Patriots vs Jets: 10 Keys to the Game for New York
For the New York Jets, regular season games don't get any bigger than this.
A primetime matchup on Thanksgiving Night against their most hated rival; a game that could severely improve or cripple their playoff chances.
At 4-6, Gang Green need to go on a serious hot streak to the end the season to get back to playing January football.
It all starts against Tom Brady and Co.
Here are ten keys for the Jets pulling off an upset and coming out of Turkey Day 5-6.
Win the Turnover Battle
Winning the turnover battle will be a tough feat for New York, but it is key if they are going to walk out of the Meadowlands with a victory.
The Patriots currently lead the NFL with an amazing plus-20 turnover margin, while the Jets are among the middle of the pack with a plus-1 turnover differential.
In the Week 7 battle at New England, the Jets lost the turnover battle 2-1, but still managed to take the Patriots to overtime.
If Mark Sanchez can make better decisions, and the defense can get pressure on Brady, the team could be in line for a huge victory.
Attack the Pats Secondary
The Jets want to run a "Ground-and-Pound" offense, but that is not the way to beat the Patriots.
A fearless aerial attack is the way to beat the Patriots.
New England's pass defense is atrocious, as they rank 30th in the league in passing yards allowed.
In Week 7, Mark Sanchez had a lot of success attacking the Pats secondary, throwing for a season-high 328 yards.
Even with the addition of Aqib Talib, New England's defensive backfield is full of holes. New York cannot be afraid to throw the ball deep.
Get Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight Involved
For New York to be successful on the ground against a staunch Patriots run defense, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight need to get involved.
Powell and McKnight both bring the explosiveness that Shonn Greene lacks.
A consistent rotation among the three backs could be extremely successful for the Jets, just like it was in St. Louis.
Greene can knock the Pats defenders off their feet with his bruising running, and Powell and McKnight can find holes against a battered unit late.
Convert on Third Downs
While New England boasts the league's best third-down offense, the Jets often struggle in such situations.
Mark Sanchez and company are converting just 38.6 percent of their third downs. They simply need to be better on Thanksgiving.
New York's offensive unit has to be able to move the chains consistently and keep Tom Brady and the explosive Pats offense off the field to have a chance in this one.
For this to happen, Mark Sanchez has to be able to connect with Dustin Keller on a consistent basis, and Shonn Greene needs to keep converting 3rd-and-short situations like he has been doing all season.
Do the Basic Stuff
Interceptions and fumbles are one thing, but being unable to do the basic things on the field is another.
This season, New York has really struggled to do the most simple tasks on the field, such as catching the ball and wrapping up ball-carriers.
Against a superior Patriots team, the Jets have to avoid key drops and missed tackles.
But if they continue making such mistakes, this one could turn into a blowout quickly.
Keep Tim Tebow on the Sideline
Is it a coincidence that Mark Sanchez had his most efficient game of the season when Tim Tebow barely saw the field?
I think not.
Without the distraction of Tebow constantly coming in and out of the game, Sanchez was able to find a rhythm and have tremendous success against a a strong St. Louis Rams secondary.
It is critical that Sanchez finds that same rhythm against a very exploitable Patriots secondary.
That means as less Tebow as possible on offense.
Avoid Killer Mistakes on Special Teams
Special teams has been one of New York's strengths over the last few seasons, but the unit has completely fallen apart this year.
Returners have failed at key times, punts and field goals are have been blocked and fake punts have failed miserably.
Mike Westhoff needs to fix up his unit in time for Turkey Day.
A key special teams error will severely cost the Jets against such a strong opponent in the Patriots, as Tom Brady and the New England offense will capitalize on such mistakes.
Knock Down Tom Brady Early
Tom Brady is an outstanding quarterback, but he can often get rattled if he is hit hard and often early on in games.
The Jets managed just one sack in the October game with the Pats, as Brady outsmarted Rex Ryan's advanced blitz packages.
If New York can get the same amount of pressure on Brady this time around, it could amount to more success though, as Terrific Tom does not have Rob Gronkowski to check down to.
Pressure early could also lead to some rare mistakes by the future Hall of Famer.
Keep New England Offense One-Dimensional
The Patriots offense has gotten even more dangerous this year, as they have managed to find a stable running attack.
New England ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
Young backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen have been superb throughout the season and help balance a once one-dimensional offense.
For the Jets to contain the Pats offense, they need to get Tom Brady back to throwing the ball 50 times a game.
This means snatching and holding on to an early lead and then stuffing New England's young running backs at the line of scrimmage.
Contain Wes Welker in the Slot
Wes Welker has been a thorn in the Jets side for years now, but Tom Brady may rely on him more than ever on Thursday with Rob Gronkowski out.
Welker recorded six catches for 66 yards on eight targets when these teams met in Foxborough in Week 7.
The Jets have to blanket Welker on third down and in the red zone to help slow New England's offense and get Tom Brady off the field.
If the defense can make Brady look outside instead of the middle the field, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson could make a big play.