By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots (3-1) are coming off of a 31-19 victory over the Oakland Raiders on the road, and now are back in action today to face the the New York Jets (2-2) at Gillette Stadium. 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 today on WBZ-TV Channel 4 at 4:15 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
GAME NOTES: The Jets are coming off of a 34-17 road loss to the Baltimore Ravens. New York has now lost their last two games, and will be looking to end that streak against the Patriots.
Last season, the Patriots and the Jets split their regular season games as both teams won at home. However, the Jets beat the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs and ended the Patriots season.
It might still be early into the season, but I believe this game is very important for both teams. We could look back at this game as being pivotal in the division race.
On defense, overall the Jets are still a very solid unit. The defensive line is average, but has a promising rookie in defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to watch out for.
The linebackers are real strong and led by David Harris at inside linebacker. He already has 22 tackles with 1 interception.
The secondary is very good, and has probably one of the best defensive players in the league in Darrelle Revis. However, Antonio Cromartie at the other cornerback position is average at best. The safeties are solid, and are led by hard hitting Jim Leonhard.
On offense, the line has been struggling, and has been very vulnerable so far this season. Nick Mangold has been injured and is expected to return for this game, but if he cannot play, the Jets could be in serious trouble.
The strength of this unit has to be with their receivers. Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress are both accomplished wide-outs. However, the player to really watch is tight end Dustin Keller. He already has 18 receptions for 261 yards, and two touchdowns this season. He is the player that can move the chains for the Jets.
The real weakness of this unit has to be the inconsistent play of quarterback Mark Sanchez. He has 6 touchdowns, but has 5 interceptions and has a 55% completion rate which is sub-par. His play will be very key for the Jets on Sunday.
This game for me comes down to the Jets offense against the Patriot defense. Will the Jets be able to score enough to keep up with Tom Brady? I think this game could be tight, but if it comes down to the quarterbacks, I love my chances with Brady. I do like the Patriots to find a way to win in the fourth quarter.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1.The Patriots on offense need to establish the run. The Jets defense so far has been struggling to stop the run, and they are currently 27th in the NFL. This could be an opportunity to really showcase Stevan Ridley.
If the Patriots can create a solid running game, it should open up the passing lanes for Brady.I expect the Jets to flood the middle of the field to stop the likes of Wes Welker, and Rob Gronkowski. If you can get the running game going, you could see the middle of the field open up with play-action.
2. The offensive line needs to protect Tom Brady. This key I guess you can say is pretty obvious. Rex Ryan is known to bring the house with a good amount of blitzes. I expect to see the offensive line being challenged by several blitzes. Brady is going to need the time to find the open receiver against a very good secondary.
3. The Patriots outside receivers need to make an impact in this game. The Jets did a great job in the play-off game taking away the inside routes the Patriots like to use. I am expecting the same treatment in this game.
The Patriots will need contributions from Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco once again. The outside receivers will need to get open in this game, and make a difference.
A wild card on the outside might be Taylor Price. We have not seen him yet in the offense, but he does have the potential to be a threat on the outside. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him play a role in this game.
4. The Patriots defensive line needs to come up big today. With the loss of Jerod Mayo at linebacker, I think puts even more pressure on the front four of the defense to perform. Against the run, they have been good, but they have not put much pressure on the quarterback this season.
If there ever was a game for them to breakout it would have to be this one. The offensive line of the Jets is banged up. I am expecting Albert Haynesworth to play, and I am hoping he will give a huge push up the middle. On the outside, I have seen glimpses of Andre Carter getting close to the quarterback. This is the game for him to make an impact.
5. The Patriots need to stop Dustin Keller. The Jets tight end is a player in the past that has extended drives, and scored touchdowns against the Patriots. I am expecting Sanchez to use a 3 step drop, and get the ball out quick to Keller.
I will be curious to see who the Patriots will line up against Keller. Sergio Brown did a nice job against Antonio Gates, but he has had 2 bad games after his good performance.
I could see the Jets trying to establish the run, and counting on getting the ball to Keller on third down. I think stopping Keller is a huge key for this game.
The Jets are a desperate team right now, and really need this game. However, I think this game is just as vital for the Patriots as they could lengthen their advantage in the division over the Jets. In the end, I believe Brady will be too much for the Jets to contain for 4 quarters. I am predicting a 28-21 victory for the Patriots against the Jets.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.