BEHIND ENEMY LINES PART I: Patriots at Jets
1. Is all of the Tebow talk from last week behind this team now that they pulled out a win over the Rams, or is there more coming? The locker room controversy that nabbed headlines this past week was largely perpetrated by the New York media. While anonymous players made negative remarks about Tebow, those quotes were taken out of context and during training camp and mini-camp, not following the Jets' loss to Seattle as many originally thought. So while the Jets may seem divided to those on the outside looking in, the team used this latest ploy by the media as a rallying cry for their Week 11 win. Gang Green will always be the media's darling with their bold statements and colorful language, so don't expect many dull moments from the Jets. 2. Bart Scott likes to have his voice heard. He was very vocal in the Jets win over New England with the "can't wait" comment, but reserved after their loss this year. What kind of impact do you expect Scott to have, and how big a factor is he for the Jets defense? Scott is undoubtedly an emotional leader for Gang Green, but his run-ins with reporters over the past two seasons have earned him some bad publicity. The Jets' mad-backer is battling a nagging turf toe injury that will likely require surgery in the offseason. While most players who sustain this injury are out between four to six weeks for a full recovery, Scott took just one game off against the Miami Dolphins and returned to action Week 10 against the Seattle Seahawks. He has admitted that the torn toe is hampering his ability to push off and generate power from his lower body, but Scott is a warrior who made 119 straight starts, playing through a laundry list of injuries over the years. I don't anticipate Scott having a major impact from a production standpoint, but his leadership on the field and ability to get players in the right mindset for a primetime divisional showdown are invaluable 3. Mark Sanchez is statistically on the bottom of the league in nearly all major quarterback statistics, barely rated above two rookies (Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden). How much of the problem is Sanchez's performance vs overall team problems? And how much longer will the team stick with Sanchez before trying something new? The Jets problems offensively go beyond the inconsistencies at quarterback. Tony Sparano's playcalling has been confounding at times, while his use of Tebow in the Wildcat has been ill-timed and disrupted Sanchez's rhythm on several occasions. New York's offensive line, while improved from last year, has gone through a few rough spells with Sanchez under fire in the pocket and forced into poor throws and turnovers. Sanchez has played far from his best this season, yet with the Jets ground game slowly gaining steam, the onus will fall off their quarterback and feature a more balanced attack. Barring a complete collapse by Sanchez, the starting job is in his hands for the remainder of the season. 4. Rex Ryan always makes Patriots – Jets week interesting by trying to draw attention to himself, even making bold statements that he knows will generate a reaction. How effective is Ryan at trying to deflect criticism from the team to himself, and do you think it's a tactic that still works? While Ryan's bluster draws the ire of many football fans, I believe it's still an effective tactic to help deflect negative attention away from his players. It's a growing misnomer that Ryan's talk adds fuel to an already heated rivalry. The Jets' head man still demonstrates respect for his opponents, while not hiding the fact that he has full faith in his players and coaches to earn a win. There's no secret that Ryan holds a special place in his heart for the Patriots and I think this makes for an intense and fun buildup to their upcoming matchup. 5. What are the biggest issues the Jets have to overcome on defense to slow down a Patriots team that averages over 30 points a game? Getting off the field on third downs has been a battle all year for Ryan's defensive unit. The Patriots were 8-of-12 on third-down conversions last week against the Indianapolis Colts and the Jets cannot surrender similar numbers if they have any hope of pulling the upset. New York's pass-rush, led by second-year defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson will need to wreak havoc upfront and force New England into third-and-long situations. New England is quickly becoming one of the league's top rushing attacks and a dangerous third-down team, so if the Jets are able to win that battle it will have a major impact on the outcome of Sunday's game. Prediction and why: The Jets were so close to a victory in Foxborough Week 7, they could taste it. With redemption on their minds and riding the energy of a festive home crowd, New York will stun New England 27-20 on Thanksgiving Night behind a strong defensive performance and efficient outing from an embattled Sanchez.
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