By: Russ Goldman
After the Patriots beat the Lions 45-24 in Detroit on Thanksgiving, they are home to face the New York Jets in a huge Monday Night game. Before each Patriots game this season, as always here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live Monday Night on ESPN at 8:30 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
GAME NOTES: The Jets like the Patriots come into this match-up at 9-2. They won their last game on Thanskgiving 26-10, and they have won many close games lately. Regardless of how the Jets came away with the victories, the most important note is they came way with the win. They are a tough opponent on both sides of the ball, and they are coming into Gillette Stadium with a tremendous amount of confidence.
On defense this team is ranked high in many categories. They are 4th in the league in rush yards, and 12th in pass yards. They are only giving up just 17 points per game. The Jets are very strong at linebacker, with this group led by inside linebacker David Harris, who is a potential all-pro. He already has 74 tackles this season with 2 sacks. The true strength of this defense could be their two cornerbacks. Darrelle Revis, as we know, is a shut-down corner. On the other side you have Antonio Cromartie, who has 3 interceptions this season. Overall, the Jets defense is very good, and will again be a challenge for the Patriots offense.
On offense, the Jets are still a running unit first. They are 2nd in the league in rushing and are averaging 148 yards per game. The big surprise I think for the Jets has to be the play of Ladainian Tomlinson. He has run for 745 yards with an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Shonn Greene is also a back to key on, as he has run for 575 yards and an average of 4.1 yards per carry.
The wildcard for the Jets offense has to be quarterback Mark Sanchez. His completion percentage is not the greatest at 55%, but he has been great in making plays in key situations. He has three good targets to throw to. Tight end Dustin Keller gave the Patriots fits in the first match-up the season. However, the bigger threats could be wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards.
The Jets deserve to be 9-2 and this will be a tough game for New England. However, since the game is at home I do like the Patriots chances in this match-up.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots defense needs to stop the run. In the first game, the Patriots did a nice job stopping the Jets in the first half. It was the second half that the Jets made their yardage, taking advantage of the Pats while they were in their sub-packages. For the Pats to get control of this game, stopping the Jets backs should be a huge priority.
2. The Patriots need to keep Mark Sanchez in the pocket. Sanchez is similar to Ben Roethlisberger and is dangerous when he gets outside of the pocket when the play breaks down. The defense needs to force him to throw inside of the pocket and not let him get out and improvise.
3. The Patriots defense cannot give up big plays. Whatever you think of the Pats defense this season, they have not given up many huge plays. Sanchez likes to hit his wide receivers down the field, so New England needs to make Sanchez drive the entire field and earn his points.
4. The Patriots tight ends need to make an impact in this match-up. The Jets defense has not done a good job this season covering tight ends. If Revis and Cromartie take away the Pats wide receivers, it could be up to the tight ends to extend drives and score touchdowns in the red-zone. For New England to win, I think Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have to be very involved in the passing game, while Alge Crumpler could be very important in pass protection.
5. The Patriots need to win the turnover battle. The Pats defense does give up yards, but they do excel in causing turnovers. I think it will be very important to win the turnover battle Monday night, as neither of these teams are prone to making mistakes. That could actually be the difference in tonight’s game.
I do feel confident that the Patriots will come away with a victory. In the end I think this game will be controlled by the two quarterbacks. If it comes down to Brady and Sanchez making plays to win the game, I would put my money on Brady. I do see this as a very close game, but in the end I am predicting a 28-24 Patriots victory.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.