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The New England Patriots

How much of what the Jets do is a response to the Patriots?

The Patriots have won the AFC East 8 of the last 9 years, one of the greatest runs ever. Bellichick and Brady are still at peak performance, and they will go down in history as being among, if not the most successful QB/Coach tandems in history. They have lost 5 regular season games in 2 years. Last year, they were a few plays from adding their 4th Superbowl in the Brady era. They did this despite having the NFL's 31st ranked defense. Currently, they are the 2nd choice in Vegas to win the 2013 Superbowl at 8:1 (the Packers are 6.5:1, the Jets are 25:1). They also have the League's easiest schedule. The Patriots aren't going anywhere, and when you look at this year, they almost certainly got better.

How will the Patriots look differently in 2012? On offense, they lost a key player in LT Matt Light who has been the starter the entire Brady era, but they already had a good contingency in place with last year's no. 1 pick Nate Solder, who played RT last year. At RT, they have some depth with Volmer and another 2011 pick, Marcus Cannon. Perhaps realizing that there was a glut of free agent WR's in the market, they picked up multiple WR's in Free Agency, most notably Brandon Lloyd, who only 2 years ago led the NFL in receiving yards. The upgraded WR's will help them threaten deep and on the edge, and further spread the field to expose weaknesses in the middle with the slot receiver and with the TE's. There's a lot of hoopla about Wes Welker holding out, but the Patriots tagged him, and its difficult to foresee him not playing this year. Even if he doesn't, they have other options. The Patriots offense should be as formidable as ever.

On defense, the Patriots used 6 of their 7 picks on defense. They aggressively moved up twice to address their biggest needs, perhaps taking advantage of a surplus of teams that wanted to move down. They addressed a lack of pass rush with a DE which many analysts regard as being the best pure pass rusher in the draft, in Chandler Jones. Like the Jets, the Pats are moving to more 4 man fronts. The 4.6 avg/rush against was concerning, so the Patriots added the athletic and versatile LB Dont'a Hightower. They also added pieces in the secondary in both the draft and Free Agency. The Patriots defense may not be as good as the days of Seymour, Bruschi, Vrable and Harrison, but it will almost certainly be better than last year.

How do the Jets beat the Patriots? By adding key pieces and by returning to their core philosophy.The NFL is a passing league, but the Jets are a contrarian team, relying on superior defense and using the QB as a complimentary piece. In the Ryan era, the Jets have a decent record against New England, having won 3 out of 7, including one of the best wins in Jet history 2 seasons ago, a 28-21 playoff victory in which the team played flawlessly, Sanchez threw 3 TD's, and the Jets held them to 14 points until a meaningless TD late. The Jets can't win shootouts vs. the Patriots and don't even try. They largely win or lose on their defense. In the 3 wins, the Jets held the Patriots to an avg of less than 15 pts and in the 4 losses the Pats have scored over 35 ppg, including 2 embarrassing losses last year when the defense could not hold up its end of the bargain. The Jets couldn't pressure Brady, Gronkowski was unstoppable against the slower LB's and safeties the Jets fielded, and the Patriots even ran the ball well, taking advantage of the Jets' reliance on situational substitutions.

As long as Ryan is here, the Jets will try to win on their defense, and the moves they made simply verify that a primary concern is beating the Patriots. This year, the defense is focused on team speed. They added what they hope will be a premiere pass rusher, and hybrid linebacker/safety players that were selected specifically to better cover the middle of the field, especially against TE's.. Landry could also be a major addition in this regard, and his health is vital to the team's success this year.

The Jets need to run the ball better than last year, that is the real reason why Tebow is here. More importantly, they need to return to being a dominant defensive team. That's what Ryan wants. That's the way to beat the Patriots.

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