2010 NFL Playoff Divisional Round Preview: New York Jets at New England Patriots
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Don't worry about the Jets and Patriots, people.
This is about Rex Ryan vs. Bill Belichick. This time, it's personal.
This, at least, according to Ryan himself.
The two teams split the season series, with the home team winning each time.
So, what can we expect when they face off Sunday afternoon in Foxborough?
Why the New York Jets Will Win
If the Jets have any realistic hope of rebounding from the 45-3 drubbing they received at the hands of the Patriots the last time they visited New England, they're obviously going to have to get that thing called "defense" squared away.
New York's defense allowed 427 yards of offense to the Patriots on that fateful night, including 326 through the air.
Slowing Tom Brady is no easy task, but he went 21-29 for 304 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in that game, while completing at least one pass to eight different receivers.
They did well to sack Brady three times, but were able to force no turnovers, while the Patriots intercepted Mark Sanchez three times.
Speaking of Sanchez, he'll have to have a better showing than he did in the Wild Card round win over Indy for the Jets to have a prayer in this game.
The second-year pro was 18-31 for 189 yards with one INT and zero touchdowns. He often looked skittish and uncomfortable in the pocket against a Colts pass rush that repeatedly forced Sanchez to make wildly inaccurate throws.
Weapons like Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller are quite formidable, but their impact on the game obviously takes a severe hit when the quarterback can't get the ball to them.
The Jets' offensive line did a nice job keeping Sanchez upright the last time these teams met, and the quarterback will need to show better poise with the time he's given back there. The Patriots' secondary is their most glaring weakness, and Sanchez will have to take advantage of it.
However, the key to New York's offense is always the ground game.
The Jets averaged 4.4 yards per carry on their way to 169 rushing yards and two touchdowns last week against the Colts. Then again, the Colts boast one of the worst run defenses the league has to offer.
New England is 11th in the league in opponent rushing yards, so LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene will have their work cut out for them.
As was the case last year during the playoffs, it seems as though Greene is beginning to steal carries from the veteran back, and he's performed well.
He ran for 64 yards on just 13 carries during the 45-3 debacle for a solid average of 4.9 yards per carry.
New York's Keys to Success
1. Get to Tom Brady
2. Dominate the ground game
3. Win the turnover battle
The Jets certainly have the personnel required to wreak havoc in the backfield on defense, and they need to use this to their advantage. Brady isn't easily rattled, but if the Jets are able to hit him a few times and force him out of the pocket, then he's out of his comfort zone.
As mentioned above, the Jets are one of the league's elite running teams. Establishing the run would effectively alleviate Sanchez of some of the pressure, which will also help him to throw with confidence when given the chance.
As they say, turnovers are the "great equalizer." New York lost the turnover battle 3-0 in the last game between the two, and those turnovers helped give Brady and the Patriots' offense great field position each time.
New England set an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season this year with just 10, so it obviously won't be easy. If the Jets want to win, they'll have to make plays on defense.
Why the New England Patriots Will Win
They have Tom Brady.
Brady threw 36 touchdowns with just four interceptions while completing 66 percent of his passes this season, and he appears to be the clear-cut favorite to take home his second NFL MVP award.
He hasn't thrown an interception since Week 6, and is undoubtedly playing the best football of his career.
If his offensive line can give him time to scan the defense and make the throws he wants, he'll be able to pick the Jets apart by himself.
Brady will also need help from his running backs, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
The Jets are one of the league's premier teams in terms of stopping the run, but New England had decent success against them last time, running for 101 yards on 26 total carries with a pair of scores.
New England's offense is certainly known for maintaining possession of the ball, but their defense is also one of the best in terms of taking it away. They ranked second in the league in turnovers forced (38) and first in interceptions (25).
New England's Keys to Success
1. Give Brady time to throw
2. Force Sanchez into turning the ball over
3. Stop the Jets' rushing attack
When Brady has time, there's no quarterback in the league better at slowly killing a defense. Simple stuff.
Sanchez, as we've seen, can be rattled easily, and is quite prone to making bad mistakes. If the Patriots can force him into an early turnover, then it could be a long day for the Jets' No. 6.
Since Sanchez likely isn't going to beat you himself, New York will be relying heavily upon their rushing attack. If New England is able to limit their effectiveness running the ball, there's very little chance for the Jets to have much offensive success.
Verdict: Patriots 34, Jets 17
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