Just more than four weeks ago, the New York Jets vs. the New England Patriots was an embarrassment—a clinic conducted by one team for another that could do nothing right.
New England’s 42-point dismantling of New York in Foxborough on Dec. 6 was the definition of domination in its purest gridiron form.
A similar beatdown doesn’t exactly seem inevitable when the two sides get reacquainted for a divisional round matchup at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 16, but another Patriots victory is a foregone conclusion, right?
Here are five reasons the Jets can beat the Patriots next weekend.
Any team would rather play at home, especially in the postseason, but the Jets’ recent playoff success belie the typical hazards that are typically associated with going on the road in January.
With Saturday’s 17-16 wild card win at Indianapolis, head coach Rex Ryan and New York have won three of their past four playoff games, all of which have been played away from The Meadowlands.
What makes this game so radically different from the four previous? The fact that this is a divisional opponent? That Tom Brady guy? The New England mystique?
Ryan will fulfill or exceed his allowance of trash talk this week, and maybe even stroke the Patriots’ egos as a form of reverse psychology, but you know he’ll be treating this one like any other playoff game, which has proven successful thus far.
The Jets actually out-rushed New England 152-101 in that loss last month, but the advantage on the ground was wiped out by three turnovers committed by Mark Sanchez.
When New York relieves the pressure on Sanchez by effectively executing on the ground, the playbook opens up and the offense becomes far more difficult to defend.
The unit of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore and Damien Woody is one of the best in the league, but inconsistency has been an issue in 2010. It took them a half to wake up against the Colts, but when they did they dominated, paving the way for a pair of second-half scoring drives that were things of beauty in the way in which the Jets dominated up front.
If the Jets can exploit some holes in New England’s 11th-ranked run defense with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson—and keep Brady off the field—Sanchez can capitalize on some bootlegs and play-action in the passing game, where the Patriots’ defense is much weaker.
In two games against the Jets this season, running back Danny Woodhead and tight end Aaron Hernandez have both recorded 100-yard receiving days, but the Patriots’ corps of wideouts has been only fair.
That’s because New York comes with a pair of corners whose speed, athletic ability and awareness are matched by only a few in the league.
Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are an excellent tandem and have the ability to shut down the Patriots’ vertical passing game. Against the Colts, Cromartie struggled at times in space, but Revis made Reggie Wayne an absolute non-factor, holding the Pro-Bowler to one catch for one yard.
If both are allowed to be physical with what is a group of undersized receivers, the Jets can force the Patriots to lean more on the run or rely on the underneath routes, which will minimize the opportunity for a big play.
Sanchez must be a frustrating player to watch if you’re a Jets fan.
Just when you think the second-year quarterback has it figured out, he’ll throw a wounded duck into traffic for a pick and you write him off. Then he’ll take on the appearance of a seasoned vet, leading the offense on a long scoring drive while utilizing his arm and legs to make play after play.
It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, really. So, what Sanchez will we see in Foxborough? Probably both, you would think.
With a young player like Sanchez, you take the bad with the good, and he’s at his best when his supporting cast is clicking. Beyond that, he must make good decisions, much like he did against Indianapolis.
If the Jets can find success on the ground, Sanchez will keep the New England defense on their heels with his ability to keep plays alive with his feet and throw the ball downfield in any situation.
It’s apparent Ryan has put his personal stamp on this Jets team; actually, that was apparent the moment he took over prior to the 2009 season.
A mixture of fun-loving lightheartedness and new-school, outlandish coachspeak, Ryan has a blueprint for his team’s success, and it’s to be able to run the ball with authority and play solid defense. His team does both.
New York ranked fourth in the league during the regular season with 148.4 rushing yards per game. On defense, the Jets were third against the run, sixth against the pass, and third overall.
More than anything else, the manner in which the Jets play, provided they don’t hurt themselves with turnovers, is conducive to winning on the road in the postseason whether it’s against New England or someone else.
If the Jets can carry out their game plan next Sunday, and play their style effectively, they have an excellent chance of moving on to the AFC Championship.