Patriots - Jets: Game Plans & Matchups

News, notes, injury reports, including key matchups, and game plans for both teams.

New England Patriots

   Starting with the release of DL Albert Haynesworth, this has been a busy week for the Patriots in terms of roster transactions.

   The team also released DB Malcolm Williams from the practice squad and added S Ross Ventrone, LB Mike Rivera and DB Josh Victorian. S Josh Barrett is now on injured reserve with a season-ending calf injury and LB Niko Koutouvides and WR Tiquan Underwood were added to the active roster.

   The release of Haynesworth is no surprise due to his struggles, but it's noteworthy considering his veteran status. Koutouvides and Underwood were with the team during training camp, so they have some understanding of the system.

   GAME PLAN: The numbers don't reflect it yet, but the Jets are one of the league's top defenses, and they're starting to come into their own following a slow start to the season.
   New York ranks eighth in the league in total defense thanks in large part to its secondary, which remains among the league's best. The Jets have had a hard time stopping the run, which could force the Patriots into trying to establish their running game early in the aftermath of what happened last week against the Giants.
   The possible return of Kevin Faulk would be a big help this weekend. Faulk's presence allows the Patriots to be more diverse offensively, particularly with screen passes or inside handoffs. Their ability to run will dictate how Tom Brady performs in the pocket.
   On the flipside, their secondary is still a mess, so expect the Jets to try to air it out early. Everyone else has had success with this approach, and the Jets don't figure to be the exception.

   MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Jets' CB Darrelle Revis vs. Patriots WR Wes Welker -- Revis is still the league's top cornerback, and though he won't spend the entire game covering Welker, expect him to draw this assignment on occasion since Welker is Tom Brady's No. 1 target. Revis is more accustomed to shutting down big-play deep threats, but the Patriots don't have anyone outside of Welker and Deion Branch who demand that kind of attention, so this will be a case of one man trying to defend two.

   Patriots' NT Vince Wilfork vs. Jets' C Nick Mangold -- This is one of the best one-on-one matchups you'll see all year in the trenches. Without Albert Haynesworth, Wilfork figures to command more attention from opposing linemen. If Mangold does his job, the Jets will be able to run up the middle, which, at times, has been a sore spot for New England's defense. Either way, this matchup will go a long way in determining who has the upper hand Sunday.

   Patriots' CB Devin McCourty vs. Jets' WR Plaxico Burress -- Unlike the Patriots, the Jets have a tall, rangy deep threat who can stretch the field vertically. Burress isn't nearly as consistent as he was in his prime with the Giants, but he has a three-touchdown game this year, so with the right timing he can be a threat. McCourty has struggled all year and could have a long night if Sanchez and Burress are in sync.

New York Jets

   The Jets last week signed TE Shawn Nelson, who was waived by Buffalo on Sept. 3. Nelson, a fourth-round draft pick in 2009, played parts of two seasons for the Bills and the Jets believe he has plenty of potential as a receiver. He is trying to learn the playbook on the fly, so it's unclear how soon he could make an impact.
   They haven't made any moves with the 53-man roster since, although they waived DT Jarron Gilbert off the practice squad. The Jets had been trying to convert Gilbert to a blocking TE, but the experiment apparently didn't work.

   --S Brodney Pool (sprained left knee) sat out practice Thursday for a second straight day. His availability for Sunday's game against New England is uncertain.
   --RB-KR Joe McKnight (toe) sat out practice Thursday for a second straight day. His availability for Sunday's game against New England is uncertain. If McKnight can't play, CB Antonio Cromartie will handle kickoff-return duties and rookie RB Bilal Powell will be the third running back. Powell has yet to be active for a game this season.
   --C Nick Mangold's healthy return to the Jets' lineup has made an obvious difference. The Jets lost both games he missed because of a high ankle sprain, but are 5-1 otherwise.
   --QB Mark Brunell is one of very few non-punters handling holding duties in the NFL. Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff believes one of the reasons K Nick Folk is having a terrific season is because of his good chemistry with Brunell and LS Tanner Purdum.
   --CB Darrelle Revis likely will cover slot receiver Wes Welker a majority of the time Sunday, as Revis did in the Jets' loss to the Patriots last month. Jets coach Rex Ryan says Revis is one of the few NFL corners who can be equally effective both outside and inside.

   GAME PLAN: The Jets must do a better job against RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who rushed for a career-high 136 yards in the Patriots' 30-21 win over the Jets on Oct. 9. A malfunctioning running game would allow the Jets' pass rush to turn up the heat on Tom Brady, who is not having a great season by his lofty standards. Brady has 20 touchdown passes, but his two interceptions in the loss to the Giants on Sunday gave him 10 picks halfway through the season.
   His career-high for interceptions is 14, in 2002, 2004 and 2005. The Jets could use a faster start on offense, after not getting a first down until the second quarter of last month's game. The Jets also need to make some big plays on special teams.

: Jets WR Santonio Holmes vs. Patriots CB Devin McCourty -- Holmes had four receptions for 60 yards in the first meeting, including a 21-yard touchdown grab that cut the Jets' deficit to 27-21 in the fourth quarter. McCourty has been targeted often by opposing teams, and has allowed four touchdowns this season after permitting only five in his Pro Bowl rookie campaign last season.
   Jets CB Darrelle Revis vs. Patriots WR Wes Welker -- In past years, Revis only covered slot receiver Welker occasionally, but he had most of the responsibility for Welker in the October matchup. Revis did his usual excellent job, except for one huge play, when Welker split Revis and S Eric Smith for a 73-yard reception that set up the Patriots' second touchdown. There was a miscommunication between Revis and Smith on the play, but Revis says it was his fault.

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