The Jets' offensive unit has an arduous task ahead of them in facing the Patriots' defense this week in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. However, while New England's 3-4 base defense may be aggressive and have the ability to come up with big plays at any given time, they are far from 'unbeatable.'
The Patriots field an opportunistic defensive unit that thrives off creating turnovers. They rank No. 2 in the NFL in takeaways (38), and average a turnover margin of nearly +2 per game!
They'll give up the yards, but they also take chances and create big plays, especially with players in their secondary. Head Coach Bill Belichick is one of the best at scheming and film study, and he does a good job of getting his defense prepared for the task at hand. His defensive unit is comprised of guys that will take chances: they'll jump routes, look to strip the ball whenever possible and use their defensive backs to attempt to read opposing quarterbacks and act on said reads.
New England has some young, standout players at key positions: LB Jerod Mayo leads the team in tackles, rookie CB Devin McCourty makes big plays happen (seven interceptions, two forced fumbles) and is a prime candidate to win ‘Rookie Of The Year' honors and FS Brandon Meriweather is a ballhawk (but he's been inactive for a good chunk of this season and still somehow luckboxed his way into the Pro Bowl ... eh, I digress).
So that's the bad news. The good news, is that New England's defensive unit will give up yards; a lot of them, in fact. While they do have some young standouts on the team, they also start three rookies on their defensive unit. This unit does make mistakes from time-to-time if teams can scheme correctly and exploit them.
- New England ranks dead-last in opponents' third down conversion percentage (47.14%)
- New England ranks No. 30 in defending the pass (258.5 ypg)
- New England ranks No. 25 in total yards allowed (366.5 ypg)
So How Will The Jets Combat This Aggressive Defense ...?
With a conservative, ball-control oriented gameplan by OC Brian Schottenheimer similar to what he called against the Indianapolis Colts; which keeps QB Tom Brady off the field as well as simplifies the reads and amount of decision making for QB Mark Sanchez.
The Jets ran the football 38 times last week -- Shonn Greene was the ‘workhorse' and carried it 19 times. Early in the game, though, Gang Green went with a heavy dose of RB LaDainian Tomlinson who carried the football 16 times.
Both running backs appeared to be in top form, as Tomlinson re-gained his electric burst that we saw from him earlier in the season, and Greene looked like the downhill runner we saw in the postseason last year (breaking tackles along the way as well).
As far as the passing game goes, Jets will need to utilize some quick slants early on to make Sanchez's job easier as well as setup for a double move and vertical pass over the top later in the game. If the opportunistic Patriots' corner backs want to bite and overplay the slant and/or short routes, Gang Green can hit Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards for a big pass play.
Look for the Jets to come out with a conservative gameplan on offense. If they can win the war in the trenches and establish the run early on, it will set up for the play-action pass which QB Mark Sanchez and the offensive unit worked so well in the postseason last year.
Pick up yards underneath when it's there; don't turn the football over; convert on third down; and keep QB Tom Brady off the football field.
Easier said than done, right?