Arguably the most anticipated game this weekend is between the New England Patriots and New York Jets. While these two teams are polar opposites in styles, each has had great success in the past two years. This article will break down the styles and players of these two teams and offer a prediction for Sunday's contest.
Over the past few years, the Patriots have been notorious for trading several of their picks, maneuvering back for get more chances to find diamonds in the rough. A large part of the Patriots' success in the 2000s is due to this method of drafting, epitomized by this year's draft picks. From the 2010 NFL Draft, New England got starters Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Spikes, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Deaderick from picks for which they had traded.
In contrast to the Patriots, the Jets have traded to get a few picks in the early rounds, thinking that the higher picks have a better chance of yielding starters than picks in the later rounds. New York has been successful as well, yielding starters Kyle Wilson, Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene in the past two years.
Under Coach Rex Ryan, the Jets have looked to sign or trade for big-name players. This past year, the Jets traded for perceived high-risk players such as Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie, risky because of inconsistency, and the Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes, risky because of character concerns. This offseason, they also signed future Hall-of-Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson. All of these signings have payed big dividends for the Jets, especially Tomlinson.
Under Coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots have traded players they believe to be past their prime for future draft choices. Over the past few years, the Patriots traded linebacker Mike Vrabel for a second round draft choice from Kansas City (used on safety Patrick Chung) and defensive end Richard Seymour for a first round choice from Oakland (No. 17 pick this year).
As for signings, the Patriots consistently sign players on whom other organizations have given up. Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain was the sacks leader for the Patriots the past two seasons, and running backs Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have become integral parts of the Patriots attack.
Since the departure of Randy Moss, the Patriots attack has become centered on Tom Brady's ability to spread the ball around to multiple receivers, not unlike the offense functioned before Randy Moss came to New England. While the Patriots are a primarily passing team, their running game has been good this year as well, ranking ninth in rushing yards in the NFL. The Patriots attack has been extremely successful this year, leading to an MVP-caliber season from Brady and the No. 1 ranking in points scored.
Since the arrival of Mark Sanchez, the Jets have become a run-first team, ranking fourth in the NFL in rushing yards behind the efforts of Shonn Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson. Mark Sanchez does not play as big a role in the Jets offense as Tom Brady does in the Patriots offense; however, when his number is called to make a throw, Sanchez has some of the best receivers in the game to catch his passes, including Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery and tight end Dustin Keller.
The Jets pride themselves on their fantastic defense, perhaps due to Rex Ryan's experience as the Raven's defensive coordinator. The Jets defense relies on a series of blitz packages to stop other teams. Ryan constantly brings unexpected defenders on the blitz, attempting to catch offenses off-guard. The defense was top 10 in every major category this season.
This was a rebuilding year for the Patriots defense, with several rookies starting. While the defense is by no means bullet-proof, it has made several key stops this season. Statistically speaking, the Patriots were in the bottom third of the league in yards surrendered, but were top 10 in points given up, indicative of the defense's play this season.
Bill Belichick has always been reserved. Plain and simple. While he does not expect his players to have the same reserve as he does, he does expect them to be consummate professionals. Players rarely speak out and are usually traded if they tend to speak out in a negative fashion (see Adalius Thomas and Randy Moss). Part of Belichick's strategy is leaving his opponents guessing as to what his gameplan will bring each week. In 10 seasons with the Patriots, Belichick has posted a 126-50 record and has three victories in four Super Bowl appearances.
In his two seasons as the Jets head coach, Rex Ryan has been anything but reserved. During press conferences, Ryan constantly challenges his opponents and guarantees victory. He sometimes divulges his gameplans as well and has still posted a 20-12 record in two seasons as head coach. This week has been no exception. During a press conference, Ryan called the game a battle between him and Coach Belichick. Some say Ryan's outspoken nature is a way of taking pressure off his players, but even if it is not, Ryan has a winning record in the regular reason and, more importantly, in the playoffs.
This Sunday these two teams will hit the gridiron for what is bound to be an entertaining contest. While the Patriots are a popular pick in the playoffs right now, one of their two losses this season did come against the Jets in Week 2, 28-14. Also, from a talent perspective, the Jets most likely have more total proven talent.
There are other facts that, I think, matter more:
1) The Patriots were undefeated at Gillette Stadium this season and Tom Brady has a 25-game home winning streak. The game is at Gillette Stadium, translation: advantage Patriots.
2) The Patriots shellacked the Jets defense, 45-3 in Week 11. There was a reason Tom Brady and the New England offense kept running up the scoreboard: They were making a statement. Granted, the Jets will be out for revenge, but they do not scare the Patriots as they may have last year.
3) The Patriots have won 12 of their last 13 games coming off a bye week, and the loss to the Ravens in last year's playoffs is still fresh in Belichick's mind. He wants to win, and the Patriots will be prepared.
4) Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis is a phenomenal player. In the Wild Card round, he held the explosive Reggie Wayne to one catch for one yard. However, the Patriots do not rely on Randy Moss anymore; therefore Revis's ability to neutralize a receiver is not as big of an advantage as it could be.
5) The Patriots' record under Belichick in the playoffs is 14-4 and while Rex Ryan is a great coach, he needs to back up his talk this week to raise his stock, seeing as his talk fell extremely flat in week 11.
Due to these reasons, I think that while the game will be much closer than the 45-3 Week 11 result, the Patriots will pull out a win, 30-17.