To get ready for the big game, our friend Richard Hill from Pats Pulpit was kind enough to answer five questions about our bitter rivals.
The Patriots are actually very similar to the Week 13 squad. The difference is the line-up consistency. In Week 15 against the Packers, starting right guard Dan Connolly was knocked out with a concussion and tight end Aaron Hernandez hurt himself as well. If they return, the could be rusty and could cause a costly mistake early in the game. On defense, starting outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham injured his calf in the same Packers game. Add in starting inside linebacker Brandon Spikes, who will be returning from a 4 game suspension, and the Patriots could be pretty rusty against the run.
On a positive note (for Patriots fans), the emergence of FA acquisition outside linebacker Eric Moore has been more than a pleasant surprise. In four games, he has two forced fumbles and two sacks and has been able to generate consistent pressure against the quarterback. He is stout against the run and, if Cunningham is healthy, the Patriots defense should be able to better set the edge against the run game.
I would also say that the Patriots are generally a healthier team- and they have the knowledge that they can beat the Jets.
More with Richard after the jump.
The Patriots are notoriously bad at planning against quarterbacks with very little film. The general game plan of the Patriots was "force Matt Flynn to win with his arm." Well, the Patriots have tried that scheme against the Bills (ended up in a 38-30 shoot out), the Jets' own Mark Sanchez (he's done very well in his first games of the season), and many other young quarterbacks. The coaches believe that the Patriots can capitalize on poor throws of inexperienced quarterbacks; however, Flynn took very good care of the ball and was able to slice apart the secondary.
If the Jets were to learn anything from that game, it's that the Patriots coaching staff is not perfect- they are liable to make poor decisions. Will the Patriots force Sanchez to make throws? I think so. I think Sanchez just needs to take what is given to him (short, high accuracy passes) and move the chains. Don't try and throw the ball deep because the Patriots will intercept the pass, but instead beat the Patriots' at their own game and take what is given.
3. What concerns you most about the Jets?
I'm definitely most concerned with everything about running the football- on offense and defense. The Patriots are going to have to run the ball in order to balance the offense and create long scoring drives. If the Jets are able to stop the Patriots from running the ball, then that eliminates a third of the Patriots' offense, leaving only slant and screen passes to receivers. Also, if the Jets are able to run the ball at will, then the Patriots will not be able to get ahead and force Sanchez to keep the Jets in the game. I believe the game plan will be to get up quickly in order to take the ball away from the Jets' running backs and have the game put on Sanchez's shoulders.
4. In what area do you think the Patriots have the biggest edge to exploit?
I believe that the Patriots have the mental edge over the Jets right now. If the Patriots manage to get up a couple scores early in the game, the Jets might suffer from a bad case of the "aww, here we go again." I believe that a lot of the bravado from the coaches and players are to keep the Jets mentally in the game early on because they know that they can beat the Patriots. However, if they fall far enough behind, the combination of the score and the mental block might cause the Jets to beat themselves.
5. If you were gameplanning against the Patriots in this game, what would you do?
If I were the Jets, I would take what was given while on offense. I'd expect the Patriots to take away the deep throw and to take away the run game, leaving Sanchez the middle distance passes underneath. The Jets should run plenty of hitch routes and slants in order to take advantage of the defense in front of them and to move the chains. Chewing up small amounts of yardage allows the Jets to control the clock, much like how the controlled the clock against the Colts, and it builds up Sanchez's confidence. Owning the clock prevents the Patriots from getting too far ahead and forces the game to become a defensive battle, where the Jets have an edge.
For the Jets defense, I would put Darrelle Revis on Wes Welker, Antonio Cromartie on Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski and a third corner and safety on Deion Branch. Branch is still too quick for Cromartie to cover, whereas Hernandez and Gronkowski run down the field more frequently, which would allow Cromartie to have much stronger coverage. On run defense, the Jets need to continue to do whatever they're doing because they're stopping the run. The Jets need to generate pressure on the Patriots with a four man rush, allowing the rest of the defense to drop into coverage. However, it's unknown if the Jets have the pass rush capable of such a feat.
Keep the game close. Build of Sanchez's confidence. Keep the ball out of Brady's hands. Stop the run.
Many thanks to Rich, and stop by Pats Pulpit where I answered five Jets questions.