The Patriots go back out on the road to the New Jersey Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets with big playoff implications on the line for each team.
This rivalry with the Jets is always fierce regardless of either team’s record, now with each team fighting for playoff seeding and/or spots in the tournament it ratchets things ups even more.
The game is scheduled for Sunday with the kickoff slated for 1 p.m. and will be televised by CBS. They’ll have the same crew that worked the Pats – Titans game with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the call. The game can be watched locally on WBZ-TV. You can also listen to the game on the Patriots flagship station of 98.5 FM with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.
Here are our five first…or second impressions of the Jets since the first meeting;
This Jets team is a passing team first now: When the teams met in October, the Jets were a run first team and looking to get complimentary passing game support from Ryan Fitzpatrick. No more. The Jets are passing much more frequently now and believe in Fitzpatrick to be able to get the job done.
Fitzpatrick is having the best season of his career completing 61 percent of his passes, with 3428 passing yards and 26 TDs and just 12 picks for 89.6 passer rating on the year. He’s been a find for the team who brought him in to back up Geno Smith in the spring. Now he has them on the cusp of the playoffs.
No one passes more out of the 3-4 WR set than the Jets now and with Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and a much better supporting cast of receivers they will provide a much tougher test for the Patriots secondary.
Teams with big WRs are the ones who give the Patriots problems and with Marshall and Decker the Jets have a 1-2 tandem of big receivers who will give the shorter Patriots corners all they can handle.
Jets are one of the surprise teams in the AFC: When the season started much was made of the changes the Bills and Dolphins had made in the offseason, (including spending a ton of money long-term), and it was thought that those two teams may push the Patriots for division supremacy for the first time in quite a few years.
Things haven’t worked out that way; the Dolphins melted down early and have scuffled along all season. They’re now looking at making big changes both in the front office as well as with the players this offseason. The Bills have actually performed worse under Rex Ryan than Doug Marrone….let that one sink in for a second.
No one gave the Jets a chance this season but with just two games left in the season, it is Gang Green who are fighting for a playoff spot. They have the same record as both the Chiefs and Steelers but due to tie-breakers are on the outside looking in.
Regardless of whether they make the post-season or not, this has been a big, successful season for Todd Bowles and the Jets staff. The Jets will need to win out and get some help to make it in the tournament, but who would have thought it would be the Jets playing a meaningful late December game and not the other two teams from the division.
For them the playoffs have already started so expect them to pull out all the stops in an attempt to pull out a win over the Patriots.
Bilal Powell is the X-Factor this week: We expect the Patriots will approach this game in much the same manner as the one in October, they’ll double Marshall, put Malcolm Butler on Decker 1-on-1 (he had six catches for 93 in the first meeting) and mix and match with the likes of Quincy Enunwa, Kenbrell Thompkins and Jeremy Kerley.
But the player to watch may be Bilal Powell the 5’11, 205 pound running back who is dangerous both running the ball and catching it out of the backfield. Powell has 63 carries for 257 yards and touchdown on the ground and has 42 catches for 354 yards and two scores in the passing game.
The Patriots will counter with Jamie Collins this week as he’s rounding back into form after missing a month with an illness. The Jets have been increasing Powell’s workload as the season has progressed and he missed the first meeting in October due to an ankle injury.
Jets Trying to become the “Big Dogs” with Pats: After their fourth win in a row over Dallas, the most since 2010, Jets linebacker Erin Henderson was asked about going home to face the “big dogs” in the AFC meaning the Patriots this week.
Henderson took umbrage with the question and said “We’re the big dogs.”
“I mean…, why can’t we be the big dogs?” he added. “I don’t really look at it [the same way]. This is my first year here with the Jets. I don’t really have that same mentality that a lot of people may have, people that are familiar with the Patriots] I’m not familiar with them.”
“To me, they’re just another team. Somebody has to win. Somebody has to be the team that comes out on top. Why can’t it be us? Why shouldn’t it be us?”
Calvin Pryor echoed similar sentiments saying in the first meeting the Jets wanted to compete and hang with New England, now they want to dominate them.
They had their chances in the first matchup with the Jets holding a 20-16 lead in the fourth quarter before Brady led the Patriots on a pair of 10-play scoring drives to salt away another win. Now the Jets will try to turn the tables on New England and at the same time secure themselves a playoff spot.
Anderson a Feel-good Story for the Jets: In a story-line that befits the Christmas season, the Jets signed WR Joe Anderson to their practice squad this week.
Anderson held a sign written on a cardboard box outside of the Houston Texans facility back in October that read “Not homeless … but STARVING for success. He also wrote on the sign: “Will Run Routes 4 Food” and added the hashtags: #Whateverittakes, #UnderDog, #Hungry and #IBelieve.
Now he’ll get his chance to reunite with former Bears teammate Brandon Marshall and secure a spot on the roster. Anderson was with the Bears in 2012 and 2013 before injuries took a toll. He spent part of last off-season with the Philadelphia Eagles but has been out of football in 2015.
Hard to root against a guy like that.