After a week of debate over "the call," the Patriots have another bitter rival to face this week.
The Jets, of course, handed this team a bitter loss in Week Two, meaning the Pats have extra incentive to focus this week.
Though the Patriots typically rebound the week after a loss, it would be a mistake to assume this game will be a rout. Though the Jets have struggled as of late (losing their last two games and five of their last six), they are still perfectly capable of making this meeting miserable for the Pats.
The following are the keys to the game:
Establish the run early. In Week Two, the Pats were only able to gain 83 yards on the ground, despite a respectable 4.2 yards a carry.
The Patriots must run to keep the Jets defense on its heels, rather than in attack mode. Using a passing-intensive scheme early would allow the Jets blitzers to tee off on Tom Brady, rather than worrying if they're running past a back.
Lawrence Maroney has been playing relatively well lately (or had been, until that fumble at the goal line last week), and Kevin Faulk showed he retains the elusiveness to run from the shotgun. Both should see some action this week.
Make sure the pocket holds. Jets coach Rex Ryan has said he wants Tom Brady out of the pocket, mentioning that the QB's accuracy declines significantly in those situations.
The Jets were able to accomplish exactly that in the last meeting, ensuring Brady never got comfortable via a number of overload blitzes.
Hopefully, this should be less of a problem this time around. Bill Belichick has had time to look at the team's problems on film, Brady has gained confidence in his knee, and rookie Sebastian Vollmer is looking like a star at left tackle.
I think the game will hinge on this more than any other factor.
Bottle up the Jets' run game. This Jets team can be explosive in the run game (Thomas Jones, for example, exploded for 210 rushing yards against Buffalo). Indeed, the Patriots gave up 117 yards to this team in their previous match-up.
Remember, Mark Sanchez is a rookie, and teams with rookie quarterbacks always want to provide the security of a successful running game. Deny them that.
Do whatever you can to make Sanchez uncomfortable. If the Pats have done well with the previous bullet point, they've done half the battle.
Limiting the Jets' running attack on first and second down will leave them in obvious passing situations, never good if your quarterback is still learning the game (and can be generous with the football).
Playing unconventional may help here. Try to show Sanchez something he's never seen before.
He likes to throw on the run, so make him stay in the pocket.
I think the Pats should play well here, and set up an extremely interesting match up against the Saints. The Jets can clearly be beaten, but the Pats can't afford to let their guard down.