New York Jets Week 7 – Game Plan Thoughts For New England

A few thoughts on how the New York Jets could game plan for the New England Patriots

The New York Jets head to New England this Sunday in a pivotal AFC East game between a pair of 3-3 teams. Despite having the same record, the Jets find themselves as 10.5 point underdogs. New England is a better team but the Jets have beat the Patriots in the past when they had less talented rosters than them. This is another “kitchen sink” game where Rex Ryan and the coaching staff needs to put together a creative game plan that doesn’t hold back any gadgets or surprises. How can the Jets give themselves a chance to pull off the upset?

Offense – New England is extremely weak in their secondary, giving up an inordinate amount of 20+ yard passing plays. Their corners and safeties have a difficult time playing the ball in the air and both position groups are generally lacking on talent. The Jets are going to have to take their shots down the field. This is the type of game they drafted Stephen Hill for. This is the type of game you give Antonio Cromartie another shot to run a pass route or two. Jeremy Kerley should be able to do some damage down the seam. Of course all of that is irrelevant if Mark Sanchez cannot be accurate with his deep passes. This is a big test for Sanchez. Can he take advantage of a weak secondary? In the past Sanchez has played some of his best games against New England (and some of his worst) – but he does have over a 100 quarterback rating in 4 of his 7 games against them. The Jets need “Good Sanchez” in a big way on Sunday.

Obviously the Jets can’t be one dimensional. They need a productive running game to open up play action passing down the field. Without Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight, that much more pressure will be on Shonn Greene to perform. Nobody is expecting him to duplicate last week’s performance but if he could give the Jets a solid 20 carry, 85 yard performance it will go a long way to helping their passing game out. Powell and McKnight’s absence could also lead to a bigger role for Tim Tebow.

I had an interesting conversation with Steve Hunter of Sports Geek, where he mentioned the possibility of using a “surprise” Wildcat that utilized Tebow in a hurry-up offense. New England uses their hurry-up to prevent defenses from subbing and allowing them to take advantage of team’s nickel personnel with their running game or their base personnel with their passing game. If the Jets started a series with Sanchez at quarterback and Tebow at one of the running back spots, they could move to a hurry up and alternate in plays where Tebow lines up quarterback before New England has a chance to substitute or react. This also wouldn’t be a bad game to allow Tebow to take a shot down the field, considering the Patriots vulnerable secondary.

Basically, the Jets need to get creative to manufacture points because New England is going to score their share. You aren’t winning this game with anything less than 24 on the board.

Defense – As previously mentioned, New England is going to gain their yards and score their share of points. The key is going to be, how many times can the Jets force the Patriots to settle for a field goal instead of letting them get in the end-zone? And can they force New England into a couple of turnovers? The Jets can’t allow the Patriots to rip off huge chunks of yardage. They have to make them work on long drives and hope they press eventually and Brady throws them an interception or Stevan Ridley coughs up a fumble.

New England thrives in their no huddle because they take advantage of a team’s inability to substitute and then gash them with their running game when they have personnel on the field to defend the pass. This is what makes having the personnel to run a “big nickel” that much more important. Rex Ryan seems to recognize that and smartly brought up hybrid safety/linebacker Antonio Allen last week and now this week has brought up another hybrid in Marcus Dowtin. These are the type of players you need to defend the Patriots, guys with coverage skills but who have the ability to play in the box and make tackles. Considering Eric Smith’s injury, look for extended reps for Allen and for Dowtin to be thrown right on the field like Allen was last week. At linebacker, Demario Davis should see a big chunk of Bart Scott’s playing time because of his speed and coverage skills.

Safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell were brought in to help slow down the Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. They can’t match them in man to man coverage and it may be a good idea to give Antonio Cromartie a few shots on them in certain situations. However, they have the ability to get physical with them in the box and re-route or delay their routes in hopes of throwing their timing with Brady off. It will be imperative that Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Aaron Maybin generate a pass rush because Brady is a different quarterback when he is getting frequently hit.

Special Teams – If Joe McKnight doesn’t play, Antonio Cromartie will be the primary kick returner and he is always capable of ripping off a big return. Jeremy Kerley remains dangerous as a punt returner as well. Any points generated from special teams would be a huge bump in a game where the Jets are trying to pace themselves with the Patriots offense. I have a tough time seeing the Jets executing another fake punt because you know New England is going to be waiting for it. Let’s see how creative Mike Westhoff can get.

Turn On The Jets Stock Watch: Jets vs. Colts Edition

Mike Donnelly’s weekly Stock Watch is buying and selling after Jets/Colts

Despite not being able to watch most of Sunday’s game live (damn you, Sunday weddings during football season!) and tweet irrational play-by-play analysis with you all, I did manage to catch enough of it to have a pretty good grasp of what went on. DVR’ing it and finally catching up on all the minor details didn’t hurt things either, and now I feel sufficiently confident and buying and selling all things New York Jets as we head into Patriots Week. Let’s get started..

BUY: Shonn Greene – YESSS!!!! FINALLY!!!!! For weeks I was the last remaining New York Jets fan defending Shonn Greene and telling everyone who would listen to not give up on this guy. It appears as though my plan to pretend to join the masses in giving up on Greene to motive him worked perfectly! Glad I could help, Shonn.

Ok, so maybe that’s not quite what happened, but it appears as though those thousands of Shonn Greene stock shares I own have just been upgraded out of Enron territory. Joe will have more on this in his offensive film breakdown, but Greene ran confidently, hit the holes hard, and didn’t even stumble over his feet that much. He even perfectly executed a spin move in the backfield to avoid a tackler and score a touchdown, which almost made me simultaneously spit out my drink and start crying out of pride and happiness. I felt like Pedro Cerrano at the end of Major League when he’s this close to giving up on Jobu, before crushing a huge home run. If Greene can run like that now that the weather is turning and the offensive line is starting to gel, we could really be on to something here.

BUY: Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller – The numbers weren’t crazy or anything, but these two guys being on the field helped open up the offense dramatically. Hill will drive us crazy all year with his inconsistent play and drops, but there’s no question that the defense has to account for his speed whenever he’s on the field. As for Keller, he didn’t do much as a receiver, but his blocking was tremendous, and it won’t be long before he gets into the swing of things catching passes.

BUY: Tebow’s 3rd and 1 run up the middle – I can’t for the life of me figure out why it took 6 weeks for the team to use Tebow for a power run up the middle in a short yardage situation. But better late than never I suppose, as they finally did it, having Tebow run right up the middle behind Nick Mangold, and — surprise, surprise– it worked! I’d like to see more of this, please.

BUY: Coaching – I know the perception of Rex Ryan is that he’s just some big bozo who runs his mouth and can’t back it up. That perception is wrong. Rex Ryan is really a very good coach, and this game was a prime example as to why. His defensive game plan was flat out brilliant, as he confused Andrew Luck for 4 quarters and managed to fix a run defense that was getting absolutely torched the past few weeks. Now, I know Vick Ballard isn’t exactly Adrian Peterson, but it was nice to see an excellent all-around defensive performance. On offense, kudos go out to Tony Sparano for staying the course and sticking with his run game while also finding ways to get borderline useless players like Jason Hill and Jeff Cumberland involved and actually put them in a position to make plays.

BUY: The Youth Movement – This wasn’t exactly planned heading into this season, but the Jets are quietly reloading and incorporating a youth movement while also managing to contend at the same time. Injuries to players such as Darrelle Revis, Santonio Holmes, Sione Po’uha and Eric Smith have forced youngsters like Kyle Wilson, Jeremy Kerley, Kenrick Ellis, Antonio Allen, and Quinton Coples into more prominent roles than they were expected to play. Throw in contributions from guys like Bilal Powell, Austin Howard, Demario Davis, and even — gasp! — Vlad Ducasse and the Jets are quietly building something very promising for 2013. And yes, I absolutely am going to expand on this for an article later this week, so be on the look out.

New York Jets – Can They Remain A Factor In Mediocre AFC?

Can the New York Jets remain a factor in the increasingly mediocre AFC?

In case you haven’t noticed, the 2012 AFC is a breeding ground of mediocrity. Through six weeks, only two teams are over .500 (Baltimore and Houston, both at 5-1) and there are seven teams sitting at 3-3. Beyond that, you have eight teams under .500, including five teams who are already at least two games under. Let’s take a quick, semi-serious look at the flaws with every team –

Houston (5-1) – They just lost Brian Cushing for the season and were stomped out in their own building by the Green Bay Packers. They barely scrapped by the Jets as they were acclimating about 6 new players to full time roles. When has Matt Schaub ever won an important game? Seriously, name one.

Baltimore (5-1) – No Lardarius Webb (a huge on field loss). No Ray Lewis (a huge locker room loss). Terrell Suggs still not all the way healthy and Haloti Ngata is banged up. They are almost entirely reliant on their offense right now. Is Joe Flacco really on that level yet? He has shown signs but did also only score 9 points against the Chiefs who couldn’t beat 11 sobbing Jason Whitlocks right now.

Jets (3-3) – Of course, I am listing them before all the other 3-3 teams not based any specific criteria just because this is a Jets website after all. I won’t go into the Jets flaws here because I do that every single day and night (check for our articles later today!)

Patriots (3-3) – Marquice Cole might be the best player in their secondary right now. Also they manage their games like you would if you played your little brother in Madden. Basically, you have Belichick and Brady keeping a Joe Biden sh*t eating grin on their face until they get an intentional grounding and a 10 second run off before the half so they can’t kick a field goal…and then lose by 1 point.

Denver (3-3) – You can’t fall behind 3 touchdowns and win every week because you can’t play Philip Rivers and Norv Turner every week. Their running backs are awful and their defense is criminally overrated (trust me, I know a criminally overrated defense when I see one…look at the team I cover).

San Diego (3-3) – Can’t wait until they finish 8-8 and somehow bring back Norv, their GM and Rivers for one more run! Remember, insanity is the definition of doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.

Buffalo (3-3) – Mario Williams is the most overpaid player in football. Their defense is thoroughly atrocious  They are a lock to go 1-5 in the AFC East. Oh and their fans will be seeing this sign on their way to games in a few years…

Miami (3-3) – Not sold on the Tannehill-Hartline love fest yet. Despite beating powerhouses like Oakland, St. Louis and Cincinnati who promptly turned around and got whipped by 0-5 Cleveland. Also Reggie Bush is inevitably going to get hurt.

Cincinnati (3-3) – AJ Green is a fantasy God-send. Seriously, he is more consistent than intense stomach pains after a meal at PF Changs. Unfortunately, Andy Dalton has never beat a team over .500 in his life. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is not a lead back and their defense has taken a major step back.

Pittsburgh (2-3) – Outside of their passing game, they don’t do anything particularly well any more. Their defense is old and slow. Calvin Pace, Eric Smith, Bryan Thomas and Bart Scott would fit right in.

Indianapolis (2-3) – They won’t win more than 2 games on the road this season. No matter how many “LOOK AT THE POISE!” articles on Andrew Luck are written, he is still a rookie working with a suspect supporting cast.

Cleveland (1-5) – Most accurate description of a sports city possible –

Oakland (1-4) – If the Raiders traded two 7th round picks for Carson Palmer they would have overpaid. Nevermind what they actually paid for him.

Tennessee (2-4) – Matt Hasselbeck is still better than Jake Locker, which isn’t a good sign for the long term health of this franchise. Chris Johnson. (Nothing else needs to be added).

Jacksonville (1-4) – Are we surprised it looks like they overpaid for Laurent Robinson and that Blaine Gabbert is still awful? Would they still take Tebow for a 3rd round pick?

Kansas City (1-5) – Brady Quinn! Peyton Hillis! Dontari Poe! Jonathan Baldwin! BOOOO!!!!!!!

So where do the New York Jets fit into this cluster of mediocrity heading into week 7? Fortunately, in the division they are off to a good start by being 2-0 where tie-breakers will be of enormous importance. They have played both San Francisco and Houston already while New England has played neither and Buffalo and Miami have only played one apiece. Their schedule for the rest of the season doesn’t make it implausible to think they could grab 9 wins in a conference where 9 wins could equal a division title and 8 wins could equal a wild-card spot.

Ultimately their success this year will depend on how the new parts acclimate to extended playing time. Rex Ryan appears to have recognized the shortcomings on his base defense and looks to be using more varied looks and personnel. The Jets need players like Quinton Coples, Demario Davis, Antonio Allen and Josh Bush to grow on the job while players like Antonio Cromartie, David Harris and Muhammad Wilkerson provide leadership and supply elevated levels of play that matches their talent.

On offense, Mark Sanchez needs to get the most out of his young group of receivers, starting this week in New England. We will get into this more tomorrow when we discuss offensive and defense game plans but the Jets must throw the ball down the field against the Patriots brutal secondary. This is the type of game they drafted Stephen Hill for and one that Jeremy Kerley, who is turning into a serious playmaker, should thrive in.

Obviously the running game must also remain effective. We have been harshly critical of Shonn Greene’s performance on this site in recent weeks because the film dictated that type of criticism. Greene broke out last week, thanks to better vision, a surprising amount of broken tackles, stronger run blocking and a weak run defense. Greene will shoulder a big load again this week and likely  next week while Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell are recovering from injuries. He must continue performing, to give balance to the Jets offense and open up the play action passing game. Proper use of Tim Tebow should also enhance a running game that has been struggling.

The Jets are facing a pivotal part of their schedule with two upcoming division games. They have an ability to take a stranglehold on the AFC East by winning their next two or an ability to dig themselves in a hole with losses in both. Realistically, a split should be the goal and would set them up well for a second half that features games against Jacksonville, Tennessee, Buffalo, St. Louis and San Diego at home in December.

This is a flawed team in a conference of flawed teams. There is an opportunity to create a little separation from the pack and gain a little respect with a win this week. Let’s see if the Jets are up to it.