New York Jets @ New England Patriots
Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Sebastien Vollmer.
The Patriots' offensive line has been outstanding throughout the season. It is a brilliant pass protecting unit that is also capable of opening up holes in the running game. Matt Light is one of the best left tackles in the league while Logan Mankins made the Pro Bowl even after holding out at the start of the season. Light and Mankins together are a dominant pairing that are unmatched throughout the league. The line allowed 25 sacks over the whole of the regular season but many of those came early before the Patriots offense had really kicked into life. The offensive line is the biggest reason for Tom Brady's success this season as he has constantly had time to throw while rarely being under pressure to throw the ball before he wanted to. Without the high standard of offensive line play Brady would have been forced into throwing more than 4 interceptions this year. The importance of a clean pocket is obvious to any NFL Quarterback, just ask Peyton Manning who's offensive line fell apart halfway through this season causing a huge number of interceptions.
Light Mankins Koppen Connolly Vollmer
9/10 9/10 8/10 7/10 7/10
D'Brickshaw Ferguson, Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, Wayne Hunter.
This offensive line was at the very least 2nd best in the NFL last season and potentially the best ahead of the Baltimore Ravens however this season has been much different. The Jets released Alan Faneca before the season began which meant Matt Slauson came into the starting lineup. Slauson hasn't replaced Faneca's ability to maul his opposition which has hurt the rushing game substantially. Slauson has struggled throughout the season and is lucky that he is flanked by two pro bowl talents in Ferguson and Mangold. Mangold is widely considered the best center in the league and that reputation is deserved as he is equally adept against the pass rush and in the running game. That means that the Jets are now missing their two best run blockers from last season as Damien Woody is injured. Woody is a big blow to the team but his replacement Hunter managed to hold up against the Colts last week when the team only gave up one sack(to Defensive tackle Daniel Muir).
Ferguson Slauson Mangold Moore Hunter
8/10 6/10 10/10 7/10 6/10
Brandon Deaderick, Vince Wilfork, Gerrard Warren.
When fully healthy the Patriots have an outstanding defensive line but the unit has been crippled by injuries this season. The loss of Ty Warren before the season has been crucial while Mike Wright and Ron Brace have recently joined him on the sidelines for the season. Vince Wilfork is the key man for the Patriots, they need to get as many snaps as possible out of him as their rotation is now too thin to rest him without a drop off in performance. Wilfork is one of the best defensive tackles in the league but Deaderick is an unproven rookie and Gerrard Warren will not be able to play every snap either. Running on this team looks like the best chance for success going into the playoffs.
Deaderick Wilfork Warren
6.5/10 9.5/10 7/10
Mike Devito, Sione Pouha, Shaun Ellis.
After losing Kris Jenkins for the second season in a row, the Jets defensive line has once again proven its solidarity by being dominant against the run once again.The team ranked 3rd against the run and much of that success is thanks to the performances of the three defensive linemen. Sione Pouha has been brilliant in the place of Jenkins, Pouha had 59 tackles and 2 sacks. An impressive total from a two gap defender. Devito has the exact same stat line that Pouha had through the regular season and held up his side of the line while Ellis did not have as much success statistically but was a stellar cog in the defense as a whole.
Devito Pouha Ellis
7.5/10 8/10 7.5/10
Defensive Line and Offensive Line: