Tag Archives: Bilal Powell

Patriots  Week 17  Report Card, Patriots Down Jets 26-6

Steve Balestrieri
January 2, 2018 at 8:56 am ET

The Patriots took care of business, downing the Jets 26-6 as they should have and enter the playoffs as the #1 seed. Which means that as long as they keep winning, the AFC path to the Super Bowl goes thru Foxboro. Just as importantly, the Patriots appeared to come out of the game relatively unscathed physically, something that really important as their injury list looks like a starting lineup most weeks.

But the win wasn’t your garden variety Patriots victory, the team didn’t execute exceptionally well offensively and looked sluggish for most of the game. Of course, the number of missing players and the cold would have had plenty to do with that.

While it isn’t worthy of sounding the alarm bells, they’ll be the first to say, this isn’t the way they wanted to head into the bye week. Defensively, the team allowed just two field goals and as we all know, the Patriots won’t lose many games allowing just six points.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: C

Tom Brady didn’t have a sharp game completing just 18 of 37 for just 190 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. His game was off and the communication with the wide receivers was off as well. He identified a mismatch and launched a ball where Brandin Cooks should have had an easy touchdown. But Cooks inexplicably stopped running. In the red zone, Brady threw to the corner and no one ran there and was flagged for intentional grounding.

Several of his passes were off the mark. He threw badly behind Danny Amendola and was nearly picked off on another. He had Cooks on a deep cross but overthrew it on what appeared to be a touchdown.

But his receivers dropped several passes as well, Brady was going to attempt to throw a block on a Jet Sweep and at the last moment, thought better or it and to be gracious, he at least got in the way.

Running Backs: A-

Once again there was no James White, no Rex Burkhead, and no Mike Gillislee. No problem. Dion Lewis, the little big man was the team’s workhorse logging 32 touches as he was the star of the game offensively getting 93 yards on the ground and another 40 thru the air. Lewis scored twice, one rushing, one receiving and continuously made yards after contact.

Lewis channeled his inner Le’Veon Bell on Sunday with several stops behind the line of scrimmage to allow his blockers to gain an edge. That’s someone who’s seeing the field well and his patience paid off.

Brandon Bolden had nine carries and averaged better than five yards per rush but was not good in pass protection, getting pushed back time and again. James Develin was his usual solid self, although Brady overthrew him badly on the first series of the game.

Wide Receivers: C
The wide receivers were targeted 25 times on Sunday and they were not great overall. But they made up by constantly drawing third-down penalties on the Jets secondary. We mentioned above, Cooks stopped on what would have been a deep post-touchdown route. He also dropped an easy quick screen. But he finished with 5 catches for 79 yards which included a nice 37-yard sluggo route where he and Brady hooked up nicely and drew a couple of defensive penalties including a 40+ yarder which would have been another touchdown. He caught a five-yard touchdown pass.

Danny Amendola was the cause for Cooks TD being so wide open. He ran a shallow cross and dragged his defender with him, causing two Jets (the other covering Cooks) to collide, leaving Cooks all alone in the end zone. But he too made an uncharacteristic mistake, misreading a hot route where Brady threw to air on the sideline and Amendola went out and up. But his quick pass on a Jets blitz was a classic Amendola nice catch and run for 12 yards and a first down.

Phillip Dorsett was wide open on a deep crossing pattern and misjudged the ball, diving for it when it wasn’t necessary and dropped it. But he made a nice sliding/diving catch across the middle.

Tight Ends: Incomplete

Rob Gronkowski officially played in this game but wasn’t targeted once in the passing game. Now the alarmists are hitting the panic buttons all over New England, “Oh my gawd, if the farkin’ Jets can take away Gronk, we’re one and done in the playoffs!” To quote Aaron Rodgers… R-E-L-A-X.

Not taking anything away from the Jets game plan, where they planned on doubling him all game, but Gronks absence in the passing game was completely by design…by the Patriots coaches. Brady didn’t look to him once…not once. They let him go out there and block a bit in the running game and he ran some routes to stay sharp, but they essentially bubble-wrapped him for the playoffs.

Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister each had one target in the passing game. “O” stands for zero

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line’s play was a notch down from last week. They were only okay in the run blocking scheme this week. Lewis was hit too much at or behind the line of scrimmage, the Jets did a pretty good job of slowing things at the point of attack. Lewis by virtue of his elusiveness made more on his own than he should have.

The pass blocking wasn’t as crisp either. While we mentioned Bolden whiffing a few times on A-gap blitzes, it wasn’t all on him. The Jets for a team that struggled to get consistent pressure all season, had more than they should have against Brady.

Nate Solder and Cam Fleming didn’t have great days at tackle, allowing too many pressures coming off the edge.

Defensive Line: A-

It was a very good day for the Patriots defensive line. When was the last time that they stuffed Bilal Powell, who usually tortures them? Powell had 13 carries for 46 yards but 24 of them came on one play where Eric Lee got washed inside and Elandon Roberts took a bad angle. After that, Powell had 12 carries for 22 yards. Overall, the Jets carried 19 times for 40 yards which averages out to 2.1 yards per carry.

Malcom Brown had another very solid day inside, stuffing a few plays and being stout at the point of attack. Ditto for Lawrence Guy who has had a quietly solid season. Guy does the dirty work between the tackles and had a couple of run stuffs as well.

Eric Lee had a so-so day but got Bryce Petty for a sack and a safety in the fourth quarter.

Linebackers: B

Marquis Flowers was the main guy on the edge as although Kyle Van Noy returned to action, they only played him about 15 snaps, just to get the rust off. Flowers and Roberts were okay for the most part, but they both blew the coverage allowing a big gain to the tight end Sterling.

James Harrison made his debut and played between 25-30 snaps and looks far from done initially. He does a very good job of setting the edge and reacted well to a third-down pass underneath by tattooing Robby Anderson with a thunderous hit short of the sticks. That one fired up the other defensive players.

Late in the game, Matt Patricia let him get after Petty, early in the game he was on the field mainly in run support as he only had a few days of practice in which to acclimate to the Patriots defense. Once he did rush, he was impressive, getting two sacks and forcing a fumble. On his one sack, he showed a rip move that was pure power. A nice start for Harrison. If he can give them 25 or so plays like that every week, the coaches will be very happy.  

Secondary: B

Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore had kind of a bounce-back week. Kind of? Well, they were rarely targeted, as the Jets don’t have a prolific pass receiving core. They were most often seen in run support. But when your opponent, even if it is the Jets go 0-12 on third down, you’re doing well.

New York was targeting Jonathan Jones, who was beaten by ArDarius Stewart for a 46-yard bomb that was perfectly thrown by Petty. Devin McCourty was good but uncharacteristically missed an open field tackle. While Petty threw for 242 yards, the Jets scored six points and were (again) 0-12 on third down.

Special Teams: A+

Ryan Allen had easily his best game of the year. He put five punts inside the 20 and in the second half, he dropped three inside the five. Matthew Slater downed two of them. It was a fantastic day for him. The coverage units were fantastic as usual although the return game was only so-so.

Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs are something we regularly laud here and once again he was spot on. They were constantly pinning the Jets deep. The only downer was when Belichick (perhaps wisely) decided to punt rather than try a 52-yard field goal. Why? Because had he made it, Gostkowski would have led the league in scoring for the sixth time in his career. Currently, he’s in a three-way tie with five, the most ever

Coaches: B+

Bill Belichick was playing some Jedi mind tricks on the Jets psyche by placing some big thermometers right outside the Jets locker room to remind them how cold it was. While he was sending a subtle message to his team to ignore the elements by doing his normal walk-thru before the game in a t-shirt and shorts.

Belichick went against his normal self by winning the toss and taking the ball to start the game which proved smart. They went right down the field and scored before settling into the deep freeze for the majority of the game.

Josh McDaniels got creative with an offense missing several key players by calling a multitude of different things and they did enough to win.

Matt Patricia’s defense has made a remarkable turnaround despite also missing some key players for most of the season. Remember when fans were calling for his head after the first four games where the defense was being gashed? Now he’s being interviewed by numerous teams to be their head coach.

The Patriots allowed 128 points in their first four games. In their last 12, they’ve allowed 168. Think about that one…

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Earn Homefield Advantage In 26-6 Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
December 31, 2017 at 8:42 pm ET

The Patriots took care of business on Sunday and will be at home in the playoffs as long as they keep winning. But stifling the Jets on Sunday 26-6 in a frigid Gillette Stadium, they earned home-field advantage for the entire AFC playoffs. So the AFC’s road to the Super Bowl goes thru Gillette.

This is the seventh time that they’ve had home-field advantage in the Belichick era. In the previous six, they’ve made the Super Bowl five of those times. So there is plenty of room for optimism there.

On Sunday the offense was missing several of their players and Rob Gronkowski was nothing more than a big decoy. The Patriots didn’t target Gronk once in the game and finished the season with a Gronkowski smile-inducing 69 catches. Dion Lewis was not only the star of the game but the Patriots workhorse gaining 93 yards on the ground and another 40 thru the air.

This one won’t get many style points by the players and the coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But defensively they gave up a pair of field goals and that was it, although Bryce Petty had a few good moments. Our other observations include:

It Was Not a Day To Be Outdoors: The field conditions for both teams was borderline miserable, the temps on the field were hovering between 10-12 with the wind chill making it below zero. Ball security was not a big issue for either team which was a plus for both teams.

It was the second coldest home game for the Patriots in the divisional playoff game with the Titans being the coldest. But it was the coldest regular season game ever at Gillette. So put the kettle on, it is a hot tea, cocoa, coffee kind of night.

Lewis Continues to Be the Focal Point: What a turn around since the midseason for Dion Lewis. The small in stature but big in moving the pile back had another really big game as he had a career-high 32 touches for the offense.

Lewis was doing his best Le’Veon Bell imitation as he was stopping behind the line of scrimmage and then bursting thru minuscule gaps to garner nice yardage after contact. Lewis’ confidence level has to be sky-high entering the playoffs and rightfully so.

Defense Held the Jets to 40 Yards Rushing: This was one of the better days for the Patriots run defense. Bilal Powell, fresh off a big day against the Chargers last week, had just 46 yards on 13 carries. Other Jets runners had six carries for minus six yards. The Jets running game averaged just 2.1 yards per carry.

Other than that one 24-yard run, the Jets running game had a grand total of 18 carries for 16 yards. Regardless of who you are playing, that is some pretty good run defense there.

Secondary Had a Decent Game As Well: Entering the game, a little-known fact was that the Patriots’ third-down defense had the fifth best opposing QB rating at just 80.3. (thanks to Remarkable for that). That number will surely get better as the Jets went 0-12 on third down Sunday.

Bryce Petty had some nice moments. His 46-yard bomb to ArDarius Stewart was a beauty, throwing perfectly in stride and gave Jonathan Jones in coverage no chance to make a play. He and reserve TE Neal Sterling had some good chemistry with Sterling had five catches for 74 yards.

Petty though, showed poor touch on several short throws. He finished 19-36 for 224 yards with no scores and no interceptions.

Belichick Breaks Trend wins Toss Elects to Receive: For the first time in quite a long time, the Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive. It worked out well for the Patriots as they took the opening kickoff and went 75 yards in 13 plays for a 7-0 lead. That drive was their best of the game.

With a chance to put the Jets in a 14-0 hole on their second drive of the game, Brady had Brandin Cooks deep and he had a step in the coverage. But thinking the ball wasn’t going to him, he stopped running and the pass fell incomplete. It was that kind of day for the offense.  Cooks also had a drop but he hauled in five catches for 79 yards as well as drawing a 42-yard pass interference penalty. The Jets defense killed themselves with third-down penalties.

I understand the coach’s decision to not risk Gronkowski to injury but why have him out there at all if you’re not going to throw him the ball. Already missing a slew of skill position players, it put the offense behind the eight-ball further.

Brady Had Pedestrian Numbers on a So-So Day: Missing a plethora of weapons, and having Rob Gronkowski as only a decoy wasn’t conducive to Tom Brady having a big statistical day. But the offense overall had some communication breakdowns and a few bad throws. Brady ended the day with 18 completions on 37 attempts for just 190 yards with two touchdown passes.

This kind of regular-season finale will no doubt light a fire under Brady as they head off to a bye week and self-scouting. But getting Chris Hogan, Rex Burkhead and James White back as well as having Gronkowski a target again will no doubt help the matter.

Welcome to New England James Harrison: Early in the game, it looked like Belichick and Matt Patricia were using Harrison, who has only been in town a week in running situations as an outside linebacker as he’s not had much time to learn the defense.

But he played about 25 snaps and at the end of the game got to show what he can do in the pass rush department. Harrison notched two sacks and forced a fumble in what I’m sure the coaches hope of things to come.Especially if the Chiefs end up coming to town again.

Harrison had a couple of big hits on the field and didn’t look lost out there at all considering he only had a few practices this week. Early returns are promising, the next time they take the field, they’ll need that kind of performance.

Special Teams, Allen Standout: The coverage units, notably the punt coverage team had a fantastic day. Ryan Allen pinned the Jets inside the five-yard line three times, all in the second half, making Petty go the length of the field.

Stephen Gostkowski missed an opportunity to take the league lead in points for record sixth time. The Patriots lined up for a 52-yard field goal which if successful would have given him the record. But they took a timeout, and then punted.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon

Patriots – Jets Part II Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 29, 2017 at 10:28 am ET

The New England Patriots finish off the 2017 regular season by taking on the New York Jets in Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium.

The teams have moved in different directions since the last time the teams met in Week 6. Both entered that game at 3-2 and since, the Patriots are 9-1 and are in line for the AFC’s top seed. The Jets are 2-8 since that matchup and are left looking for answers.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 31 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines... The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (12-3) took care of business last week by defeating the Buffalo Bills 37-16. Dion Lewis rushed for a career-high 129 yards as the Patriots ground out nearly 200 yards on the ground. The defense held the Bills to just three field goals.

The Jets (5-10) lost to the Los Angeles Chargers 14-7 as they limp to the season’s finish line but still are playing hard for coach Todd Bowles. They’ve been in all of their games this season and looking to the future.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Jets are meeting for the 118th time. The Patriots hold a 62-54-1 edge overall. The Patriots are 33-25-1 all-time at home against the Jets. The Patriots have won the last three matchups and the past two wins by Gang Green have been in overtime. One of which was in 2015 with the famous “pushing rule” game which cost the Patriots home field advantage in the playoffs but wait, the Pats get all the calls right?

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been steadily getting better as the season goes along and Dion Lewis has emerged as the Pats go-to back. Last week against the Bills, they were missing Rex Burkhead and James White, but Lewis and Mike Gillislee gashed the Buffalo defense for nearly 200 yards.

The Jets, like the Patriots, have had issues stopping the run and have allowed 116 yards per game. In the first matchup this season, New England ran for 125 yards. The key matchups will be how effective the Pats offensive line is at getting to the second level against a good linebacking core.

Lewis will be the main back again, however, with Burkhead on the shelf, Gillislee has missed practice time with a knee injury. If he’s unable to go, we may see more of Brandon Bolden this week.

Patriots WRs vs Jets Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is still missing a ton of key players with Chris Hogan, White, and Burkhead out. But the good news is Malcolm Mitchell is back and is slated to play some this weekend. He’ll no doubt have some rust issues but his return is very good news for the passing offense. Matching up with Rob Gronkowski has to be the Jets priority on Sunday. I’d expect to see him doubled this week.

The Jets have done a good job of defending the pass this year allowing just 237 yards per game. They’ve only had two teams pass for 300 yards or more against them this year. Their improved secondary begins with the two rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye who have come in and played much better than anyone could have hoped this early in their careers.Their biggest weakness remains, rushing the QB and if they give Brady time, he should have a big day.

Gronkowski had a big game with two touchdowns in the last matchup and the Jets will have to find a way to slow down the big man. It will be up to the other players on the offense to make them pay if they decide to double Gronk. Brandin Cooks will have to step up this week and make the Jets force coverage toward him.

Next up the Jets offense:

Jets RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New York

The Jets have a very good running back in Bilal Powell and he is coming off a big game last week (145 yards) against the Chargers. Look for the Jets to test the edge of the Patriots defense which has been leaky for much of the season. Powell missed the first game and has usually played well against the Patriots.

The Patriots run defense has had major issues this season defending the run especially on the edge and they’ll be short inside with Alan Branch still out injured. But there are a couple of silver linings this week. Malcom Brown played arguably his best game of the season last week against the Bills and the Patriots just picked up James Harrison. The Steelers all-time sack leader is closer to the end of the road than the beginning but I think he’ll be looked to primarily help with setting the edge here. If he can do that, then his time here regardless of his pass rush ability, will be a success.
We don’t know how much he’ll play this week, but they’ll be a lot of eyes on him and we’ll be focusing on the running game first.  

Jets WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

Josh McCown is out for the season and the Jets now have Bryce Petty under center. He has some good weapons in the passing game, Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse outside, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Powell out of the backfield. The problem has been protection this season. Jets QBs have been sacked 43 times in 2017.

The Patriots pass defense has been light years better since the first Jets matchup where McCown threw for 350+ yards. The secondary didn’t have a good week against Buffalo last week and will be looking to enter the postseason on a high note.

Look for Matt Patricia to be a bit more aggressive this week with Petty under center than McCown. We’ll see some safety or corner blitzes and some A-Gap pressure as well.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Special Teams are among the best in the NFL, they excel in punt and kick coverage and continuously turn in big plays.

The Jets STs units are a step below the Patriots and don’t have the edge anywhere here. But they showed last week that they’ll be aggressive, starting off the Chargers game with a successful onside kick. Expect them to empty the tank this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This key here from a Patriots perspective is getting off to a fast start. Game time temps are slated to be 10-15 degrees with a wind chill below zero. The Jets, although they’ve played hard all year are playing for nothing but pride. If New England gets off to a quick start, they may just want to fold up tents and get home to watch the ball drop in Times Square.

Turnovers are key here as well. The Jets don’t have a prolific scoring offense so ball control and not turning it over is key here.They can’t give the Jets any short fields and any momentum to pull off the upset.

Look for the Brady and the offense to keep it varied, mixing in the pass and run equally and the defense to get a couple of sacks as well as a turnover of their own…or two.  Pats finish the regular season 13-3. Patriots 34-13

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Jets Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 13, 2017 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road to meet their old familiar rival, the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, October 15 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines... The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (3-2) got back on the winning track by downing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Thursday night 19-14.Stephen Gostkowski booted four field goals and Tom Brady threw the only touchdown of the game for the Pats to Chris Hogan.

The Jets (3-2) beat the Cleveland Browns 17-14 for their third win in a row. Many people were thinking this Jets team wouldn’t  win one game and now in Week 6, they are playing at home with a chance to take over the division lead.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Jets are meeting for the 117th time. The Patriots hold a 61-54-1 edge overall. The Patriots are 28-29 all-time on the road against the Jets, including 4-3 at MetLife Stadium. The Patriots swept the season series a year ago and in the last meeting at the end of the season, the Patriots blasted the Jets 41-3 at Gillette Stadium.The Patriots have also won their last ten road games dating back to last season.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been disappointing so far this season. Whether it is the offensive line or the running backs that are underperforming, perhaps a combination of both, they aren’t helping the passing offense. The Patriots average just 99 yards per game. Mike Gillislee leads the team with 246 yards and four touchdowns but his yards per carry (3.6) like that of the team (3.87) is not where the team needs it to be.

The Jets run defense has struggled mightily so far this season. Gang Green has allowed an average of 143 yards per game. The Jets are the 29th ranked team against the run in terms of yards per game and 27th in rushing yards per attempt.

This may be a time for the Patriots to establish something of a consistent running game. They gave Dion Lewis some more reps last week and he responded with a solid game. Gillislee also had a decent game as well last week. The Jets may go to a lighter defense to stop the Patriots passing game and this would be the time to assert the push up front and get the running game going, not to mention not allow an opponent to pin their ears back and coming after the quarterback.

Patriots WRs vs Jets Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game has been clicking despite the amount of pressure that Tom Brady has been under and the number of times he’s been hit and sacked. It is capable of being even more explosive if Brady gets decent time to throw the ball. Having the running game improve would be a big boost. Brady has plenty of productive targets in the passing game, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski should return this week as well as Phillip Dorsett, with James White and Dion Lewis out of the backfield.

The Jets revamped their secondary this season and started it with two rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye who have come in as rookies and played much better than anyone could have hoped this early in their careers. They have two good corners in Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne but they’ll face a much more potent passing game than they’ve seen thus far. One issue has been the lack of sacks, the team has just seven so far in 2017. Neither Leonard Williams or Muhammad Wilkerson have a sack yet this season.

Gronkowski will present the rookies in the middle with a big matchup to watch on Sunday. But the Patriots have enough other weapons to force the issue with the Jets defense. With time Brady has proven he can pick apart anyone, even without a ton of time this season he’s lighting it up. Look for him to have another big day.

Next up the Jets offense:

Jets RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New York

The Jets have good running backs in Bilal Powell and Matt Forte but both of them are banged up and it isn’t known if they’ll play or how much on Sunday. But if they can’t go, the onus will fall to youngster Elijah McGuire who is a capable backup. The Jets running game looked excellent a few weeks ago against Jacksonville running for over 250 yards but then fizzled last week against the Browns, gaining only 39 yards on the ground.

The Patriots run defense has been porous at times this season. With Alan Branch underperforming and riding the pine, they’ve been susceptible to runs up the middle. Ditto for having Dont’a Hightower missing time and then playing on the edge. They seemed to make some adjustments last week against Tampa Bay. They moved Hightower back in the middle on early downs and it helped. Now if they can get Branch back on the field and performing, it would be a bonus. Paging David Harris?

The Patriots game plan will probably be to slow or stop the run and force the ball into McCown’s hands since he doesn’t have a deep group of playmakers. How well they do that slowing of the run will be an intriguing part of the game.

Jets WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

Josh McCown is playing better than anyone expected this season. He’s completing about 71 percent of his passes although for just 1020 yards with five scores and four interceptions. Jermaine Kearse, Jeremy Kerley, and Robbie Anderson are the wideouts with Austin Seferian Jenkins is the tight end and he’s having a good season thus far. Like the Patriots, the Jets have given up a lot of pressure, McCown has been sacked 15 times on the season.

The Patriots pass defense may have turned the corner a bit last week. Through three quarters playing strictly man coverage, they allowed just 110 yards. Look for more man coverage with Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore this week. Jenkins will be McCown’s safety valve and a tough matchup. He’s already got the production that the Jets tight ends got all of last year. Kearse has seamlessly integrated into the offense and came up big with a 24-yard touchdown to seal the win against the Browns. We’ll see if the Patriots pass rush can get home more this week. The consistency hasn’t been there and this may be a good time to get it going.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski made all four field goal attempts last week and is 12-12 on the season. I never worry about him on field goal attempts only with extra points…is that strange? Ryan Allen hasn’t been the same this season. He’s been inconsistent and needs to re-find his comfort level out there. Danny Amendola gave the return unit with a shot in the arm with a big 40-yard return. But the STs units committed four penalties in the game. Not good.

The Jets counter with Chandler Catanzaro at kicker, who booted a 57-yarder last week and Lac Edwards at punter. But overall the Jets have been inconsistent on special teams this season.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will pit old rivals who get renew unpleasantries with one another. There is never any love lost between the two teams or the franchises. Here is where we normally throw in the caveat that you can throw out their records since it is a divisional matchup but both teams come in with identical 3-2 records.

I think it is imperative for the Patriots to get off to a good start this week. The crowd at MetLife Stadium will be loud at the start of this one. No one expected the Jets to be where they are right now. So, they’ll be loose and fired up. They’re basically playing with house money. The best way for the Pats to quiet the crowd is to get some distance quickly and get the crowd to sit on their hands. Turnovers will be key also. The Jets offense hasn’t been especially prolific so to make them match the New England offense score for score will be a difficult proposition. Not giving them any momentum or short fields with turnovers is important. On the flip side getting a turnover or two would be a big boost to a Patriots offense that has been moving the ball and scoring very well but hasn’t reached its optimum peak yet.

This one will be close for awhile but the New England offense will put pressure on the Jets to keep up. A second-half turnover will open the door for Brady and the offense to break it open late. Brady and Gronkowski lead the way to a road win.  Patriots 34-13

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Who Are Those Jets Tied With the Patriots?, 5 Initial Impressions of Gang Green

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2017 at 9:37 am ET

Raise your hand if you saw that coming this summer. Don’t look now but the Jets are in first place. Yes they are, the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, have overachieved this season thru the first five weeks as Todd Bowles crew has bought into his system and his message.

Many people believed that the Jets wouldn’t win one game in 2017, never mind three in a row as the players have ignored the noise and are gutting out wins. Bowles was saddled with a team gutted by the front office in a total purge of big salaries and most of the NFL pundits believed that they were tanking in hopes of getting the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to get the franchise quarterback that has eluded them. But Bowles, who is coaching for his job, not the #1 pick has the team playing hard every week. While their wins, especially last week against Cleveland wasn’t a pretty one, no one cares at the end of the season how many style points you have, wins and losses is the measuring stick.

The surprising Jets are 3-2 and tied with the Bills and Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East, the Dolphins are a half-game back at 2-2. No one would have thought that they would be playing the Patriots in Week 6 with the top spot in the AFC East on the line. They’re playing with house money right now. I’d expect them to come out loose and ready to empty the tank in front of the home crowd in an attempt to steal a win away.

Here are our five initial impressions of the Jets heading into this week:

Sacks Have Been Hard to Come By …For Now:
The Jets have two of the better interior defensive linemen in the league with Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. And while the two have been solid thus far, the one thing that has been missing so far is the sacks. Neither one has been able to notch a sack this season.

That has been especially frustrating for Williams, a 2016 Pro-Bowl lineman who listed as one of his goals this season was to notch a sack a game. Bowles, for one, isn’t worried about the sack totals per se, “They’re playing hard. I don’t worry about their sacks,” Bowles said on his Monday conference call. “Their sacks will come, but they’re playing hard. They’re taking a lot of doubles up for everybody else, but there are certain schemes that require different things, and they are doing those different things. They are great team players and great individual players, so the sacks will come.”

This week they’re going against a New England offensive line that is giving up far too much pressure and sacks on quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback has been sacked more in the first five games (16) than he was in all 12 games of 2016. So, this may be the week where those two look to get off the schneid.

Jets Offense Hasn’t Been Bad in the Early Going:
After releasing so many of their skill position players in the spring and suffering injuries this summer, the outlook for them was really not looking good this season. And while the team is still #26 in terms of yardage in the NFL, they haven’t been as bad as advertised.

The running game with Bilal Powell is in the middle of the pack, 13th in the NFL averaging 111.4 yards per game. The passing game is currently 25th averaging just 189 yards per game. They are scoring an average of 18.4 points per game which is good for 23rd in the league.

Josh McCown, the journeyman QB in his 15th season has played well. He’s completing 71.4 percent of his passes but for only 1020 yards thus far. Translation, he’s doing the things he needs to do and throwing the safe passes underneath for the most part.

But his most impressive drive this year? Last week against the Browns, they stopped Cleveland on their three-yard line and McCown took them on a 97-yard touchdown drive that put the game away. While they’ve struggled at times, they’ve also had some good moments as well. But for the game, they managed only 212 yards and 34 on the ground.

Running Backs Hurting:
As of Tuesday evening, we don’t know if the Jets will be without running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Forte has missed the last two games with a turf-toe injury and Powell is dealing with a calf strain. He exited the game on Sunday with the Browns just before halftime. He’s listed as day-to-day.

If those two aren’t able to go that would leave the job to rookie Elijah McGuire as the feature back and Travaris Cadet as their third down specialist. McGuire is a 5’11, 214-pound rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s run well thus far in 2017 carrying the ball 34 times for 176 yards, good for a 5.2-yard average, including a big, 69-yard touchdown run against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s an athletic, good runner with good ball security and shows good acceleration in getting to the hole. He has deceptive speed in getting to the edge. He’s also a decent pass receiver out of the backfield and has caught five passes thus far this year.

The Patriots will no doubt attempt to stop the run and force the Jets to beat them via the pass. So, we can expect that the play in the trenches will be key here. As of right now, Bowles told the press that the team doesn’t expect to sign another running back in the interim.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Should Be a Big Target:
The Jets big tight end should see a lot of action going his way in the passing game this week. With the Patriots primed to slow or stop the run, play action passing from McCown will have to be spot on this week and the Jenkins may be the guy he turns to first.

Jenkins was one of the bright spots on an offense that didn’t have a great day against the Browns a week ago. He was targeted eight times in the game and hauled in six passes. While he gained just 29 yards, many of his receptions were just enough to keep the chains moving including a touchdown that gave the Jets the lead in the third quarter.

Jenkins will get matched up with either a safety (Pat Chung) or one of the linebackers and this will be a big matchup to watch this week. Despite playing in just three games this season, the big tight end has caught 15 passes for 106 yards and a score. Jets tight ends in 2016 caught a combined 18 passes in 2016. The Jets asked him to drop some weight this offseason and he did. He lost 30 pounds and moves much quicker and has shown better hands thus far than he has in the past.

Two Rookie Safeties Helping Turn the Defense Around:
Last season, the Jets defense was a mess and a lot of the struggles centered around weak play from the safety position. So they replaced Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor this spring by using a first and second-round draft picks to draft Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye respectively this April.

To be fair, Gilchrist and Pryor were far from the only problems on the Jets back end last year. But the team felt they needed a big upgrade there and so far it has worked very well. Adams and Maye became the first rookie starting safety tandem in the league since the AFL/NFL merger. The two rookies have impressed from Day 1 and won their starting jobs this summer and have not looked back.

Last year the Jets surrendered 13 plays of at least 40 yards in the passing game. Thus far in 2017, they’ve allowed one. This week, they’ll face a tough test in the form of Rob Gronkowski who Adams admits was one of the first people he thought of when he was drafted. Adams, in particular, has been very versatile. He’s lined up as a strong safety, free safety, nickel linebacker, slot corner, even splitting out wide as an edge corner a few times. The Jets took some heat drafting two safeties back to back but so far, they are performing even better than they could have hoped for and now offer positional stability for years to come.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Jets II Keys, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 23, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots return to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro for their final regular season home game to take on the New York Jets. The game is scheduled for Saturday Christmas Eve, at 1 p.m.

CBS will televise this week’s game and it can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (12-2) improved to 7-0 on the road this season with a convincing 16-3 win over the Denver Broncos. Dion Lewis rushed for 95 yards and the Pats got three turnovers while holding the Broncos to just three points and shut them out for the final 53 minutes of the game.

The Jets (4-10) were hammered by Miami last week. Career backup Matt Moore threw for four touchdowns in the win. QB Bryce Petty was hit hard and had to leave the game but is expected to play this weekend.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Jets meet for the 116th time on Sunday in an intense rivalry that dates back to 1960. The Patriots hold a slight all-time 60-54-1 edge in the series that has been incredibly even and always tough.

The Patriots hold a 32-25-1 edge overall at home and have won 9 of the last 11 meetings. The Pats won a close 22-17 win in the Meadowlands in the first meeting this season as Tom Brady hit Malcolm Mitchell with the game-winning touchdown pass with less than two minutes to go. Mitchell had a pair of touchdowns in the game.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Brady Leads Patriots To Big Win Over the Jets…Again

Steve Balestrieri
November 28, 2016 at 7:16 am ET

The Patriots offense scuffled for most of the afternoon against the New York Jets on Sunday. But with 5:04 to go and 83 yards away from the end zone, Tom Brady rose his game up and carried the team on his back, as he’s done so many times before. Brady led the game-winning drive hitting Malcolm Mitchell for the game winner and the Patriots had a gritty come-from-behind 22-17 win over the Jets.

Like all games against Gang Green, it was a marathon, not a sprint and the Patriots had to slog their way thru a variety of factors. The loss of Rob Gronkowski early in the game, Brady’s own knee injury which definitely was a factor, as his passes were uncharacteristically sailing on him all day long and the Jets themselves, who brought their A-game on an otherwise forgettable season.

The Jets had taken the lead on a tremendous catch by Quincy Enunwa in the back corner of the end zone and had to stop the Patriots and Brady just one more time to come away with their biggest win of the season. Their defense had been playing great all day. But these are the times when Brady, even a wounded one elevates his game.

“I felt good,” Jets WR Brandon Marshall said of their lead, “but I knew that Tom Brady has that thing where it kicks in. He’s a special player. He’s one of the best to ever do it. There’s never a time where he’s out of it.”

Brady appeared laser sharp when it counted most and he hit on some big passes, a 24-yard strike to Julian Edelman got things going. But the biggest was the 4th down, 4-yard pass to James White, who dove for the sticks and just barely made the key first down to keep things going. As usual, Brady deflected praise to others and called it a “championship-type” play by White.

On the next snap, he fired a laser to Chris Hogan deep down the middle to put them in the position to win. By then there was no doubt how that drive would end. Brady then hit Mitchell for the game winner, the rookie WR had a pair of touchdown catches, both against Darrelle Revis and the Patriots had an ugly but very satisfying win against their oldest and most heated rivals.

His day included a number of key milestones. Brady tied Peyton Manning for the most career wins by a QB with 200. He passed the 60,000-yard threshold early in the game and the comeback win was the 50th of his NFL career. Brady stressed the team aspects of his accomplishments and stated that it had been a long week for him and the team. And he improved overall to 22-8 against the Jets.

It was a win that characterized mental toughness and Bill Belichick knew that his comments, as well as those of Brady, echoed that sentiment. They took the Jets best shot and although far from their best found a way to win. Brady, as usual, led the way. Just like he did 199 times before.

Other observations from today’s game include:

Mitchell is rapidly becoming a trusted weapon in the offense: While Mitchell’s numbers on the stat sheet won’t necessarily wow anyone, he made five catches for 42 yards, he converted two of those into scores. The rookie WR had the first two-score game of his career and he’s earning the trust factor with Brady. His numbers on the season are a modest 16 catches for 235 yards and three scores but expect him to earn more looks as the season plays out.

The first score was a broken play where Julian Edelman ran a Jet Sweep and knocked the ball out of Brady’s hand. Brady alertly picked it up and found Mitchell at the back of the end zone, who beat Revis to end an important first half drive to tie things up.

Brady tried the deep ball in the end zone later to Mitchell, the ball was thrown about 3-4 inches too long and just went thru Mitchell’s fingertips. But it didn’t deter Brady to going back to the young WR again at crunch time. The Pats ran a bunch route on the left side and Mitchell had just enough separation from Revis to haul in the pass and just make it inside the pylon for the winning touchdown.

Welcome to New England Chris Long: Okay Long has played well for most of the season but his strip sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick was huge and arguably the biggest play of his professional life, considering he played for so many poor-to-middling Rams teams.

That caused the second and most importantly last turnover of the day for the Patriots defense. Earlier Malcolm Butler, who didn’t have the greatest afternoon, forced a fumble ending another Jets drive.

Long showed great explosion off the snap and beating his man on the edge and just got his hand on Fitzpatrick’s arm causing the fumble that the Patriots recovered and put the game away. For a defense with still in search of an identity, it was a huge moment.

Still Questions at CB and LB: The Patriots are still mixing and matching at both the cornerback and linebacker positions and we may see that depending upon individual matchups the rest of the season. But the Jets second WR, Quincy Enunwa, who had struggled for the past two games lit up the secondary for five catches, 109 yards, and a touchdown. After a hot start with five catches in the first half, Brandon Marshall had just one in the second half.

The Pats mixed up a combination of Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, and Logan Ryan and will probably stick with that for the foreseeable future. With big games looming against the Ravens and Broncos, they’ll have to step up their game.

At linebacker, they once again used several players opposite Dont’a Hightower, getting Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin, and Kyle Van Noy in the mix. Each had some good and bad moments but overall the effort was good enough.

Overlooked aspect, the run defense: Coming into the game, the two keys the team wanted to stop was the Jets running game and their backs out of the backfield. And they accomplished both. The Jets were 3-0 when Matt Forte had 25+ carries and the Patriots knew this.  Both Forte and Bilal Powell are dangerous receivers out of the backfield as well, something the Patriots have struggled with.

They did a bang-up job against the run holding Jets runners to just 64 yards on 23 carries, a 2.7 yard average on the day. The Jets longest run on the day was just seven yards. And they held their backs to just four catches for 30 yards out of the backfield. It wasn’t perfect, Van Noy was beaten by C.J. Spiller on a wheel route but Fitzpatrick’s pass fell short, but overall this was a big factor in the Patriots victory.

Is Gostkowski a player they can rely on? This question would have sounded ludicrous a year ago, but after 11 games it is now a legitimate one. The kicker’s struggles continue and today, he missed a very makeable 39 yarder that before was automatic. He did make three more field goal attempts on the day as well as two extra points, but he’s not the same guy he was before that costly miss in Denver.

Was the Patriots decision not to attempt a game-winning 52-yard field goal and go for it on 4th and 4 as well as an earlier attempt just gamesmanship by Belichick or was it a lack of trust in the kicker? We’ll hear more of that as the week drags on but it is the $64,000 question now.

Too Cerebral? Defense Seems to Be Passionless at times: Perhaps this is overstating it but there are times when the Patriots defense seems to be overthinking things a tad and trying to be coming up with a perfect answer and not playing with the speed that they are capable of. We know that this is a cerebral defense, but sometimes it seems like they are competing against themselves out there.

It was General George S. Patton Jr. who stated that “A good plan violently executed today, beats a great plan executed next week.” Sometimes, just pinning your ears back and attacking midrange to poor quarterbacks such as Fitzpatrick may be a better equation than always trying to outsmart them.

Granted….once again they allowed only 17 points but the game certainly had a different feel to it.

Blount and Bennett get high marks: Martellus Bennett was leaned on with Gronkowski getting injured early in this one and then he got his ankle rolled up and played the rest of the game, like Brady in pain and obviously limited. He gets big kudos for gutting it out.

Blount only got 11 carries on Sunday but against a tough Jets front seven, he made it count for 67 yards, especially when the team was trying to close things out. These two symbolized the team-first, can-do attitude that was a big factor in the team’s win.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Jets Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 25, 2016 at 9:00 am ET

The New England Patriots travel to the NJ Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets in the first of two divisional matchups between the two teams. The game was initially scheduled for Sunday Night Football but has been flexed by the NFL to a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

This week’s game will be televised by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ Channel 4 in Boston. Greg Gumble will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Jamie Erdahl will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (8-2) improved to 5-0 on the road this season with a 30-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Tom Brady was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the 27th time in his career with a four touchdown-zero interception effort. LeGarrette Blount led the running game with 124 yards on 19 carries.

The Jets (3-7) are coming off their bye week. Two weeks ago, they lost to the LA Rams 9-6 as QB Bryce Petty in his first NFL start subbing for an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick could only lead the Jets to a single touchdown drive. Fitzpatrick is healthy this week and has been given the nod by coach Todd Bowles as the starter.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Jets meet for the 115th time on Sunday in an intense rivalry that dates back to 1960. The Patriots hold a slight all-time 59-54-1 edge in the series that has been incredibly even and always tough.

The Jets hold a slim 29-27 edge overall at home. The Patriots have won 8 of the last 10 meetings, however. The teams split a pair of close games a year ago. The Patriots held serve in Foxboro with a 30-23 win and the Jets in the Meadowlands won a 26-20 overtime win on December 27. The Patriots won the toss and deferred, and Fitzpatrick led the Jets to a quick touchdown drive

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2016 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
November 23, 2016 at 8:51 am ET

Toss Out Jets Disappointing 2016 On Sunday

The Patriots go back out on the road on Sunday afternoon as they’ll go down I-95 to the NJ Meadowlands to take on their heated rival, the New York Jets. It will be the first meeting between the two teams this season and the games are always close and hard fought. Forget about the records when these two teams meet.

The Patriots (8-2), are coming back from the West Coast and a win over the San Francisco 49ers 30-17 on Sunday. LaGarrette Blount ran for 124 yards on 19 carries and Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and zero interceptions, the 21st time he’s done that in his career.

The Patriots hold a two-game lead in the division over the 6-4 Miami Dolphins who have won five in a row. The Pats are now tied for the best record in the AFC with Oakland but the Raiders now hold the tie breaker for the time being, given their win over Houston.

The Jets (3-7), were thinking playoffs after last season’s 10-win season but a tough early season schedule coupled with poor QB play has Todd Bowles’ group looking down at another disappointing finish. They went from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to Geno Smith, back to Fitz, and gave rookie Bryce Petty the start before their bye week in the loss to the Rams. Now, Bowles is going back with Fitzpatrick this week.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Jets:

Bowles Going With Fitzpatrick, the right move this week: The QB carousel for the Jets is swinging back to Ryan Fitzpatrick this week and Bowles is hearing it from not only the media but Jets fans as well. And in part, the criticism is justified.

The Jets went thru a protracted salary negotiation with Fitzpatrick this spring/summer and the QB ultimately bet on himself with essentially a big one-year deal. That has failed for both the QB and the team. Fitzpatrick has struggled mightily this season and leads the league in interceptions with 13 despite playing in less games than most of the starting QBs in the NFL. And with Fitzpatrick not in the Jets plans after this season, the time is right to see what they have in Petty.

Petty started Week 10 while Fitz rested a knee injury and played fair in a 9-6 loss to the Rams. He completed 19-32 for 163 yards with a touchdown and interception. Bowles, however said now that Fitzpatrick is healthy, that he’s the starter and gives the Jets a better chance to win. And he’s right.

We’ve seen Fitzpatrick play poorly, he’s a gunslinger and will take chances that may seem foolhardy at times. We’ve also seen him play well and that is the guy the Jets are hoping can turn things around this week. Facing a Patriots team with Bill Belichick, even with a defense that has been scuffling along lately, Petty in just his second NFL start was bound to see looks that he wouldn’t recognize and would no doubt struggle.

Bowles doesn’t care about the media and fan criticism. His job is to win football games. And his job depends on that. There is still time to do a proper evaluation on Petty. The Jets aren’t going to make the playoffs, even if they were to run the table. And the cries of derision for him on Monday will turn to cheers from the fickle fans if Fitzpatrick can coax a victory over the Pats this week.

Bilal Powell is the “X-Factor” for Gang Green This Week: The Jets brought in veteran running back Matt Forte this season and he’s the primary running back for Gang Green this season. He’s rushed for 732 yards and the Jets are 3-0 when he carries the ball 25+ times. But he’s been used less as a receiver this season than in his time with the Bears. That player has been Bilal Powell and he has the capability to be a game changer for the Jets this weekend.

Powell only carried the ball 40 times this season but has racked up 272 yards and a touchdown, good for a stellar 6.8-yard average. He’s also hauled in 36 passes for 240 yards and a score. He’s gotten hot in the past two games with 11 pass receptions and the Jets only score against the Rams.

Last year he had just 12 touches against the Patriots in the Meadowlands but went for 90 yards with seven rushes for 56 and five catches for 34 yards in the OT win. With a NE defense struggling to defend the wheel route and backs out of the backfield in general, look for the Jets to get him involved early and often.

The Patriots Must Account for Williams on Every Snap: The Jets have underperformed as a group this year, but for Leonard Williams, their top draft choice of 2015, the season has been a success. Williams leads the Jets with six sacks and is tied for the team lead in QB hits with 15.

Although the Jets as a unit have registered only 19 sacks (two less than the Patriots), NY defensive line coach Pepper Johnson thinks his group has played well. “They’re playing very well. These guys made me defensive line coach of the year last season,” he said, (awarded by ProFootballFocus). “I think they’re doing better this year.”

Williams leads a very stout Jets run defense that allows just 85.4 yards per game and has 10 tackles for a loss included in his stats this season. While there have been some issues with his teammates Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, specifically their tardiness in the news, Williams has soldiered on and is the guy the Patriots OL must account for on every play.

Enunwa and Marshall Are the Go-To Guys in the Passing Game: Jets wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa are going to be the two main focuses of the Patriots secondary this week. Both got off to great starts in 2016, but with the slide of their QB play, their numbers are going down in recent weeks. Expect the challenge of playing NE this week to change that in a big way.

Enunwa was a steal for the Jets when they drafted him in the sixth round (209th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s caught 38 passes this season for 534 yards and three touchdowns this year, but in recent weeks, the Jets have really missed Eric Decker who was placed on IR. He’s caught just one pass each in the last two games, look for Fitzpatrick to get him involved early this week.

Marshall is on pace for one of the least productive years of his career. The 11-year vet has 43 catches for 601 yards and just two touchdowns after having 62 for 800 and seven touchdowns in 2015. Part of the problem has been the QB play, part on the loss of Decker, but a foot injury suffered early in the season may be the most to blame.

Will the Patriots Try “Revis Island” This Week? No one has slipped more this season than the Jets $70 million-dollar man. However, don’t make a mistake about this, while the Patriots are being given lots of kudos for passing on Revis’ 5-year, $70 million-dollar deal with $39 million fully guaranteed, they still were offering big bucks for the talented corner to return.

But if Revis did show signs of slowing down last year, then he’s definitely sliding in 2016. By his own account, his body is breaking down on him and the the air of invincibility of him is gone. No longer are teams only looking at the other side of the field, they can now specifically target Revis in their game plan. That thought was blasphemous not long ago.

It will be interesting to see if the bye week rejuvenates Revis to play at least for a week, to the level we’ve become so accustomed to. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Patriots test the waters of Revis Island this week.

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Lay Back Wisely on Day 1 of Free Agency

Steve Balestrieri
March 10, 2016 at 7:30 am ET

There was a flurry of activity on the first day of the NFL’s Free Agency period as teams rushed to sign the first batch of free agents to some huge contracts. The Patriots kicked the tires reportedly on several players available, but decided and wisely so, to sit back and let the overspending flurry play itself out. It is a familiar tactic they’ve used for several years.

The Patriots made very little noise in the opening hours, just re-signing a backup swing tackle, LaAdrian Waddle and a backup linebacker/special teams’ player Ramon Humber from the New Orleans Saints.

The team was supposedly in on negotiations with WR Marvin Jones, RB Matt Forte, WR Rishard Matthews who all ended up signing with other teams. Jones signed with the Lions in an attempt to be a #1A or #1B type receiver for Detroit now that Calvin Johnson has retired.

Forte was widely linked to New England since the end of 2015 but signed with the Jets who lost Chris Ivory and appears to be set to lose Bilal Powell as well. Matthews, the former Dolphin WR who was deemed a good fit for the Patriots agreed to a deal with the Titans last night.

The other WR linked to New England, Mohamed Sanu, another player who would fit the skill set, size and speed need for the Pats offense is visiting Atlanta today and reportedly will then come to Foxboro next. With the Falcons rumored to be ponying up in the neighborhood of $7 million dollars per year, that would knock the Pats right out of contention.

What’s in store for Day 2: The Patriots traditionally have made their moves on the second day of free agency after the initial frenzy of over-priced contracts dies down. Last year, they signed DE Jabaal Sheard on Day 2 and at the time, that generated little buzz on the NFL timeline but paid big dividends for the team.

Two years ago on Day 2 is when the entire Darrelle Revis deal fell to the team after they lost Aqib Talib on the opening day of free agency. So while fans were clamoring for something…anything to be done by the team, look for them to be more active today.

Who’s still out there? There is plenty of talent left in the pool and for the Patriots needs at running back, Powell is still in the mix as well as Alfred Morris, Arian Foster and RFAs Benny Cunningham, Khiry Robinson and C.J. Anderson of the Broncos. Of course, there’s still LaGarrette Blount who made it clear earlier this week he’s open to and very willing to return for a final season in Foxboro.

Wide receivers still on the market include Sanu, although it is doubtful he leaves Atlanta without a contract. Jermaine Kearse, Anquan Boldin, Rueben Randle, James Jones, Percy Harvin as well as recently released Jeremy Kerley and Mike Wallace may interest New England.

For tight ends, the pickings are a bit slimmer with Jacksonville’s Clay Harbor and former Bengal and Cardinal Jermaine Gresham still out there as players who may interest the Pats.

One player who is still on the market that will bear watching is the Patriots Akiem Hicks. The Patriots are still interested in bringing the interior defensive lineman back and he was sitting back and watching things unfold yesterday. But Hicks has to be pleased seeing the huge contracts given to both Malik Jackson and Olivier Vernon. If those contracts are any indication, Hicks too will be moving on as those contracts are way over what the Patriots will be willing to spend.

There is still time to get long-term deals done with their own players Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Malcolm Butler. The team would be smart to lock up Sheard with a long-term deal as well this offseason.

The Patriots took the smart approach and stayed away from the massive over-spending that the bottom-feeders traditionally do on Day 1. Now is when the work really begins.

Stay tuned…

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.