By Tyson Rauch
On Sunday the New York Jets (3-3) take on their archenemy New England Patriots (5-1) at MetLife Stadium. The Jets will be trying to bounce back from a disappointing loss to the winless Steelers while the Patriots come soaring in following a last-second victory over the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints.
A “new” Patriots offense?
In years past the Patriots offense was built around their high-profile passing game engineered by quarterback Tom Brady and playmakers like Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, and Rob Gronkowski. The 2013 version of the New England offense is a bit different as the unit is relying on the running game and a passing attack that is trying to incorporate several new pieces.
Running with Ridley
The Patriots ground attack features several running backs including Stevan Ridley (270 rushing yards, 2 tds), LeGarrette Blount (215 rushing yards, 1 td), and Brandon Bolden (111 rushing yards).
Ridley is probably the Patriots best back as he can wear down an opposing defense and extend drives as the game plays out. If he can consistently gain yards on the ground, the play action pass becomes a deadly weapon for quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady spreading the wealth
The New England passing game is undergoing some changes as the unit has been trying to incorporate several new playmakers. The air attack has struggled during this learning curve, ranked 19th in passing yards, but the young players are starting to catch up to speed. Kenbrell Thompkins leads all rookie receivers with four touchdown grabs while Aaron Dobson has 19 grabs on the season. Julian Edelman (41 catches, 411 yards, 2 tds) is having an excellent season for the Patriots while Danny Amendola has shown flashes when healthy.
Stop the run, get after Brady
The game plan for the New York Jets defense will be obvious: stop the run, get after Tom Brady. Gang Green’s defensive line must control the line of scrimmage and take advantage of mismatches. Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson should be able to make their fair share of plays. Keep an eye on Patriots guard Dan Connolly who has been struggling.
In terms of pass coverage the Jets secondary has to clean up their communication issues and missed tackles. This will be no easy task as Antonio Cromartie continues to struggle as he battles injuries while Kyle Wilson left Sunday’s game with a concussion. Gang Green could be relying on an inexperienced defensive back group on Sunday which never sounds good when facing Tom Brady.
Better than advertised
The New England Patriots defense is much better than people realize. The Pats unit is ranked fifth in total points with only two teams allowing fewer passing touchdowns (Seattle and Kansas City).
In order for the Jets to have success on Sunday they may look to establish the running game as the Patriots are giving up 118 yards a game (24th in the NFL). This could be an uphill struggle for Gang Green as running back Bilal Powell injured his shoulder against the Steelers while Mike Goodson was lost for the season with an ACL injury.
As for the passing game the Jets will probably be without both Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow on Sunday. The physical New England secondary will more than likely key on Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland forcing Geno Smith to look to third and fourth options. The rookie quarterback must make smart decisions with the football and not fall into any of Bill Belichick’s defensive traps. Lets not forget that Smith threw three fourth quarter interceptions against New England in Week 2.
Bounce back time
The New York Jets are going to have their hands full on Sunday as the team is battling injuries on both sides of the ball. Gang Green will have to come out and play very smart, physical football. The defense must stifle the running game and prevent long, time-consuming drives. On offense the Jets must control the line of scrimmage and establish their ground game. A diverse running attack will keep the defense off balance and possibly open up some plays down the field. If the Jets are going to have success on Sunday it is going to require a total team effort supported by well-designed game plans and intelligent coaching.
For more Jets news and updates, visit Jets Central.
Tyson Rauch is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.