One of the most intense rivalries in football will be renewed this Sunday, as the New York Jets take the trip up north to face their divisional rival, and defending AFC Champion, New England Patriots.
Both teams are mired in mediocrity at the moment. The Patriots have claimed blowout wins against the Titans, Broncos and Bills but have also suffered heartbreaking losses to the Seahawks, Cardinals and Ravens.
The winner of this contest will have the edge in the division as we reach the midpoint of the season.
Line: New England -10.5
The Patriots will be without Brandon Bolden, Steve Gregory and Tracy White on Sunday.
Wes Welker, Patrick Chung, Sterling Moore, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Logan Mankins and Dont'a Hightower are among the 11 questionable Patriots for the game.
The Jets will be without their top two defensive tackles, Kenrick Ellis and Sione Pouha. Running back Bilal Powell and safety Eric Smith will also be on the sidelines.
All-Pro center Nick Mangold and explosive kick returner Joe McKnight are also questionable for New York.
For the full injury report, click here.
Patriots Players to Watch
Chandler Jones has been phenomenal in the early going of his rookie season. The Syracuse product has recorded 27 tackles, three forced fumbles and five sacks and helped New England's run defense emerge as one of the best in the league. He will cause mayhem in the Jets' backfield if New York's offensive line doesn't bring its A-game.
After recording just 17 yards in Week 1 and witnessing the extreme overreaction of the national media, Wes Welker has recorded at least five catches and 95 yards in five consecutive games. Welker has been unbelievably consistent recently, and he will likely wreak havoc in the Jets' secondary on Sunday.
The Patriots seemed to have finally found a franchise running back with Steven Ridley. Ridley has recorded 524 rushing yards through six games, good for sixth in the NFL. The second-year man has also hit pay dirt four times on the ground. Against a New York defense that ranks a lowly 28th against the run, Ridley could be in for a field day.
Jets Players to Watch
Shonn Greene finally found his groove last Sunday, rushing for 161 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts. New York wants to "ground-and-pound" again to keep the ball out of Tom Brady's hands, but Greene will have a much tougher time finding holes against a Patriots defense that ranks fifth in the NFL against the run.
Kyle Wilson hasn't been embarrassed in man-to-man coverage yet this season, but he will be on Sunday unless he steps up his game. In previous games, opposing quarterbacks Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick overthrew wide-open targets deep who had beaten Wilson. Brady isn't likely to make the same mistake as those two subpar signal-callers.
Mike DeVito will likely get the start at defensive tackle this weekend for the Jets with Sione Pouha and Kenrick Ellis both out. It is critical that DeVito gets some push up front and keeps the Patriots' running backs from exploding into the secondary.
Key Matchups to Watch
Jets' safeties vs. Patriots' tight ends: New York brought in two hard-hitting, physical safeties (LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell) this offseason to help them defend against elite tight ends, such as Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for over 145 yards and two touchdowns the last time these two teams met. If Landry and Bell can limit the tight ends' production, it will go a long way in shutting down the Patriots' potent aerial attack.
Jets' wide receivers vs. Patriots' secondary: New England's secondary is much to blame for the team's subpar start. The unit was torched by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and a below-average Seahawks receiving corps last week. For New York to be successful on offense, the receivers have to find space in the secondary and make some big plays.
Nick Mangold vs. Vince Wilfork: Mangold and Wilfork are arguably the best players at their respective positions in the NFL. Every time these two behemoths meet, it is an epic battle. Whichever star can generate push will most likely determine how successful New York's running attack is on Sunday.
New York's X-Factor: Tim Tebow
Tebow hasn't had the impact the Jets envisioned in the preseason yet. That could change in New England, though. The polarizing former Florida Gator might play running back, and he is always a threat out of the wildcat, as well.
New England's X-Factor: Danny Woodhead
Danny Woodhead is a perfect fit in New England's offensive scheme. The running back is a terrific change-of-pace option, as he is always a threat to slip out of the backfield and make a big play on a screen pass. Woodhead has the ability to extend drives and frustrate defenses on a consistent basis.
No one really knows how this game will play out, as it seems that a different Jets team shows up every week. If the good Jets team shows up, this could be one of those divisional classics. If the bad Jets team comes to Foxborough, we could see a repeat of 2010's 45-3 demolition by the Patriots.
I believe the Jets come to play in a key divisional game, but Tom Brady and company are just too much to handle at home. Coming off a heartbreaking loss to an inferior opponent is sure to light a fire in Bill Belichick, and I just don't see New England falling to below .500 this late in the season.
New York sticks around for much of the game,but fails to do anything on the ground, leaving its hopes on the arm of Mark Sanchez. Although Sanchez has a solid game, he just can't compete with Tom Brady for four quarters.
Patriots 30, Jets 20
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