The New York Jets travel to New England to take on the 5-0 Patriots for first place in the AFC East. Most lines have them as 9 or 10 point underdogs. Let’s break down the match-up and see how the league’s number one ranked defense can slow down the league’s number one ranked offense, along with how the Jets offense can produce enough versus an evolving Pats defense.
The Glass Half Full – The Patriots have an inexperienced and banged up offensive line, which should allow the Jets stacked up defensive line to consistently get pressure along with clog up run lanes. New England is still struggling to replace their cornerback exodus and lacks the size to consistently match up with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Chris Ivory has been the best running back in football through 6 weeks and the Patriots have an average at best run defense. New England is going to lose a game at some point so why not now after their emotional post DEFLATEGATE win?
The Glass Half Empty – The Patriots are the defending World Champs and are better than the Jets until proven otherwise. They are also ridiculously dominant at home. Tom Brady >>> Ryan Fitzpatrick. Dion Lewis is going to be a difficult match-up for a team short on speed at linebacker. The Jets may be without slot corner Buster Skrine and dime corner Marcus Williams, two needed pieces for a defensive back heavy game plan.
Offensively: The Jets have the league’s top ranked rushing attack while the Patriots have been middle of the road defending the run (14th overall at 114.6 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry). This isn’t a game to shy away from Chris Ivory being your workhorse. New England can be run on and another strong outing from Ivory will help keep Tom Brady off the field and Ryan Fitzpatrick in favorable down and distance situations.
When throwing the football, Malcolm Butler has been steady at corner for the Patriots and Devin McCourty remains one of the best safeties in the NFL but the Patriots lack size. It will not be easy for them to match up with Brandon Marshall outside the numbers or Eric Decker from the slot.
Defensively: How do you slow down the Patriots triplets of Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis? The Jets are likely to use their most valuable chess piece, Darrelle Revis, in a variety of ways. I’d expect to see Revis occasionally on Gronkowski on early downs and frequently shadowing Edelman on third downs. If Gronk doesn’t have Revis on him, the Jets will need to bracket him with Marcus Gilchrist over the top. As for the Lewis, this is a game for them to flood the field with defensive backs and have Calvin Pryor basically play linebacker full time to track Lewis. I’d look for plenty of nickel, dime and 4-2-5 looks when they lean on their defensive line to get pressure.
Unlike Buffalo, the Jets cannot let Rob Gronkowski get a free release down the seam or try to have one of their linebackers stay with him in single man coverage. It is a recipe for allowing 40 points.
Similarly, Dion Lewis needs to be treated more like a receiver than a running back when split out wide. Look how easily he runs by a linebacker here.
Overall: Todd Bowles will need to be creative and multiple to slow down a loaded Patriots offense. The defensive line must be able to generate pressure without the support of the blitz and safeties Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist need to continue their strong play. Offensively, Bill Belichick is going to put this game in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hands. He has dominated him in previous match-ups and the Jets badly need Fitz to protect the football while continuing to move the chains through Marshall and Decker. This is going to be a close one and hopefully the Jets can make one more play in the fourth quarter in a hostile environment.