By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots renew their rivalry with the New York Jets at the New Jersey Meadowlands on Sunday afternoon in a match of divisional opponents.
The Patriots (5-1) won last week 30-27 against the New Orleans Saints in a wild, improbable finish as Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins with a 17 yard touchdown with just five seconds left.
The Jets (3-3) lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home last week 19-6 when rookie quarterback Geno Smith threw two costly interceptions late in the game deep in Steelers territory and hope to get back on the winning track against New England.
We here at PatsFans.com are going to try something a little bit different this season. We’re going to run a column, the “Razor’s Edge” to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.
The Patriots and Jets have met 109 times and the series has been remarkably even with the Patriots owning a 56-52-1 edge in those games. Although both teams have gone through long winning streaks the all-time mark remains close.
The Jets own a 28-26 advantage all-time at home although the Patriots have won the last five meetings between the two teams. The last meeting in New Jersey was the infamous “Butt Fumble” game in November of 2012.
The last meeting was an ugly, rainy 13-10 win for New England in Foxboro.
The Patriots offense got a big boost from having Stevan Ridley last week, Ridley New England’s best running back churned out 96 yards on 18 carries last week and provided a facet of the offense that was missing the week prior against Cincinnati.
The offense, particularly Tom Brady got off to a fast start in the 1st half utilizing a quick passing game and found receivers open to counter a good New Orleans pass rush. But the second half was a different story with the offense struggling until the final drive.
Problems persist in drops among the wide receivers, the pass protection for the second week in a row was far below New England’s standards and Brady was again not at his sharpest, missing a wide open Danny Amendola with what would have been a 83 yard touchdown pass.
The offense also got a nice shot in the arm on the final drive from recently signed Austin Collie who made two big catches enroute to the winning touchdown. Look for Collie who’s been hard at work both during and after practices to get a bigger role soon.
Patriots RBs vs Jets Front Seven- Edge Jets
The Jets have one of the best interior defensive lines in the NFL and Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are among the best at their defensive line positions. The New York front seven is very stout and is currently #2 in the NFL against the run allowing only a miniscule 75.7 yards per game on the ground.
The Patriots use a running back by committee approach and with Stevan Ridley back makes it a much tougher matchup as they can run or pass with all three running backs, Brandon Bolden, LaGarrette Blount and Ridley on the field.
The key for New England is being able to throw the ball first, and then that will open up lanes for the running backs to exploit. But they’ll find tough sledding this week.
Patriots WRs vs Jets Secondary- Edge Patriots
The New England passing game is still, six games into the season, a work in progress. And six games in, they’re yet to play a game with all their weapons being be able to take the field together…perhaps in 2013, it is not to be.
Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins are going to be looked at to provide a bigger boost to the Patriots passing game as the season wears on.
(USA TODAY Images)
Tom Brady continues to build his rapport with newcomers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins and now veteran Austin Collie bolsters Julian Edelman as a reliable option. And things suddenly aren’t as bad as they seemed just a short time ago. When Shane Vereen and if (and that’s a big IF) Rob Gronkowski ever makes an appearance in 2013, it will be an offense with a nice array of weapons.
The Jets secondary is suffering a rash of injuries and the past three games the numbers bear out how difficult an obstacle that has become. Jake Locker, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger have a combined completion percentage of 75.2 for 847 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 118.6 during this span.
Rex Ryan knows the best way to protect a banged up secondary is to pressure the quarterback and his system is very close to the one that his brother used to harass Brady last week. It comes down to protection for New England, if Brady can get play-action passing going, there will be some holes in the Jets secondary.
The Patriots defense which has been far, far better than any recent Patriots unit has been snake bit by a rash of injuries. Vince Wilfork is down for the season with an Achilles tear; Tommy Kelly injured his knee against Cincinnati further weakening the interior of the defense. Now Jerod Mayo, the Patriots best overall linebacker is gone for the year with a torn pectoral muscle, no miracle cure deer antler spray this season.
Also CB Aqib Talib injured his hip and it’s doubtful he’ll play this Sunday for another blow to this defense. One begins to wonder how many injuries will amount to one too many and it begins to tip the scale against this unit.
The team re-signed NT Andre Neblett on Wednesday to help with what will be a big test against the Jets running game. Brandon Spikes will be counted upon to really step up in the run defense and 2nd year LB Dont’a Hightower will now wear the green dot communication device getting the signals from the sidelines.
This Patriots defense has been very good this season allowing only 16.2 points per game, good for 4th in the NFL after six games.
Jets RBs vs NE Front Seven- Edge Jets
Run, run and then run it some more…. That’s what the Jets will likely do this week against a very depleted New England interior defensive line. The Jets ran the ball effectively against the interior defense in the first meeting and that was WITH Wilfork and Kelly.
The Jets have a solid offensive line that is very good with run blocking and a pair of solid running backs in Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory. Powell had a good game during the first meeting running between the tackles. Ivory was thought to be the guy in the preseason but has been slowed with hamstring issues.
The Jets will be looking to gash the Patriots with the run to set up play-action passing which will open up the middle of the secondary even more with Mayo out. And it will make the game easier for the rookie QB Smith to manage.
Jets WRs vs NE Secondary-Edge Patriots
The Jets passing game has been inconsistent, given the fact that they have a rookie quarterback and a limited number of playmakers at the skill positions and it has been unavoidable.
Geno Smith has had his ups and downs but has shown flashes of being the leader the Jets need at QB. His drive at the end of the first half was a good one and he led them on two late drives against Pittsburgh but has to cut down on the turnovers.
But Santonio Holmes is still nursing a bad hamstring, Kellen Winslow is suspended for PEDs and that doesn’t make things easier for him. He’ll look to Stephen Hill and Jeff Cumberland at TE a lot in this one.
The Patriots frustrated Smith in the first meeting and the result was three interceptions. They’ll be looking to mix things up and do the same. But without Talib, Kelly, Wilfork and Mayo that may be a lot more difficult.
Special Teams- Edge Push
The kicking games are very even with the Jets kicker Nick Folk yet to miss a field goal in 2013 and the Pats’ Stephen Gostkowski who’s been excellent in both field goals and kickoffs, pinning opponents deep.
Rookie punters Ryan Allen for the Patriots and Ryan Quigley for New York, are each averaging over 45 yards per punt and have net average of over 40 yards which is excellent and both coverage units have been solid as well.
Neither team has had an explosive kick-off return game; Julian Edelman gives the Patriots a slight edge in punt returns and is always dangerous as the Jets are well aware of from last season. The Jets just signed KR Josh Cribbs so that will bear watching if he can make a splash in his first game.
Patriots Player to Watch- Kenbrell Thompkins
Thompkins has had his moments in 2013 as well as some rookie ones as well but when the game was on the line, he not only got open in the back of the end zone but was able to haul in the pass for a game winning touchdown against the Saints.
Now is the time for him to put back-to-back games together and become an even bigger part of the offense. With Julian Edelman getting a lot of attention over the middle and Aaron Dobson likely drawing the attention of Antonio Cromartie, Thompkins will draw either Dee Milliner if he’s able to go or Kyle Wilson.
Milliner has had his own rookie issues and was benched against the Patriots in the first meeting and Wilson is generally used in the slot. Thompkins will be a big factor in this game either way because he’s sure to get a lot of looks from Tom Brady on Sunday.