5 Bold Predictions for New England Patriots' Week 7 Matchup
This matchup again?
If recent history is any indication, that familiarity favors the Pats. As Ben Volin retweeted from FantasyStartSit, New England has dominated the second matchup between the two teams each of the last few years:
So will history repeat itself in the form of another Pats blowout? Here are five bold predictions for the Pats-Jets matchup in Week 7.
Brady Will Be Sacked at Least Four Times
This won't be pretty.
The Patriots' offensive line, a longtime strength of their offense, has struggled mightily in the last two weeks against two elite pass-rushing units. Though the Patriots are still ranked sixth overall in adjusted sack rate allowed per Football Outsiders, they have allowed a combined nine sacks in their last two games against the Bengals and Saints.
Don't expect a rebound performance in Week 7 against the Jets, who like the Saints are a top-10 pass-rushing unit.
The Jets' ferocious combination of Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson (7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles) should handily win their matchups against the Pats' interior line. None of the Pats' interior linemen have graded positively in the pass game per ProFootballFocus this year, with Ryan Wendell ranked 32nd of 34 centers at pass-blocking.
The Pats will need to establish a solid ground game and get the Jets on their heels with quick screens and slants against New York's middling secondary. Otherwise, Brady will spend far too much of his Sunday on the turf.
Kenbrell Thompkins Will Haul in 100 Yards Receiving
Despite the talent along the defensive line, the Jets' secondary has struggled in recent weeks.
The good-but-not unstoppable trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Jake Locker completed 78 percent of their passes for six TDs, zero INTs and a 117.7 QBR against the Jets in the past three weeks.
Kenbrell Thompkins, resident hero from the Pats' last-second victory over New Orleans, will take advantage. With likely bracket coverage on Julian Edelman, the Pats' top target (and the league's fourth-most targeted receiver), Thompkins will get his chances in Week 7.
Though Thompkins is second in the league in dropped passes with six (one behind fellow rookie Tavon Austin), his growth has been steady and continuous over the course of the year. Brady's trust in Thompkins has grown by the week (as evidenced by the decision to throw his way in Week 6 with the game on the line). Expect this week to signal the arrival of Kenbrell Thompkins, once and for all.
LeGarrette Blount Will Fumble
One thing the Jets defense excels at is forcing fumbles. They've jarred eight balls loose from the hands of opponents in their first six games, good for fifth-best in the NFL. They've had rough luck with the bounces, recovering just two of those fumbles, but the effort to strip the ball is there.
Their defensive line is particularly skilled at forcing fumbles—the Wilkerson-Richardson combination alone have forced three. That poses a problem for between-the-tackles runners who run headlong into the teeth of this tenacious pair.
Given Pats running back LeGarrette Blount's penchant for fumbling, both historic and recent (he lost a ball in the Bengals game in Week 5), I expect him to be the Jets' next victim.
Meanwhile, look for Stevan Ridley to capitalize on Blount's mistake to firmly re-cement his claim on the Pats' featured back position.
Austin Collie Will Haul in Five or More Catches
In a contest between familiar foes, a new face may give the Pats an advantage.
Austin Collie, signed to the Pats' roster before the Bengals game in Week 5, made a couple of huge catches in the Pats' final drive against the Saints.
His work ethic in absorbing the Pats' playbook has been remarkable. According to the Boston Herald, Collie has reportedly been staying late to work with receivers coach Chad O'Shea and learn the Pats playbook. As Collie himself said,
It’s just a matter of putting in the extra time. This is obviously a complex offense. I’m not going to get it if I go with the regular schedule. I’m a little bit behind the eight-ball coming in five weeks later than everyone else and not having the offseason. So I’ve got to find every chance I get to cram that in.
Collie has only faced the Jets once, back in 2009. He caught six passes for 94 yards in that game. He's a different player now and unlikely to put up that kind of output, but I expect a number of unexpected catches from a player the Jets don't have a lot of recent film on.
The Pats Will Win by a Field Goal
Throw out the recent history. The Pats aren't the same team that blew out the Jets in the second matchup last season, and just about everything broke their way in that game anyway (remember the Butt fumble?)
This game will be close. The Jets sport one of the league's best defenses and will be able to keep the Pats' hobbled offense in check. WIthout Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib the Pats won't be able to shut down the Jets as thoroughly as they did in Week 2.
Still, I expect Tom Brady to work his magic one more time in leaving a pair of Ryan brothers in his wake each of the last two weeks. Stephen Gostkowski, who has had a phenomenal season so far this year, will be the hero in knocking the game-winner through the uprights.