The New York Jets travel to face the New England Patriots in Foxboro today in a battle between two 3-3 teams in the AFC East. After the Patriots fell to a comeback defeat to the Seattle Seahawks last week, when they made uncharacteristic mistakes to lose the game, the Patriots will be desperate to make a statement in their first matchup with their biggest division rivals of recent times.
Even though the Jets are coming to Boston off the back of a big victory over the Indianapolis Colts, this team does not resemble the Jets' teams of the past who repeatedly went to the playoffs. Against the better teams on their schedule so far, the Jets have been convincingly beaten two out of three games. The Pittsburgh Steelers trashed the Jets in Week 2 by 27 to 10, before the San Francisco 49ers shut out the offense and dismantled the defense in a 34-0 win in New York. Even when the Jets played well, they still lost to the Houston Texans by six points.
Not only did the Jets enter this season with a weaker roster than they have had in the past, but they also have lost their two most talented pieces on offense and defense since then. Darrelle Revis went down with a torn ACL before Santonio Holmes suffered a lisfranc injury to his foot to rule him out for the season. Even though Revis is the real superstar, it will be Holmes' loss that is most felt in this game.
Sidney Rice, Braylon Edwards and Doug Baldwin exposed the Patriots' secondary last week as Russell Wilson had a career day throwing his team to victory. The Patriots' lack of talent at the safety position was exposed by Rice and Baldwin, while Edwards simply outmuscled Alfonzo Dennard in the endzone to score his touchdown. There is no question that the Patriots' fatal flaw lies on the back end of their defense, but it is unclear if the Jets have the talent outside to take advantage of that flaw.
For all of his difficulties and inconsistencies, Santonio Holmes was a receiver with the talent to beat defenders for big gains. Without him, the Jets will have to rely on the relatively inexperienced Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens and Stephen Hill. There is definitely enough talent on the field for the Jets to get the better of the Patriots defense passing the ball, but the production and consistency may not be there just yet.
The Jets will be tempted to rely on Shonn Greene, as he is coming off of a career day against the Colts, but the Patriots have proved to be very comfortable defending running-backs this year. Greene also hasn't done enough over the whole season to really justify giving him the football 20+ times. In order to run the ball the Jets may look more to Tim Tebow than they have all season long.
Tebow was shut down the last time he played in Foxboro, but as a bit part of the offense against a front seven with less experience this time around, he could help the Jets stay ahead of the chains. Alas, with the Patriots offense on the other side of the field, the Jets may not get a chance to commit to running the football.
For as long as he has been in the league, Rex Ryan has prided himself on quality defense. However, his current defense lacks the talent to matchup to his expectations...or the Patriots' personnel. Ryan had talked of using the 46 formation against the Patriots in the off-season, but the loss of Darrelle Revis will likely limit how much he can do that. The 46 relies on excellent single coverage on the outside, something that Kyle Wilson isn't capable of.
The Seattle Seahawks were able to contain the Patriots because their defense as a whole is very physical and fast. Physicality is not an issue for the Jets, but overall athleticism is. Both of the Jets safeties, LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, will be forced to cover the Patriots tight ends on almost every single snap, because none of the four linebackers on the field have a chance.
Even if the Jets safeties succeed against the Patriots tight ends, something that is unlikely, the Patriots will still get a favourable matchup with either Deion Branch, Wes Welker or Julian Edelman. Brady is an expert at taking advantage of mismatches in defenses, against this defense he will have those mismatches while the Jets' front four is primarily a run stuffing, opposed to pass rushing, unit. That should give Brady the time in the pocket that he needs to succeed.
The Patriots' season so far has stuttered it's way to 3-3. This is a game that they should win, but also a game that they will want to win convincingly in order to kick start their season.