New York Jets @ New England Patriots
Mark Sanchez v Tom Brady.
Rex Ryan would never admit it but Mark Sanchez is simply not very good. He lacks composure in the pocket and the ability to make all the throws to take advantage of the talented playmakers around him. He is unable to take advantage of the play-action threat afforded to him by his solid running game and does not strike fear into opposing defenses. The Jets offense went for long spells throughout the season without scoring a touchdown and much of that blame falls on the youngsters shoulders. He is a hinderance to an offense that is one of the most talented in the league.
Sanchez on the season has thrown 17 touchdowns to 14 interceptions with a measly 74.49 rating.
While Sanchez is surrounded by proven NFL talent, Brady has turned little known names and rookies into NFL stars running his offense. When given time, as he so often is, it is impossible to deal with the Patriots leader. He does not make many poor decisions and almost always capitalizes on the defenses mistakes. Brady's pocket presence is the best in the league which makes it almost impossible to pressurize him as he stands behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. He is able to throw any pass required in the Patriots system and understands how to manage down and distance as well as anyone else in the league.
Brady has thrown 36 touchdowns to 4 interceptions with a league leading 111.0 rating.
Shonn Greene & Ladanian Tomlinson v BenJarvus Green-Ellis & Danny Woodhead
Neither team uses a feature running back which results in a committee running the ball. Both players carry a bruiser and more agile back.
Greene v Green-Ellis;
Shonn Greene burst onto the scene during last seasons playoffs and was expected to be the feature back in New York but early fumbles led to his benching and eventually sharing his role with Tomlinson on a full time basis. Green is a good runner with the ability to break away from defenses. However the ball can be stripped from him when defenses go looking for it while he does not offer anything in the receiving game. Green-Ellis has had the same role for the Patriots this season. Like Greene, Ellis does not offer much as a receiver however he is an all around better runner with the ball averaging 4.4 yards on 229 carries. He makes up for his lack of production running routes by being an excellent blocker to protect his quarterback. Green-Ellis is not spectacular but his true value to the Patriots is immeasurable as he has never once fumbled in his career while maintaining his aggressive running style.
Tomlinson v Woodhead;
Ladanian Tomlinson may go down as the best NFL running back of all time when his career ends but at this stage of his career he is far past his peak. It speaks volumes of Tomlinson's talent that he is still a productive runner at 31 years old when most running backs have already retired. Tomlinson has statistically had the second worst season of his career but has also had the least amount of carries in his career on the season. His 368 yards through the air has been vital to make the rigid Jets' offense more dynamic. Tomlinson's 4.2 yard average during the season but exploded against the Colts averaging 5.1 yards and showing that he still has the burst to beat defenders this late in the season. The Patriots rush defense is much stiffer than the Colts and will provide a greater test, even though it is the Patriots biggest weakness.
Danny Woodhead came into the season playing for the New York Jets and could not make their 53 man roster. Since being picked up early in the season to replace the injured Kevin Faulk, Woodhead has flourished for the Patriots averaging a ridiculous 5.6 average. Woodhead is a third down back that earned his spurs this season through the air with 34 receptions for 379 yards. Woodhead has filled the faulk role solidly and has made plays when given the chance this year.
The Patriots ranked 9th in the league in rushing managing 123.3 yards per game. The Jets ranked 4th in the league in rushing managing 148.4 yards per game.
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Quarterbacks and Runningbacks: