NFL Predictions Week 5: 5 Keys to the Jets Knocking off the Patriots
Last year, the loss to the Jets created a bitter end to the Pats' season in which they went 14-2 and were considered by many to be the leading Super Bowl contender. The Jets have shown they can consistently stop the Patriots' offense and win, going 3-2 over the last two seasons including the victory in last year's playoffs.
But the Jets are currently in a two-game losing streak, and their offense struggled greatly in the loss to the Ravens in Week 4. These are the Patriots, though; the Jets are desperate for a win, and there is no better way to end a slide than beating your division rival. The Jets do not fear the Patriots and know they can beat them.
Here are five keys to victory for the Jets.
1. Establish the Running Game
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The Jets have made a name for themselves on offense the past two seasons as a "ground-and-pound" football team.
This season, however, they have moved away from that philosophy and allowed third-year QB Mark Sanchez to pass a lot more than he did in his first two seasons.
This new strategy has produced mixed results, as Sanchez has two 300-yard games already, but is being constantly exposed to hits because of the lack of protection the offensive line is giving him. The Jets' potent running game in the past has enabled Sanchez to find his receivers more easily since defenders have to commit to stopping the run.
This season the Jets are averaging a porous 71 YPG rushing, 30th in the league. That's just not going to cut it for a team that focuses on the running game to open up its offense.
The Jets need to establish the run early against the Patriots' poor defense to open things up for Sanchez and the passing game. If there is ever a chance to revive this running attack, this is the game, as the Patriots are giving up 477 YPG—dead last in the league.
2. Protect Mark Sanchez
The Jets have one of the best receiving groups in the league, and Sanchez is a good enough QB to get them the ball—if he actually had the time to throw it.
Sanchez's numbers are misleading: 55 percent completion, five interceptions and nine total turnovers are extremely inflated due to the offense's horrific performance against Baltimore last Sunday.
Sanchez has shown much more poise and confidence in the pocket this season, but he has been constantly exposed to hits because his O-line hasn't been giving him sufficient time to throw the ball.
With Nick Mangold injured, Colin Baxter has been less than stellar as his replacement, and guard Brandon Moore and tackle Wayne Hunter have struggled greatly so far this year. The return of Mangold this week will help, but he won't be at 100 percent, and the line needs to get it together and do a much better job of protecting Sanchez.
While Sanchez has made some critical errors and ill-advised throws, many of them have been under extreme pressure from opposing defensive players, and many are off-target because he is being hit as he throws. Protecting Sanchez will be key if the Jets want to walk out of New England with a victory.
3. Contain the Pass
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Tom Brady and the Patriots once again have the league's best passing attack, but the Jets are one of the few teams that can consistently stop it.
If the Jets are smart, they will put Darrelle Revis on Wes Welker all game to make Brady look elsewhere.
Once again, Antonio Cromartie is the x-factor of the Jets' passing defense. He has been a solid starter opposite of Revis, but has been inconsistent in how he plays from game to game. He played very well during the Jets' two wins over the Patriots last season, but struggled mightily in the blowout loss later in the season.
The Jets will need the more shut-down version of Cromartie this week if they hope to slow the Patriots' attack.
The Jets' main focus should be stopping the Patriots tight end Ron Gronkowski (and possibly Aaron Hernandez), as well as stopping the running back out of the backfield. During last season's 45-3 blowout, the Jets were constantly burned by Danny Woodhead's speed coming out of the backfield, but in the playoff game, they prepared for it and shut it down.
Containing the Pats' passing game will be key for the Jets to win this game.
4. Pressure Tom Brady
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Tom Brady is having a field day against opposing secondaries. He has thrown for 1,553 yards and 13 touchdowns so far and is on pace to have an NFL record-breaking season.
While there is next to no chance he can keep up that pace, Brady is one of the most dangerous passers in the league. The key to the Jets stopping him is pressuring him all game long and hitting him to get him rattled.
NFL fans saw first-hand what happens when Brady gets hit often and is under constant pressure: He performs at a much lower level than he usually does.
Against the Jets in last season's playoff game, the Jets sacked him five times, forced a fumble, caused an interception and knocked him down numerous times. The end result was an off-day from Brady and a victory.
In Super Bowl 42, the Giants knocked Brady down repeatedly, and he was under constant pressure as New York went on to upset the 18-0 Patriots and end their hopes of a perfect season.
Bottom line: The Jets have to bring the pressure on Brady if they hope to win this game.
5. Mark Sanchez
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It all comes down to the quarterback: the main key to the game for the Jets is the performance of third-year QB Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has shown more maturity and poise in the pocket so far this season, but has made critical errors that have raised questions about his ability to lead this team to the Super Bowl.
While his mistakes need to be corrected, many of them can be contributed to the lack of time Sanchez has to throw the ball.
However, despite the constant pressure from opposing defenses, Sanchez has missed a number of very make-able throws and must improve on his accuracy in order to keep the Jets' offense moving.
Getting the running game established would greatly help his performance, but his accuracy must improve if the Jets hope to keep their offense moving. This game could very well come down to how Sanchez performs.
In the Jets' three victories over the Patriots the last two years, Sanchez has played well and limited his mistakes. The end results have been wins.
During their two losses to the Patriots, Sanchez greatly struggled, made poor decisions and the Jets ended up losing. His play could significantly affect the outcome of the game.
In order for the Jets to win on Sunday and stay in the thick of the playoff and division race, Sanchez must step up his play and become the quarterback New York thought it was drafting in 2009. He has the talent and weapons; now is the time for Sanchez to step up, take control of this team and lead them to the Super Bowl.
New York Jets vs. New England Patriots 1/17/2011 (Jets win 28-21)
The Jets created a well thought out game plan for this playoff game last season to confuse Brady and keep the offense in check. The Jets need to use the same philosophy they used in the playoff victory this week. Their zone coverage completely baffled Brady and they sacked him five times, three of them while only rushing three defensive linemen. If the Jets can contain the Pats' tight ends and cover Danny Woodhead out of the backfield, the Jets should win this game. Cromartie and Revis can handle any of the Pats receivers one-on-one and if the Jets can create a pass rush and hit Brady a few times, it will knock him off his rhythm and further increase the Jets chances of winning.
Prediction: Jets 31 Patriots 27