This Sunday could be the biggest Jets game played at Metlife since their victory against the Patriots in Week 2 of the 2010 season. The Jets need to win their next two contests to have a legitimate shot at reaching the postseason for the first time since 2010. Gang Green comes into Sunday’s matchup relatively healthy, while the Patriots arrive limping in. In their matchup earlier this year in Week 7, the Jets were arguably a Brandon Marshall drop away from escaping Foxboro with a victory. Here are your Christmas Edition Story Lines…
Jets Rookie Head CoachesLet’s take a walk all the way back to the 2006 NFL season. Eric Mangini had just gotten hired by Gang Green, after serving the Patriots as a defensive coach for the previous 6 years. In week 10 of the 2006 season, Mangini’s squad defeated the Patriots 17-14. Fast-forward to 2009, when the Jets hired rookie Head Coach Rex Ryan. In week 2, Rex Ryan went on to defeat the Patriots 16-9. Both coaches lost the other matchup that year with the Patriots. t’s an interesting trend, as you wouldn’t think rookie head coaches would beat the great Tom Brady and Bill Belichick too often. If Mangini and Rex beat the Patriots once in their rookie years, can Todd Bowles?
Red Zone Offense
The Jets 2015 red zone offense might of been the most exciting and surprising aspect of this 9-5 team. They are converting touchdowns in the redzone 66.67 times (according to team rankings), which is tied for second best in the league with the Patriots, of course. As impressive as that number is, the Jets were only 50% (2/4) converting touchdowns in the redzone in Week 7 against the Pats. The Jets settled for Nick Folk field goals of 20 and 30 yards on the two drives that didn’t produce touchdowns, and they ended up losing by 7. While 50% isn’t an awful number, it is definitely not good enough to beat the Patriots. The Jets must convert all of their red zone opportunities into 6’s, not 3’s. In order to do so, the emphasis should be on targeting Marshall and Decker as much as possible, while avoiding targets to players like Kellen Davis and Jeff Cumberland.
Jets Defense vs White and GronkowskiThe Patriots are starving for playmakers. Brady has been playing almost all year with a makeshift offensive line, and receivers that may be deserving of a practice squad spot at best. Coming into this showdown Sunday, James White and Rob Gronkowski (as per usual) are the two players that can really hurt the Jets. The Patriots have been killing the Jets for years with pass catching backs, dating back to Faulk and Vereen. Todd Bowles and his defense needs to make sure James White, a very versatile and speedy back, is rarely matched up with a linebacker (Davis or Harris). Due to the injuries to the Patriots receivers, expect White to be lined up increasingly more as a flanker. Putting Skrine or Marcus Williams on White would be a wise move for Bowles. As for Gronkowski, is there really ever a solution? The guy is unbelievable, and you can really only hope to contain him. The Jets need to be physical with him at the line of scrimmage, and mix up the way they cover him literally every single play. Never show him the same look. Play him single, double, triple, play some zone, and switch up who is the primary cover guy on him. Gilchrist, Pryor, Revis, and Cromartie should all have their turns covering him, messing with the rhythm of Brady and Gronk that hopefully they never can reach.
In week 7, the Jets won the Time of Possession battle with over 33 minutes to the Patriots nearly 27 minutes. It wasn’t enough. As always, the key to the game is keeping Brady and company off of the field. In order to do so, that means getting the running game going and converting short yardage situations. Gang Green’s running game has received a nice boost for Bilal Powell who has scored in their last 3 games. Ivory has been decent as of late, but a 41 yard performance like in Week 7 just will not cut it.
The Patriots front 7 is actually very talented, therefore the Jets will need a season-best performance out of their front 5 big men. The Jets will need their offensive line to come out fast and physical, and especially get big pushes on 3rd and 4th and shorts. As I mentioned in the TOJ roundtable earlier this week, the Jets short yardage struggles against Dallas almost lost them the game. We’ve found out that having Ivory take a handoff from 5 yards deep in the backfield is not the solution. Will we see more Fitzpatrick sneaks? We can only hope so. Not converting these situations against Dallas is one thing, but failing to convert against the Patriots and possibly giving them short fields to work with, is a whole different animal. Extend drives and keep Tom on the sidelines.–
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com