Welcome back to another edition of TOJ’s Pick Six. Thank you to everyone who contributed answers for last week’s edition, and for sending in questions since the launch of the series. Let’s jump right into Pick Six by looking at 6 matchups that will go a long way towards determining who is in first place in the AFC East by 4:00 tomorrow.
1. Sheldon Richardson versus Shaquille Mason
The Jets defense got their second best defensive lineman back last week and Sheldon looked like he didn’t miss a step against a banged up Washington OL. This week, he gets another favorable matchup against a rookie in Shaquille Mason. Sheldon is a matchup nightmare for a veteran, so a banged up rookie in only his second start has to have him salivating. Tom Brady is getting the ball out in under 3 seconds, so it will be up to Sheldon to collapse the pocket when Brady is under center to make Brady hesitant to pull the trigger and to give the rest of the Jets defensive line a chance to get home.
With Nate Solder already out for the season with a bicep injury and Marcus Cannon now out due to a toe injury, the unenviable task of protecting Brady’s blindside against perennial All-Pro Wilkerson falls on Cameron Fleming. Wilkerson is putting together another All-Pro season with 24 tackles and 4 sacks. He’s on pace for a career high 13 sacks. Fleming struggled when called in to action against Greg Hardy, so if Wilkerson can replicate Hardy’s success and Sheldon can win his battle as listed above it’s going to be a long day for Brady.
3. Dion Lewis versus Calvin Pryor
The Jets haven’t been able to cover a wheel route for as long as I can remember. No one other than Darren Sproles runs it better than Dion Lewis right now. I think you’re going to see the Jets go with more 4-2-5 looks this week, where Calvin Pryor essentially plays the role of a 3rd linebacker strictly so he can matchup with Lewis. While Pryor does struggle in deep coverage, he does not struggle to tackle in space. He’s been much better this year of wrapping up backs and, if not successful, holding on to them long enough for the rest of the Wrath of Todd defense to swarm.
4. Eric Decker versus Duron Harmon
Devin Smith will probably draw Logan Ryan all day, unless Gailey uses him in the slot. With Eric Decker being the team’s primary slot WR, he gets Duron Harmon. Decker has Harmon by about 3 inches and 25 pounds, so this is an “impose your will” kind of game where Decker needs to use his physicality to create separation and consistently beat Harmon. He will be Fitz’s safety valve and chain mover, so it’s important that he wins this matchup.
5. Brandon Marshall versus Malcolm Butler
Malcolm Butler is not a good cornerback regardless of how many times they replay that great play in the Super Bowl. He’s allowed 4 touchdowns this year and QBs have a 119 QBR throwing at him. He’s also too small to cover Marshall one on one. If the Patriots decide to key in on Chris Ivory and leave Butler one on one against Marshall the Jets need to exploit that matchup repeatedly. Marshall has been as good as ever this year, and seems rejuvenated after an injury plagued year last year. Another 100 yard game should be the objective.
This is listed this way because we have no idea how Bowles will deploy his armada of corners. Will Revis shadows Edelman all game? Will Cro get a crack at Gronk? Who covers Amendola? These are all questions that we’ll answer soon. Here’s my prediction: the Jets will use Skrine on Edelman early and Revis on LaFell to start. They will put Demario Davis and Gilchrist on Gronk, and use Cro on Amendola and have him press him the entire way. By the 4th quarter, Gilchrist will be on Gronk, Revis on Edelman, Skrine on Amendola, and Cro on LaFell. The Jets will adjust to the Patriots and vice versa, but I think Revis on Edelman let’s them blitz Skrine. This isn’t a game they blitz a lot in, I don’t think. This is probably the most important matchup from a player personnel standpoint.