The Jets have the number one ranked defense in yards allowed (269.2 yards per game), points allowed (15.0 points per game) and red zone defense (allowing a touchdown on only 33.33 percent of red zone opportunities). They have the second ranked defense in both rushing (82.6 yards per game) and passing (186.6 yards per game) and they allow a league best 5.4 passing yards per attempt, but they haven't faced an offense even remotely as explosive as the Patriots number one scoring team in the NFL (36.6 points per game).
Everyone realizes that this will be the biggest challenge the Jets face all season, but the flip side of that same coin is this Jets defense could just as easily be the toughest challenge the Patriots face as well (although one could certainly argue the Broncos defense will present at least an equal challenge).
Yes, the Patriots offense is good, great even, but so is the Jets defense. The number one scoring defense versus the number one scoring offense means we get a hell of a matchup and something has to give. Can the Jets knock off Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and take an early, tiebreaker, lead in the division? Or will the Patriots be walking off the field wagging their fingers saying, 'yeah, you guys might be much better than recent years but you're still not ready to challenge for the division crown?'
WHEN: Sunday October 25, 2015 1pm EST
WHERE: Gillette Stadium Foxboro, Massachusetts
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Pressure Brady from the inside - You hear it every time the Jets play Brady, the key is to pressure Brady and knock him off his spot. This is the case with all quarterbacks but you hear it more with Brady because it's something that doesn't happen very much. Brady is a magician at manipulating the pocket. He makes quick, sharp reads (all the short drags and crossing routes help) and slides around the pocket to just move out of arms reach as good as anyone which is why the key isn't just to pressure Brady, but to pressure him up the middle. Pressure him from the edge and he'll simply slip and slide and step up in the pocket, send pressure directly at his face and he has nowhere to slip and slide to.
The Patriots have some injury issues along their offensive line (namely losing their left tackle Nate Solder for the season) that the Jets will need to take advantage of. They certainly have the talent upfront to beat the Patriots line but Belichick and Brady have a way or masking the limitation of the offensive line and still picking apart defenses. We all know how much success Todd Bowles' blitzing has brought him but expect to see a lot more inside blitzes against Brady this week. They'll still blitz Brady off the edge at times but the design should be about flying directly into Brady's face as much, and as fast, as possible.
Be ready for pick plays - Pick plays, also called rub routes, you watch other teams try and run them and get called for pass interference yet the Patriots entire offense is based around running pick plays and they rarely ever get flagged. This isn't a case of the Patriots getting preferential treatment from the refs it's a case of the Patriots just do it better than everyone else. Subtlety, it's all about subtlety. The Patriots design the routes so their receivers can pick, or "rub," the defenders all while staying in their route and not making it seem like it was a blatantly designed pick, even though that's exactly what it is.
The Patriots entire offense is based off of this and the Jets better have a game plan for it and just as importantly everyone has to have the discipline to stick to said game plan and stay in their lane. Do the Jets try and run through, over or under the picks? Or do they have the discipline to pass off the receivers to the next guy and simply avoid the pick? How the Jets attack this area of the Patriots passing game will play a huge role in the outcome of the game.
Healthy dose of Ivory with just enough Marshall - The Jets offense has been much better than expected but it's just been three guys doing the heavy lifting and as good as Eric Decker has been at times it's really been all about Chris Ivory and Brandon Marshall. The Jets need Ivory to keep backing up Marshall's claim that he's the best back in the NFL not only to keep Brady on the sideline but also to put points on the board. The Patriots offense is built around their short passing game, everything else they do stems from that, for the Jets everything branches out from Ivory running over and past defenders.
Belichick excels at game planning to take away his opponents best weapon but the Jets must stick with the run and let Ivory wear down the defense while mixing in some shots downfield to Marshall and Decker but especially Marshall. The Patriots secondary isn't even close to what it was last year but it's still pretty damn good, however they don't have anyone that can stop Marshall as long as Ryan Fitzpatrick can get him the ball.
Bowles vs. Belichick - Let's start this by saying Bowles obviously isn't even close to being considered in the same class of Belichick. Maybe one day it'll be closer but that day is a long way away, at best, and certainly isn't today and won't be Sunday. But it's more intriguing to look at it like these two coaches playing chess against each other rather than simply saying the Patriots offense versus the Jets defense.
As fun as it will be to watch Brady, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis versus Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson this matchup will be determined by the game plan more than any other game. The players will still ultimately decide the game but the game plan takes on extra importance during Patriots week.
Dion Lewis - Lewis has had some big games this season and his most dangerous ability is as a receiver out of the backfield, something that teams have shown can cause the Jets defense all types of problems. The weak spot of this Jets defense is in the coverage ability to their linebackers and just as Belichick excels at taking away his opponent's best weapon on offense he also excels at exploiting the weak spot of the opposing defense. The Jets absolutely can not let Lewis get into a rhythm.
PREDICTION: 31-13 Patriots
As good as the Jets defense is, and it is spectacular, the one area of weakness just so happens to be the area the Patriots like to attack most. The soft underbelly of the Jets defense is where they are most vulnerable and between all the pick/rub routes, seam-routes and a dangerous receiving running back that's exactly the area of the defense the Patriots feast off of. On the other side of the ball Ivory should still have a solid day but look for the wheels to start falling off of Fitzpatrick this week. Take a limited quarterback and put him against a Belichick defense and he's going to exploit and take advantage of said limitations. The Jets defense will hold strong for awhile but a couple of Fitzpatrick turnovers will put them in a precarious position too many teams as the Patriots eventually run away with the game and the division.