They Can Pass - Brady's Back
When last these teams met Tom Brady was in a slump. He failed to put up 250 yards passing in each of his first four games, the first time in his career he had ever started a season that way, and he had only one 300 yard passing game in his first seven games. The subsequent seven games have been a different story. Brady has racked up 300 yard passing games in four of the last seven contests and is averaging 305 yards and 2.7 TDs per game over that stretch. The Patriots have put up three 40 point games and one 50 point game since they last faced the Jets. Five of the seven opponents the Patriots have faced since the Jets game have lost by 22 points or more. Other than the loss to the Packers no team has come within a touchdown of the Patriots since the Jets game. And these aren't weak opponents we're talking about. The 11-3 Broncos, the 10-4 Colts, the 10-4 Lions; all have been annihilated by the Patriots. This Patriots' team is as hot as any team in the NFL, on a roll rarely matched in recent NFL annals. Brady is back, and with him the Patriots have regained an air of near invincibility.
They Stop The Pass
The Patriots spent a lot of money importing cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to try to fix a porous pass defense this year. Earlier this year Browner wasn't playing and Revis was still adjusting to the Patriots' system. Oh how things have changed. The Patriots back when the Jets last faced them had ridden a succession of weak passing opponents to a 9th best pass defense in terms of passer rating allowed, allowing an average of an 84.3 rating against the pass. Two months later and my how things have changed. The Patriots are now ranked 7th in the NFL in passer rating allowed at 83.0, but they have achieved that slight improvement despite facing a gauntlet of good to great passers over the last two moths. Since facing the Jets two months ago the Patriots have faced the league's #1, 3, 7, 8, 13, 16 and 18th best passing offenses, yet they have improved their pass defense performance over their early season performance facing a relatively weak schedule. The Patriots have faced and generally succeeded against the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers the last two months; suffice it to say Geno Smith and his league worst passing attack will not strike fear in the hearts of Patriots' defenders this week.
They Stop the Run
Since week 8 the Patriots have allowed only one team, the Green Bay Packers, to top 100 yards rushing against them. They held the Broncos to 43 yards rushing, the Colts to 19 yards, the Chargers to 53 yards and the Dolphins to 76. Earlier in the year the Patriots had trouble stopping the run. No more. Now the Patriots are fully capable of limiting the Jets' rushing attack. Do not expect a reprisal of the 218 rushing yards the Jets racked up against the Patriots in their last meeting. The chances of that happening again are extremely remote.
The Jets played to within a blocked field goal of pulling off a huge upset in Foxboro last time out. It was a lost opportunity they likely won't get again. The Jets completely dominated that game. How thorough was their dominance? The Jets held the ball twice as long as the Patriots in that game. The Jets ran for a whopping 218 yards in that game. The Jets gained 28 (!) first downs against the Patriots in that game. 28 first downs! To put that number in perspective, no other team in the NFL has done that to the Patriots this year. Only one other team has exceeded 28 first downs against the Patriots since 2011. In fact, only 4 other teams have exceeded that number since Bill Belichick took the reins with New England 15 long years ago. 15 seasons, 238 regular season games, and only four times has any team exceeded the 28 first downs the Jets racked up against the Patriots last game. The Jets had no business losing that game, but like so many other games this year, they found a way to do so. Squandered opportunity in a lost season. That opportunity is not likely to be repeated this Sunday.
On paper this game looks like a complete mismatch for the Jets. New England has the NFL's top scoring offense and has been held under 27 points only twice since week 4. The Jets have the NFL's 4th worst scoring offense and have not scored more than 25 points in a game all season long. New England has a league best turnover differential, while the Jets have one of the worst turnover differentials in the NFL. New England is as hot as any team in the NFL, while the Jets have lost 11 of their last 13 and have only one victory all year against teams with more than three wins. Perhaps after winning the division New England will face a letdown, but I wouldn't count on it. Belichick teams are as good as any in the NFL at taking care of business against lesser teams, and they are still fighting for the very important #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Stranger things have happened, and the Jets might play inspired ball in Rex Ryan's home farewell game, but the trends do not look good here. Look for a blowout loss to the Patriots this Sunday. Anything closer than two touchdowns would be a surprise.