New York Jets: 10 Keys to Victory Against the Patriots on Monday Night
The Jets face their biggest test of the season when they head to Foxboro Monday night for a showdown with the Patriots.
If the Jets want to win this division and truly put the Patriots in their rear-view mirror, a victory on Monday would be a huge step toward that goal.
The Jets have been here before. Winning in Foxboro in 2008 with Brett Favre, the Jets thought they had passed the Patriots then.
Except that the Jets went on to lose four of their next five games, finishing that season at 9-7 and decidedly out of the playoffs.
Since then, the Pats have reeled off 25 consecutive regular-season home wins, and are in a dead heat with the Jets atop the AFC east.
So the game on Monday is not a "be all, end all," but a Jets victory would put the Jets back in the driver's seat to win their division for the first time since 2002.
Key 1: Can Mark Sanchez Continue To Play Well on the Road?
Sanchez is having a tremendous season.
He has been particularly effective late in games facing clutch situations on the road. If there has been any negative to his play, it is that he has at times been inconsistent within games both on the road and at home this year.
He cannot afford that this week. The Jets can't go 3-and-out often, and need Sanchez to play a complete game, not just to be effective during a two-minute situation.
You also must consider that the Patriots rank dead last against the pass, allowing 288.5 yards passing per game. The last time these two teams matched up, Sanchez got his season jump-started by throwing for a career-high three touchdowns.
Key 2: Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery
For Sanchez to be effective, and for the Jets to take advantage of the weak Pats secondary, these guys have to get open for Sanchez all day.
The Jets like to spread the ball around, and Holmes and Edwards are both explosive enough to break a big play against New England.
Probably the best cover guy for the Pats is Devin McCourty, the rookie from Rutgers University. He will most likely match up with Holmes as he can match Holmes' speed.
That leaves Braylon Edwards with a huge opportunity to gash the Patriots secondary.
This corps of receivers presents a major challenge to New England; the Jets need to aggressively take advantage of it.
Key 3: LaDainian Tomlinson, Sanchez's Outlet
L.T. needs to be the outlet receiver for Sanchez.
The Jets should aggressively throw against this secondary, and the times that New England is equal to the task, Tomlinson can still make them pay with surrendered yardage in the short-passing game.
Key 4: Overcoming the Sudden Loss of Jim Leonhard to Injury
Leonhard is a little undersized, a little slow and doesn't look the part of a football player. However, a football player is exactly what this guy is. He is tough and a true leader out there for the Jets defensive unit.
He is an on-field extension of head coach Rex Ryan.
He quarterbacks the defense and calls plays for the Jets secondary, and his absence will need to be addressed in short order for this week's game in New England.
Leonhard was injured in practice in a collision with backup wide receiver Patrick Turner. So, the Jets weren't exactly preparing to play without their starting safety.
It appears that Eric Smith, who struggles in pass coverage, will step in for Leonhard. Smith is a better athlete than Leonhard, but he isn't a better football player.
For a unit that has struggled to cover tight ends, the loss of a starting safety is a big one. If Smith could fill in admirably, it will go a long way for the Jets' chances to win on Monday night.
Key 5: Special Teams, Can the Jets Take Advantage of this Area of Strength?
Going into the game, special teams were a major advantage for the Jets.
That advantage took a bit of a hit with the loss of Leonhard. Leonhard was not a spectacular punt returner, but he was the type of guy who got whatever yards he could with every return.
More importantly, the guy didn't muff punts and he didn't fumble.
Now, the Jets will have to replace him with another player. In a game where one mistake could cost you, the Jets cannot afford to have a returner back there who may muff a punt, or fumble when hit. This is a major area to look at Monday night.
As for kickoff returns, Brad Smith is a nightmare for the Pats. He returned one last week against the Bengals; can he take one back again this week?
Key 6: Corners and Safeties Must Come To Play
The Pats don't have a running game to really speak of. Their running game is short passes.
We know that Darrelle Revis will do a nice job on Deion Branch, and Antonio Cromartie will be solid as well.
But the last time these two played, it was Aaron Hernandez who was a nightmare for the Jets to cover, particularly in the first half.
Wes Welker was also open very often in that game, catching six of Brady's passes. Cromartie will most likely cover Welker, and he needs to be physical with him at the point of attack.
Drew Coleman becomes a big key in nickel packages when the Pats go 4 and 5 wide, and will Kyle Wilson be forced into action?
Key 7: The Kicking Game
In a game that could come down to a field goal, which Nick Folk will we see?
The punter Steve Weatherford is one of the most underrated Jets this season. Field position is going to be a huge factor Monday, and Weatherford is great at flipping the field with a booming punt, or dropping one inside the 10-yard line.
Key 8: The Running Game
We know that the Jets will pass it aggressively on Monday night, but they need a running game to keep the Pats honest. The Patriots are a middle-of-the-pack defense against the run, and give up over 100 yards rushing per game.
L.T. will factor in the passing game, but will he be able to run it against the Pats defensive front? Shonn Greene got it going last week against the Bengals; he should get his opportunity against the Patriots this week.
Late season was Greene's time last year. If the Pats drop more smaller corners and safeties into coverage, can Greene take advantage with his size and strength combination?
Key 9: Playing the Complete Game
The Jets have not played well for a full 60-minute game this year. Rex Ryan has watched as his team has needed miracles to pull out games, and lost games they have had a chance to win.
They trailed the Bengals at the half last week.They blew a huge lead at home against the Texans two weeks ago. They needed overtime to beat both the Browns and Lions. And they played poorly on offense in their two losses this season to the Packers and Ravens.
The Jets will need to play well for a full game if they want to beat New England.
Key 10: Can a Rex Ryan Defense Own Tom Brady Again?
Of all defensive minds, it has been Rex Ryan's that has befuddled the Pats signal-caller the most.
In the Patriots' near-undefeated season of 2007, it was the Ravens, for whom Ryan served as defensive coordinator, that came the closest to beating Brady's Patriots.
They managed just nine points against Ryan's Jets in 2009, and only 14 in the first matchup with the Jets this season.
Can Ryan come up with the answer to contain Brady again Monday night?
You know the Pats are a team that reads up and watches tape on tendencies. They know when the Jets like to blitz and when they like to sit back.
Ryan will need to stay a step ahead of Brady this week.
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