Patriots vs. Jets: How New York Can Pull off the Thanksgiving Upset

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst INovember 22, 2012

Patriots vs. Jets: How New York Can Pull off the Thanksgiving Upset

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    The final Thanksgiving Day matchup features the surging New England Patriots (7-3) and the still-alive New York Jets (4-6) at MetLife Stadium. 

    New England, winners of four-straight games, is a touchdown-favorite on the road over its AFC East rivals. 

    A New York loss Thursday night probably ends any playoff hopes for the Jets this season, putting the pressure on Rex Ryan and the Jets to keep their heads above water.

    How can New York upset the Patriots and stay alive for another week?

    We'll give you three things the Jets need to accomplish to get a win in Week 12. 

Trust Mark Sanchez

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    The Jets offense had success in St. Louis last week by protecting their struggling quarterback with short throws and pocket manipulation (designed rollouts, for example). In that safe environment, Sanchez played well (15-of-20, 178 yards, one touchdown), and the Jets scored 27 points. 

    However, New York needs more than a game manager against the Patriots. 

    The Jets trusted Sanchez in the first meeting to make throws downfield, and he responded with arguably his best game of the season production-wise.

    That has to happen again Thursday night.

    New England is still allowing almost 300 passing yards a game, so opportunities should again be available.

    It will be on Sanchez to take advantage of New England's biggest weakness while also not turning the football over (Patriots have an AFC-high 27 takeaways). 

Flip the Field with Special Teams

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    Protecting the football might be the most important area for the Jets to beat the Patriots, but setting up a few easy scores with special teams should be a close second. 

    If there's any aspect where New York has a clear advantage over the Patriots, it's with return men Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley.

    Both are instinctive and explosive with the ball in their hands on punts and kicks. In fact, both McKnight and Kerley already have returns for a score (McKnight kick, Kerley punt) this season. 

    Getting an explosive return or two from either player would help Sanchez and the offense keep up with New England on the scoreboard.

    At the very least, big plays on special teams are momentum changers that can swing a game in favor of the home team. 

Stop the Run

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    As good as the Jets have been against the pass this season, New England will have no problem scoring on this defense if New York cannot stop the run and make the Patriots a one-dimensional offense.

    In fact, the run has slowly become New England's go-to weapon on offense. 

    Somewhat surprisingly, the Patriots have run more times this season (330 attempts) than all but two NFL teams. Their rushing average (142.9 yards/game) is the fifth-best in football. 

    New York struggled to stop the Patriots on the ground in the first meeting, as New England ran for 131 yards on 31 carries (4.2 yards per carry).

    If that rushing production is replicated on Thursday, the Jets can probably expect Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to approach or go over 30 points.