The Patriots return to their Gillette Stadium home after a successful two week road trip that saw impressive wins over Dallas and Indianapolis that puts the team at 5-0.
Now they face a familiar division rival the New York Jets. The Jets are off to a great start at 4-1 and fresh off a 34-20 thumping of the Washington Redskins. The rivalry with the Jets is always fierce regardless of either team’s record, with first place in the division on the line, even in Week 7 it will get ratcheted up a notch even more.
As is typical with these games, a little bit of gamesmanship comes into play every time the two teams meet. Just yesterday the Jets signed former Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins to the active roster from the practice squad. Of course it could just be that they were filling a roster spot with WR Quincy Enunwa being suspended for four games for a domestic violence incident from a year ago.
The game is scheduled for Sunday with the kickoff slated for 1 p.m. and will be televised by CBS. The game can be watched locally on WBZ-TV.
Here are our five first impressions of the Jets;
Todd Bowles Exceeding Expectations Quickly: Bowles came highly regarded from the Arizona Cardinals and inherited a team in turmoil. The Jets had a ton of cash in salary cap space and won only four games in 2014. Most preseason projections had the Jets finishing again in the AFC East basement.
But Bowles is much farther along in the rebuilding process and has the team already playing at a high level. Having already matched their win total of last season they now have their sights set on the champs and Bowles is an early front-runner for the coach of the year honors.
Known as a defensive coach, he showed off some of his knowledge and in the meantime gave the Patriots something else to consider in the Jets win over Washington. Getting DL Sheldon Richardson back last week, questions were asked how Bowles would work him back into the rotation along the defensive line.
Bowles scrapped his normal 3-4 base defense look and went to a more traditional 4-3 with Richardson and Damon Harrison at DT and impressive rookie Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson at DE. The move gave the Jets a tough unit for Washington to run on and they were able to disrupt the passing of QB Kirk Cousins.
Chris Ivory Off to a Stellar Start to 2015: The Jets running back Chris Ivory, behind a better than advertised offensive line is off and running to start the season. Ivory ran for 146 yards against the Redskins and had 196 total yards from scrimmage. After having 166 yards rushing against Miami, his 312 rushing yards are the most by a Jets running back in two games since 2009. He’s averaging a very impressive 5.5 yards per carry.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall already believes that Ivory is not among the best in the NFL but that he is the best. “He’s already the best running back in the league right now,” Brandon Marshall said. “Just watch the tape — speed, quickness, agility, vision, endurance — he has it all. Eight-man box, nine-man box, they came out and said, ‘We don’t care about the wide receivers, we’re going to stop the run.’ Ivory, again, came out and put up over 140 yards. He’s amazing and he’s the best in the league.”
Ivory has given the Jets the balance that they need as offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has produced a nice mix of runs and passes by playing against an opponents’ weakness. The Jets only loss this season, against the Eagles was with Ivory on the sideline nursing a sore groin. In his four starts, he’s amassed 460 yards rushing with four touchdowns as well as his 5.5 yards per carry average.
Revis Leads Revamped Jets Secondary: Much like he did in 2014 with the Patriots, Darrelle Revis is leading a re-tooled secondary again but this time for the Jets. The Jets secondary last year was a mess and new GM Mike Maccagnan wasted little time in bringing in the pieces to make it better.
He signed Revis after the Pats declined on his $25 million dollar option, brought back Antonio Cromartie and signed slot corner Buster Skrine away from the Browns. The result is that the Jets now have the top defense in the league.
Revis and Cromartie give the Jets excellent coverage on the perimeter and Skrine has been one of the best men at playing inside in the slot all season. Skrine was injured against the Redskins, suffering a concussion and will have to be cleared by the league’s protocols this week, but the Jets corners will present a tough test for Tom Brady and Co.
As for Revis, he had this to say, “Last year was last year. We had a great time. We ended up winning,” Revis said. “We’ve been playing lights out,” he added. “We’ve just got to continue to make turnovers on defense. It’s going to be a battle next week. They’re a team, man. Any team can be beat any week, on any given Sunday.”
Jets Offensive Line, A Big Test for NE: One of the big strengths of the Jets this season has been the surprising play of the Jets offensive line. While everyone knows they like to run the ball and be physical up front, they’ve also been remarkably adept at protecting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, and this will be one of the matchups to watch this week as they go up against a re-tooled Patriots front seven.
The Jets boast three first round draft picks on the OL with D’Brickashaw Ferguson, James Carpenter and Nick Mangold as well as Willie Colon and Breno Giacomini. And they’ve been playing lights out. Averaging 146 yards per game on the ground, the 2-3 yards they get in the first quarter turn into 8-10 late in the game as they wear down opponents. Plus, they’ve allowed a total of just two sacks of Fitzpatrick this season.
With the ground game of Ivory, the pass protection has allowed Fitzpatrick to utilize play action passing as the Jets now have plenty of weapons in the passing game. With that in mind…
Jets Wide Receivers Present Tough Challenge: The Jets needed to upgrade their wide receiver corps this off-season, and they have. Bringing in veteran Brandon Marshall, to complement Eric Decker, they have a potent 1-2 punch in the passing game on the outside. But they didn’t stop there, drafting speedster Devin Smith from Ohio State. Their return game is handled by Jeremy Kerley who adds to the depth of the passing game as well as Chris Oswusu.
Unlike other seasons, Fitzpatrick as the Jets QB has a full complement of weapons at his disposal. Throw in tight ends, Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Davis and the offense has the capability of being a very tough one to stop.
One area that they’re working on is the deep passing game, with opponents loading up the box to stop the run, Fitzpatrick would love to hit some deep throws to soften things up and make some big plays.
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