Monday Night Football Preview: With AFC East Title On Line, New York Jets Travel To Foxboro For Divisional Matchup With New England Patriots

The (9-2) New York Jets Vs. (9-2) New England Patriots
Game will be televised on ESPN. 
Kickoff is slated for 8:35 p.m. EST.


StatLine (I): Jets are 5-0 on the road this year, while Patriots are 5-0 at Gillette Stadium this season. Something has to give.

StatLine (II): Jets lead the all-time series, 51-48 (one tie).

StatLine (III): Patriots only two losses this season have come against the Jets and former New England DC Eric Mangini's Cleveland Browns.


It's Chapter 183175 in the New York Vs. Boston saga, a rivalry that seemingly dates back to the beginning of time.

I BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW....

The 9-2 Patriots actually field the worst pass defense in the NFL, as they give up 288.5 yards per game and rank No. 32.

THIS GAME WILL BE WON OR LOST IN....

The red zone. Jets defense has not been stellar when opponents get in deep. They are allowing opponents to score 56.7 percent of the time, and they rank No. 22 in NFL. New England's offense is very good when they get deep, as they score 61.4 percent of the time and rank No. 5.

Brady loves to hit his tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez when deep in the red zone, and Patriots have favorable matchups against our safeties and nickelback.

Jets must make sure they don't trade three points for seven with New England on Monday night, or they will find themselves in a big hole and bad position.

New-Look New England:

When the two first met back in September, Moss and Hernandez lead the Patriots' offense in yards. Since then, the Patriots have completed a transformation from a vertical offense to that of a horizontal one. They run a lot of short, intermediate routes; utilizing crossing routes, bubble screens, draws, delays, etc..  

Most teams run the football to control the clock and the football game. The Patriots choose a passing offense comprised of a lot of low-risk, short throws to accomplish that feat. I expect to see Brady throw the football 50 times on Monday night. Am not particularly worried about BenJarvus Green-Ellis or Danny Woodhead (Jets will stick a spy on him when he does enter the game to prevent him from burning us, they know when he's in the game he's not going to be pass-blocking.)

Take Away Their Secondary Targets:

It's clear how teams have been attacking the Jets. They have arguably the best cornerback tandem in the NFL with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie that can lock down any top wide receiver.  Furthermore, they have the No. 3 ranked run defense in the NFL. So, to beat them, teams have been trying to target their nickel back and safeties, positions that have been susceptible in pass coverage.

As John mentioned earlier in the week, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have combined for 60 receptions. Brady uses them as safety valves when he needs them, in red zone and on key third downs.

X-Factor: WR Santonio Holmes

Holmes is a game-changer. In two of the last three games, he has caught "walk-off" touchdowns to lead the Jets to a pair of victories. The Patriots were lucky they did not have to deal with him in week two. It didn't matter, as the Jets still rolled to a 28-14 victory.

While CB Devin McCourty has good closing speed, his burst is not great and he can be beat by vertical routes.  If the Jets can run the football effectively they will be able to really exploit this matchup, as McCourty is much better in zone coverage than playing man. .

Holmes is one of the best route runners in football and has a very high football IQ. McCourty is young and the veteran Holmes will take him to school on prime time television.

Bottom Line:

If the Jets can run the football effectively against New England's 8-man fronts, they can keep the Patriots honest and exploit their secondary in man coverage. It will also force them to limit their blitzing of Mark Sanchez.

On defense, the Jets will be bringing a lot of pressure from all different angles on Monday night. Expect less "overload" blitzes, and more well-timed, disguised blitzes to attempt to disrupt QB Tom Brady's rhythm. The Patriots are built to beat the blitz, though, as they use their speed to counter it with draws, delays, and screens. They will need to play these small, speedy Patriots receivers physical at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing of their passing game.

I expect a couple of "gadget" plays from both sides, as I think Ryan and Belichick surely have some tricks up their sleeves. Whether it be via special teams, the (Jets) TigerCat formation or other trickery on offense, the teams that executes these, as well as converts in the red zone, will win this football game.

I will be interested to see how Sanchez responds from one of his worst games of the season. He tends to follow up stinkers with big games, and I think he's going to get his yards on Monday night. The key lies in his decision making; he must make smart decisions with the football and not turn it over.

The Raiders swept the Chargers today for the first time in a decade. Times are changing. We've won three of the last four games against our division rivals, and the Jets will fight off a late Tom Brady surge to squeak out a huge victory on Monday Night Football.

Prediction:

Jets 24, Patriots 23

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