By: Derek Havens
After a long week of back and forth from both the Jets and Patriots personnel, Sunday has finally arrived. The trash talk, rivalry, and playoff atmosphere is a dream scenario. Most people have picked the Patriots to win this weeks game by a comfortable margin, and I agree. While I don’t believe the Pats will win 45 – 3, I think the Pats will move on to the AFC Championship game next week. Here are some thoughts on Sunday’s game:
Stop the run: The Jets rushed for 169 yards last week, so the Patriots will have to make sure that does not happen again. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene will look to have monster games and control the clock. Obviously, the Jets want to keep Tom Brady off the field. If the Jets can establish their running game and control the games overall tempo, it will be a long day for the Patriots.
Make Sanchez uncomfortable: Mark Sanchez misses too many throws and has certainly not progressed the way he or the Jets had hoped. While he has played well in the final minutes of games, he has not historically played well in new England. In fact, he has a 1 – 7 Touchdown – Interception ratio. England’s pass defense has greatly improved since the beginning of the season and is much better when it blitzes. If the Pats can get some early pressure and make Mark Sanchez uncomfortable early, it could lead to another Patriots victory.
Matchup to watch: Patriots tight ends versus Jets Defense: With Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Alge Crumpler, the Pats use Tight Ends more intricately than any team in the NFL. While these three players have very different skill sets, they all have great success in their roles with the team. How Rex Ryan accounts for the various formations his team will face will be critical if the Jets want to leave New England victorious. Because Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie will likely cover the receivers on the outside, Jets will have to find away to win their individual match-ups. It is almost an unwinnable situation for any defense.
Protect Tom Brady: Brady has been incredibly good versus the blitz, and the Jets chose not to blitz Manning often last week in Indianapolis. Brady is a difficult quarterback to sack because of his pocket awareness and ability to get rid of the ball when he is under pressure. The Jets, like the Patriots, do not have one superb pass-rusher at their disposal and have struggled getting to opposing QBs this season. The Patriots’ protection is exceptional and will need to continue if the Patriots want to keep their SuperBowl aspirations alive.
Be ready for anything and everything – Since the Jets have were embarrassed on December 6th, they have a large chip on their soldier. I expect the Jets to open up their offensive playbook to keep pace with the Patriots offensive attack. Whether its using the “Seminal” package or fakes on special teams, the Patriots need to be ready for everything. If the Patriots let their guard down, they could get burned.
Don’t take your foot off the gas – If the Patriots get off to an early lead, which I expect them too, I hope they keep the foot on the gas. Meaning I do not want them to relax and play prevent defense and conservative offense. I would hate to see them get caught off guard with a trick play or rare mental error. The Patriots need to continue to play smart and disciplined football. The way the Pats have played through this point in the season, it is hard to imagine a scenario where this takes place.
With all of these thoughts taken into consideration. I believe the Patriots can continue their home dominance and move on to the AFC championship game. While I don’t believe it will be a blow out for the Patriots, they should have no problem winning by 14-point margin if they continue to play their style of football. Brady and Belichick have never lost in the divisional round after having a bye in the wildcard round. The Jets will be ready to play but I think the Patriots want to shut up the Jets trash talkers on the field. My prediction is Patriots – 34, Jets – 20.