Jets vs. Patriots: Who Has the Advantage at Each Position?

Louis Musto@LouisMustoContributor IIINovember 9, 2011

Jets vs. Patriots: Who Has the Advantage at Each Position?

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    It’s Round 2 between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots, and as has been the case for the past few seasons, a lot is riding on the line for both squads.

    The Jets come into this Week 10 matchup with high expectations after a 30-21 loss to the Patriots in Week 5 at Gillette Stadium. That loss sparked a four-game winning streak with the Jets most recent victory coming over the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills in convincing fashion, 27-11.

    The Patriots, meanwhile, enter this game having dropped two straight against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, respectively.

    With a three-way tie for the AFC East lead and the well-documented history of this rivalry, especially in recent years since the Jets have become a contending team, it’s hard to overlook such an exciting matchup with everything it brings to the table.

    Last season, the Jets won the first meeting between these two teams 28-14, only to lose 45-3 in an embarrassing fashion during their Week 13 rematch. Of course we remember how that all turned out—the Jets defeated the Patriots in a memorable Divisional Playoff game, 28-21.

    This season’s rematch brings that postseason atmosphere to MetLife Stadium, where the Jets’ eighth-ranked defense hopes to shut Tom Brady and the Patriots offense down. At the same time, Bill Belichick hopes to get his defense together for another big matchup after a generally strong performance in their upset defeat at the hands of the Jets’ stadium-mates, the New York Giants.

    With a lot of characters in this matchup and a lot on the line, let’s look at how each team matches up  and who has the advantage.

Quarterback

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    Mark Sanchez is anything but the best quarterback in the league, but this season’s Tom Brady has been anything but the usual Tom Brady.

    Sanchez performed well for the Jets in their victory over the Bills in Week 9, though he was saved by some mistakes the Bills were unable to capitalize on. Sanchez spread the ball around the field and did a great job on the deep ball all day.

    Still no rational person could choose Sanchez over Brady right now, especially with how inconsistent “The Sanchize” has been in his 2011 campaign—see Sanchez's 57.5 completion percentage.

    The Jets eight-ranked pass defense presents a very difficult hurdle for Brady to overcome. The Jets are fully capable of pressuring the quarterback, something the New York Giants proved to be a good plan to force Brady to struggle. The Jets, of course, are second in the NFL in takeaways.

    Despite that, if this game comes down to quarterback play, Brady is going to win it for the Patriots. Brady has beaten the Jets plenty of times before and it’s never out of the question for him to have 326-yard, four-touchdown day if the Patriots need it.

    Advantage: Patriots

Running Back

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    Neither the Patriots nor the Jets present a daunting rushing attack—the Pats are ranked 17th, the Jets 25th.

    Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson have struggled early. Greene had a better game in Buffalo in their Week 9 victory over the Bills, but the Jets are still averaging just 3.6 yards per carry (29th-ranked) and 96.6 yards per game heading into a matchup with New England’s ninth-ranked run defense.

    The Patriots’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis has had a good season for them when he’s been asked to carry the load, averaging 4.2 yards per carry and tallying 452 yards rushing on the season. The Pats are 17th in rushing yards, but they rank 10th in yards per carry with 4.5—a product of how often they pass the ball rather than run.

    The Jets had struggled for the season stopping the run, but did a stellar job holding one of the league’s best rushers, Fred Jackson, to just 82 yards on 18 carries. In doing so, the Jets silenced the Bills’ biggest home run threat and kept the game in their favor.

    One game does not tell the story of a season however, and it is possible the Patriots’ success running the ball will continue when these two meet in MetLife Stadium—Green-Ellis rushed for 136 yards on 27 carries and found the end zone twice in the Patriots 30-21 Week 5 win.

    Advantage: Patriots

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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    The New York Jets receiving corps is the best it has been in years. With talents like Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, and Plaxico Burress catches passes from Mark Sanchez, there are fewer quarterbacks in the NFL blessed with such targets.

    While Holmes continues to be the outstanding deep threat the Jets had hoped for, Dustin Keller is quickly becoming one of the NFL’s best tight ends. Keller, Sanchez’s favorite target, suffered injury in the Jets Week 9 victory over the Buffalo Bills, but it does not appear to be something that will keep him out of the Jets matchup with the New England Patriots.

    The Patriots receiving corps isn’t one to be overlooked either. With Tom Brady wielding the ball, every receiver always improves—except for Chad Ochocinco, that is.

    Wes Welker is always a threat with his incomparable speed. He leads the league with 66 receptions and 966 yards with a second-ranked six touchdowns on the season.

    Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s new favorite target, is arguably the best receiving tight end in the NFL. Gronkowski is second in both receptions and receiving yards in the NFL with 44 receptions for 596 yards and six touchdowns for the Pats.

    Despite Brady’s less-than-normal 2011, the Patriots receiving corps has still enabled him to pass for a second-best 2,703 yards and 20 touchdowns (third in the NFL).

    Both quarterbacks have an assortment of talents to throw to, but with New England’s shoddy pass coverage throughout the 2011 season, the Jets receivers should have no trouble dissecting the Patriots’ 32nd-ranked pass defense and putting big points on the scoreboard.

    Advantage: Jets

Offensive Line

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    The New York Jets and New England Patriots boast two of the most consistent, talented offensive lines in the NFL. Unfortunately, that has not appeared to be so in the numbers through eight games in the season.

    Minor injuries have hampered the Jets’ All-Pro offensive line, but the Jets have been able to do enough to fight through those injuries and post a 5-3 record, tied for first in the AFC East with their Week 10 opponent, the Patriots.

    Neither Mark Sanchez nor Tom Brady have found themselves with a lot of time in the pocket, being sacked 17 and 15 times, respectively. Pressure has been the biggest cause for struggles for both teams on the offensive line of the ball, an opportunity the Giants seized in the Patriots’ Week 9 loss.

    The Patriots have had greater success running the ball behind their offensive line, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, but their limited rush attempts in each game could be protecting an offensive line that may falter in their run blocking as the game goes on. The Jets, meanwhile, struggled for the first few games in the running game, but running back Shonn Greene has done a much better job on the ground and between the tackles.

    Advantage: Patriots

Defensive Line

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    The New England Patriots have always prided themselves on being able to structure their team’s from some of the lesser known players—or lesser desired players, even—and turning it into a success. For the most part, this season has not been the usual for New England in any department, especially their defensive line.

    Former New York Jet Shaun Ellis and the now-released Albert Haynesworth have failed to live to the expectations the Patriots placed on them. The two combined for nine tackles to this point in the season and have failed to tally even a single sack—Ellis averaged 6.6 sacks a season for the first 11 seasons of his NFL career.

    Fellow newcomer, Andre Carter, has been great for the Patriots at defensive end and is the brightest spot on their defensive line. Carter makes phenomenal effort on each and every play, and has been a terror for offensives in the run as well as the pass, with 4.5 sacks on the season.

    The Jets, on the other hand, have had trouble recording sacks, but their pressure from all points has forced opposing quarterbacks to make foolish throws week-after-week. Though they have just 18 sacks on the season—good enough for 18th in the NFL—quarterbacks have posted a menial 59.4 passer rating.

    That quarterback pressure has also churned out a second-ranked 19 turnovers in favor of the Jets defense. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has thrown 10 interceptions this season and lost one fumble.

    Advantage: Jets

Linebackers

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    Both teams bring some stunning linebackers corps to this game. With Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Rob Ninkovich for the Patriots, and Bart Scott, David Harris, and Calvin Pace for the Jets, there is not a game in Week 10 that will present two linebacking groups quite as good.

    The New York Jets have done a great job in all facets of the game from the linebacker position this season. Bart Scott and David Harris have done fantastic work in the middle, stopping the run as well as getting after the quarterback when needed. On the outside, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas are two of the best in the sport today.

    The Jets linebackers have accounted for 10 sacks and four interceptions on the seasons, giving quarterbacks fits on a weekly basis.

    The Patriots are no Sunday brunch, terrorizing opposing offenses as has been the story since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000.

    The Patriots linebackers have enabled themselves to be the ninth-ranked run defense in the NFL through nine weeks of football. Mayo, Spikes, Ninkovich, and Guyton rarely let runs get past them—opposing offenses rush for just 102.2 yards per game.

    However, the Patriots linebackers have failed to get to the quarterback often, something the Pats have been well-known for in years past. The Patriots linebackers have recorded just 1.5 sacks on the season—all from Rob Ninkovich.

    The Jets passing game relies on quick routes and dump-offs to Dustin Keller and their running backs. The Patriots might be able to stop the run, but the Jets are 5-3 with a minimal ground attack already. If the Pats can’t rush Mark Sanchez and force him into dangerous passes, it could be a long Sunday for Belichick and his boys.

    Advantage: Jets

The Secondary

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    The New England Patriots pass defense in pathetic. It’s no secret. They know it, everyone knows it. Devin McCourty and company represent the worst pass defense in the league, surrendering 314 passing yards per game—14.4 yards per game more than the next closest team, the Green Bay Packers.

    Opposing quarterbacks have abused the Patriots week-after-week and it appears that there is nothing the Patriots can do to stop them, especially after releasing Leigh Bodden, one of their top corners, before their Week 9 matchup with the New York Giants. The only upside is the Patriots turnover number, picking off 10 passes on the season.

    Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has been shoddy and inconsistent, throwing wobbly balls and making terrible misses. The Patriots need to force Sanchez to throw some interceptions for their pass defense to keep them in this game—the Patriots did not intercept a Sanchez pass in their Week 5 win over the Jets.

    While the Pats might have the worst secondary in the NFL, the Jets present the top secondary. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie have spent two seasons together now torturing opposing quarterbacks on both halves of the field, this season is no different.

    The Jets are tied for third in the NFL with 13 interceptions. Their opponents’ passer rating of 59.4 is head-and-shoulders above any other secondary in the league and only three teams have allowed a lower completion percentage than the New York Jets, which sits at 53.4 percent.

    The New York Giants showed that costly mistakes can be made by Tom Brady and it will ultimately kill the Patriots. There’s no better team to force Brady into costly mistakes than the Jets this season.

    Advantage: Jets

Special Teams

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    If it’s the secondary that makes the New York Jets a good team, Joe McKnight and the Jets secondary is what separates them from the pack. McKnight has had an outstanding season for the Jets in the kick return department and leads the NFL with an average of 40.2 yards per return. It seems like every time he returns the ball, he’s going to do something special with it and leave the Jets in great field position when he does.

    Nick Folk has been one of the best kickers in the game, missing his first field goal of the season in the Jets Week 9 win over the Buffalo Bills. Folk is 11-of-12 on the season, his only miss coming on a 50-yarder. Punter T.J. Conley has been effective as well, aiding the Jets in the field position battle.

    The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has not been quite as good as the Patriots would hope through eight games, making just 13-of-16 field goals on the year. Punter Zoltan Mesko, meanwhile, has shown off a very big leg, punting the ball 45.1 yards per punt.

    Julian Edelman has been ineffective for the Patriots in the return game, hovering near the bottom of the league in kick return average. Wes Welker is the only bright spot for the Patriots in the punt return game, averaging 10.5 yards per return.

    Advantage: Jets

Conclusion

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    The Jets and Patriots Week 10 matchup is guaranteed to be an exciting one as it has been for quite some time.

    Coach Rex Ryan is 2-3 in the regular season against Belichick and the New England Patriots, but it is worth noting that these two teams have split their meetings in each of Ryan’s first two seasons with the Jets. Don’t be surprised if that trend continues this season.

    Jets 27, Patriots 21

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