New York Jets @ New England Patriots
Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman v Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith.
Deion Branch v Santonio Holmes
Both players are proven big time performers. Branch has two Superbowl rings and a Superbowl MVP title while Santonio Holmes has one Superbowl ring and a Superbowl MVP title. Branch returned to the Patriots this season and turned out to be a huge improvement over Randy Moss. He runs crisp routes and has soft hands as well as a proven rapport with his quarterback dating back to when Brady was young. Branch may have lost a step since his last stint with the Patriots but can still put up numbers and was never really a player who needed to rely on his speed to get open. His agility and burst out of cuts makes him Brady's most dangerous option.
The Jets' best receiver also only arrived this season after they traded their 5th round draft pick to Pittsburgh to pick up the troubled receiver. Holmes served a 4 game suspension to start the season but repeatedly made big plays for the Jets once he got on the field. Holmes managed 52 receptions for 746 yards and 6 touchdowns in only 12 games. Holmes is a good route runner but his main strength is when he gets the ball in his hands. He has the ability to make defenders miss or simply outpace them and his favorite route is often a quick slant. He has proven to be a dangerous punt returner and brings this to his receiving game.
Wes Welker v Braylon Edwards
Welker and Edwards are very contrasting players. Like most of the Patriots receivers, Welker is an astute route runner. He is potentially the best route running receiver in the league(Reggie Wayne of the Colts being the best in the sports central blog's view). Welker's numbers are down this year but his on field performances haven't been hampered by his serious knee injury from last season or the departure of Randy Moss. He had 86 receptions in 15 games mostly due to the arrival of Branch who is always going to catch more balls than Moss did as well as the Pat's policy of spreading the ball around as much as possible.
Edwards provides the Jets with another big play option. He specializes in getting downfield and using his height to beat single coverage. Edwards is not reliable as a route runner and does not possess soft hands. He has a notorious reputation as being a consistent dropper of passes around the league. It is telling that Edwards had only 1 more reception(53) in 16 games than Holmes had in 12. The Jets won't mind that so much because of his 17.1 average per reception and 7 touchdowns. Edwards will be a threat to the undersized secondary of the Patriots if Sanchez can get him the ball.
Brandon Tate v Jerricho Cotchery
Both receivers are among the better third choice receivers in the league. In what is essentially Brandon Tate's rookie season he has brought a lot to the Patriots. He has the pace to get downfield but still needs to work on his route running and consistency in catching the ball. His main asset to the Patriots team is the explosion he brings as a special teams returner. He can also be used in reverses as has 5 rushes for over 60 yards this season.
Cotchery is an accomplished receiver and former starter. He is a fantastic slot receiver who can run an array of routes. He is underused on a team that doesn't seem to understand how to get the best out of him, only catching the ball 41 times on the year. Cotchery's biggest flaw is his inability to shake man coverage. He can sometimes struggle to lose a defender but when working the short and intermediate routes he is as good as any other player in the league. He would be a better fit for a pass first team.
Julian Edelman v Brad Smith
Both teams have solid depth at receiver. Edelman is very similar to Wes Welker but lacks the explosion and experience of his teammate. In recent weeks he has been lethal in returning punts for the Patriots repeatedly bringing the ball back for big gains. Edelman has not featured at all in the offense with only 7 receptions for the year. The team has used multiple tight end sets that has kept Edelman on the sideline on a regular basis.
Brad Smith is listed as a wide receiver but in reality he is as much a runningback and quarterback as a receiver. Smith brings a dynamism to the Jets that only Josh Cribbs can emulate in Cleveland. Smith has shown his ability to throw the ball well by throwing for a touchdown this year while accounting for three other touchdowns directly(1 rushing, 2 returning). He is most dangerous as a rusher having ran for 299 yards in the regular season. The Jets run the option with Smith very effectively and it will be interesting to see how Bill Belichick lines up against it.
D.Branch W.Welker. B.Tate J.Edelman.
9/10 7.5/10 7/10 6.5/10
Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez v Dustin Keller, Brian Hartsock
Rob Gronkowski v Dustin Keller
Gronkowski and Keller are similar possession receivers. Gronkowski's strength has been startling for the Patriots this season. He has soft hands for a tight end and under-appreciated pace for his size. He causes matchup problems for any team that he goes against. Gronkowski is a dual threat tight end who is a very reliable blocker who uses his big body to maul his opponents.
Whether it's a good thing or bad thing Dustin Keller is Mark Sanchez's favorite target. Keller runs good routes and has great hands. He repeatedly catches the ball when it comes his way and has the ability to run with it once he has it. He is not an outstanding blocker but can hold up in his assignments when asked.
Aaron Hernandez v Brian Hartsock
Hernandez and Hartsock are used very differently. Hernandez is a big part of the Patriots' offense as he brings big plays to the team whenever he touches the ball. He has amazing speed for a tight end and is even used on reverses. Hernandez can make the difficult catch and outruns most linebackers while outmuscling secondary players. Hernandez is reliable going over the middle and running his routes also.
Hartsock is not used at all by the Jets as a receiver. He is an underused Tight End that gets his playing time in the running game helping to open holes for the team's running backs.
D.Keller Hartsock Gronkowski Hernandez
8/10 5/10 8/10 8/10
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: