NFL Week 7 Preview: 5 Reasons New England Can Light Up the Jets Defense
Two teams meet in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Sunday after finishing off Week 6 in entirely opposite fashion.
While the New York Jets hosted and trounced Andrew Luck and the upstart Indianapolis Colts by a score of 35-9, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots traveled to the opposite side of the country, only to blow a late lead to the Seattle Seahawks, ultimately losing 24-23.
Despite this contrast, the one constant entering this game is that each team has finished Week 6 at 3-3 with a share of the AFC East lead.
As this rivalry renews, only one team will exit with at least a part of the division lead. It may not be the 45-3 embarrassment that New England put up against the Jets in 2010—in fact, fans could expect a close, high-scoring affair—but, nevertheless, the Patriots should be gearing up to take out their frustrations on the Jets this week.
Here are five reasons why the Patriots can light up the Jets defense.
Playing at Gillette Stadium
Foxborough has not been the impenetrable stronghold that it was when the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls. Rather, New England has notched home losses in each of the last two seasons.
That said, Gillette has not been mecca for Jets fans either.
Under Rex Ryan, the Jets have triumphed just once on the road when New England hosted a 28-21 playoff loss in the 2010 divisional game. In fact, for the first two seasons that Ryan and Belichick squared off in this divisional rivalry, the two teams split victories at home.
Belichick’s Patriots eventually swept the season series in 2011 by winning at home, 30-21, and outscoring the Jets in New York, 24-7, in the second half the last time these two teams met.
Efficiency on Third Down
Stats don’t do it justice for the Patriots: New England is converting 46.6 percent of its third downs this season and were a below-average 8-of-18 in Seattle this past Sunday.
Despite first-half success, New England has struggled to convert crucial third downs in the second half of games it has lost this year.
The Jets defense, however, has allowed successful conversions of 45.7 percent of the third downs it has come up against this season, which could be enough to allow the Patriots to put the game out of reach if the time comes.
What’s more, the Jets offense is well below average, converting just 39 percent of its third-down attempts, which suggests that the Patriots offense should get more opportunities on the field this week.
Tom Brady Coming off a Loss
Tom Brady with a chip on his shoulder is a dangerous force to meet midseason.
After the loss to Seattle, the New England quarterback took a lot of the blame because of poorly thrown balls that either bounced in front of intended receivers or glanced off their hands and were intercepted (once in the end zone).
Twice, Brady was flagged for intentional grounding, the first of which cost the Patriots an opportunity to try for a field goal to run out the half.
To Brady’s credit, New England—against the second-best rushing defense in the NFL—showed a willingness to abandon a rush game that it has been refining as of late. Brady threw a career-high 58 pass attempts, completing 30 for 395 yards, so certainly his potency has not gone anywhere.
New England's Developing Rush Attack
Although Tom Brady has been the lynchpin of this New England offense for some time now, expect Week 7 to be the biggest test for the young Patriot rushing attack.
Though New York is the fifth-best passing defense in the NFL, they are also the fourth-worst rush defense, allowing 150.5 yards per game this season.
For the Patriots, that will mean exhibiting the potency of second-year running back Stevan Ridley, who is currently averaging 8.5 yards per carry. Ridley is well on his way to his first 1,000-yard rushing season, having already eclipsed 500 yards through the first six games.
With rookie Brandon Bolden also uncertain after injuring his knee on Sunday, Danny Woodhead could see work, if not as a traditional rusher, definitely coming out of the backfield as a safety option for Brady underneath.
Preparing for Questionable Injuries
For once, this is not Bill Belichick playing games with his injury report.
The limited return of tight end Aaron Hernandez poses an impossible problem for the New York Jets to prepare for.
Early on in the season it appeared that the Patriot offense would be centered around Hernandez—who can line up as a tight end, slot receiver and out of the backfield. But with his injury in Week 2, it remains to be seen just what his workload will be as he continues to rehab and return.
That does not mean that Ryan and the Jets do not have to plan for him, however. In his return, Hernandez caught six passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, proving that he can be impactful in an offense that continues to diversify.
What may impact Hernandez’s targets this week is the severity of the injury sustained by Brandon Lloyd when he dove for a ball out of bounds in the final minute of the loss Sunday.
A game plan without Lloyd could be disastrous for the Jets as they prepare this week. Lloyd has 20 catches along the sidelines this season and just seven in the middle of the field. His absence can entirely alter where the Jets bring their coverage.