that Patriots tight end Rob Grokowski will not play because of a broken forearm. Considering he is the league’s best tight end and had 2 touchdowns in their early season match-up…yes this is a huge deal. Aaron Hernandez is expected to play and the Jets coverage attention must now shift to him and Wes Welker. It will be interesting to see how the Jets play Welker since Isaiah Trufant, who covered him the majority of the first match-up, is now out of the season. Look for them to frequently bracket him and throw a collection of different corners at him, hopefully led by Antonio Cromartie who is the only one with the ability to cover him man to man.
2. Mark Sanchez’s best game of the season came against the suspect New England secondary, as he went 28/41 for 328 yards with a touchdown (although he did have two turnovers). Sanchez finally looked in rhythm yesterday as the Jets kept Tim Tebow on the bench outside of three plays. This is another game to keep him on the bench. You don’t beat the Patriots with the Wildcat. You beat the Patriots by throwing down the field on their secondary.
3. That being said, the Jets still need to hit 35-40 carries to keep balance on their offense, protect Sanchez and give the play action passing game a chance. We saw the beginning signs of a committee approach yesterday. Bilal Powell merits 10-12 carries a game, along with Joe McKnight deserving at least 5-7. Powell and McKnight also need to remain factors in the passing game. They are both better screen and checkdown options than Shonn Greene. McKnight also has the ability to split out at wide receiver, something the Jets should consider with their lack of depth at the position.
4. Speaking of receiver, it is time to send Stephen Hill to the bench and reduce him to being a role player. The rookie clearly has his confidence shaken and cannot handle major reps. Chaz Schilens should start at split end, with Jeremy Kerley in the slot. Reduce Hill’s workload to 15-20 snaps and build his confidence back up with a few easy catches on smoke screens or hitch routes. Clyde Gates is another player who shouldn’t be seeing more than limited reps in certain packages. He does have very good speed but is a poor route runner.
5. The Jets special teams needs to wake the hell up. There is no way they could beat New England if they have another killer mistake from that unit.
6. An upset victory over New England on national television is the type of win that could start a late season playoff run, especially when you look at the Jets next two opponents (home vs. Arizona and at Jacksonville). The Jets are appropriately 6.5 point underdogs but this is a winnable game. The team should have confidence from the earlier match-up that they should have won and New England’s defense still has many holes.
Rex Ryan must reverse a disturbing trend since he has taken over. Since 2009 (his first year), the Jets are 0-3 in their second regular season match-up against the Patriots with an average margin of defeat of 26.6 points. Mark Sanchez has also played very poorly in all three of those games with 2 touchdowns to 9 interceptions overall. There is no better time to break this trend than right now.