Week 16 Preview: Patriots @ Jets

The Patriots travel to Metlife Stadium to face the Jets in what could be the final game of the Belichick/Ryan rivalry. Can the struggling Jets pull off the upset?

The 11-3 Patriots will renew their rivalry with the 3-11 Jets at MetLife Stadium this coming Sunday. When these two teams get together, you can throw the overall records out the window because not only do they have familiarity with each other, the franchises have hatred towards one another, from top to bottom. Rex Ryan is coaching most likely his final two games with the Jets, so he’ll be fired up to get a win over Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Let’s answer the Weekly Five Questions to determine who wins on Sunday.

1. How will the Patriots move the ball?

In years past, the Jets could rely on their defense to keep them in games. They had lockdown corners and were creative with their blitzes. Unfortunately, those corners are now in New England (Revis) and Arizona (Cromartie) and the Jets are not the same. The run defense is excellent, mainly due to one of the best defensive lines in football. New York is allowing 87.5 yards per game, ranking them fourth in the league. Against the pass, it’s a different story; New York is allowing 242 passing yards per game, which ranks them 20th. Their overall allowed-yardage stat looks good because the run defense, but if you allow big plays in the passing game, it doesn’t matter if you can stop the run. The Jets allow a lot of points (25.7 points per game) placing them 24th in the league. Tom Brady has struggled against Rex in the past, but with one game under their belts and another 13 games on tape, the Patriots will find holes in the Jets pass defense and expose them Sunday. Expect a big day from the Patriots passing game, specifically Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski. This will also be a good test and playoff preparation for the offensive line due to the Jets immense talent up front.

2. Can the Jets score against the New England defense?

Geno Smith has retaken the quarterback job and he will face the Patriots for the fourth time in his career. Smith is 1-2 with 673 passing yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions vs. New England, but his best outing did come in the Week Seven matchup in Foxboro. Darrelle Revis didn’t have his best game that day, but he’ll have the added adrenaline of playing in his old stomping grounds, so expect him to be on lockdown mode. The Jets did add Percy Harvin before the trade deadline, and I fully expect to see Revis lined up on the talented but enigmatic wide receiver. Eric Decker hasn’t been what the Jets paid for, but he is still a threat. Browner should be matched up with Decker with McCourty helping out over the top. The Jets had success running vs. the Patriots in Week Seven, but again, a lot has changed since then. Alan Branch and Sealver Siliga have helped to solidify the defensive line and Akeem Ayers has done the same at the middle linebacker spot. The Patriots defense is fast and physical and the Jets will find it very difficult to score at all this week.

3. Who has the edge in the coaching match up?

This is one of the few times where the matchup is a draw. Rex Ryan knows how to coach against Bill Belichick; it’s as simple as that. Rex is an excellent defensive game-planner and even with limited talent at linebacker and defensive back, he found a way to give the Patriots fits in their first meeting. Ryan is also most likely facing the Patriots for the last time as head coach of New York, so his players are going to work hard to get him a win. Rex is the scapegoat of some terrible personnel decisions of John Idzik, but that’s a story for another day. Belichick has all the respect in the world for Rex Ryan, but he truly despises the Jets organization and I’m assuming he’s spent a lot of time this week figuring out a way to score big on the Jets. Two excellent coaches who desperately want this win- this is going to be one heck of a chess match to watch. This is unusual for me, but I’m calling this matchup a draw.

4. Will the Jets find a way to give Brady fits?

As we discussed before, the Jets typically give Brady some problems; familiarity of a division opponent is always an advantage. The Jets have the one of the better defensive lines in football, led by defensive end Sheldon Richardson, who has 60 tackles (37 solo, 23 assists) and 6.5 sacks on the season. Richardson stated this week that he’s on the same level as J.J. Watt, and although that is a stretch, he is a great player and a load to deal with. Muhammad Wilkerson mans the other defensive end position and he’s no slouch either; Wilkerson has 49 tackles (29 solo, 20 assists) and 4.5 sacks on the season. In the middle of this young talented group is nose tackle Damon Harrison. Harrison has 52 tackles (27 solo, 25 assists) which is excellent for a nose tackle. This trio, along with linebackers DeMario Davis, David Harris, and Calvin Pace shut the run down and has combined for 20 sacks, which is more than half the sacks the Jets have on the season. If the New England offensive line plays like they did in the first half vs. Miami, Brady will definitely have a rough day. Can Nate Solder hold up for an entire game tomorrow or will he be a turnstile like he has in MANY games this year? It’s a legit question and could be the difference in the game.

5. Who wins the game?

Like I always do in division games, throw the records out the window because it means nothing. This is a true rivalry and the Jets will do everything in their power to win the game, especially after their heartbreaking 27-25 loss in Foxboro earlier this season. The Patriots defense will have a chip on their shoulders after getting rocked in the running game and allowing 25 points to one of the worst offenses in football. Don’t expect to see the Jets get in the end zone too often because they just won’t be able to move the ball on this Patriot defense. Brady will have some tough moments, mainly due to Sheldon Richardson, but when he gets time, he will make plays and lead the offense into the end zone. New England wins another AFC East brawl.

Predicted Score: Patriots 30, Jets 12

Statistics Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com

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