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Patriots Keys to Beating the Jets
Stop the run
The Jets will not repeat the mistakes of Week 13 and open up with Mark Sanchez in the shotgun running a no-huddle offense. During the second half of the Colts game, the Jets ran the ball twice as much as they passed, and it helped power them to success. They will likely try to establish the running game early this time out. The Pats have some injuries on the defensive line but have Brandon spikes back to help fortify the run defense. If they can force Sanchez to win the game for the Jets, they stand a good chance at hosting the AFC Championship game.
Avoid falling for the play action
It’s easy to over commit to stopping the run when playing the Jets, and this is when Mark Sanchez is most dangerous. He is very successful at play action passes as linebackers and defensive backs try to get a jump on the run. Most of the damage he did against the Colts Wild Card weekend and the Pats Week 2 of the regular season came off of play action. The linebackers and DB’s must remain disciplined and stick to their assignments. In addition, in-cuts by the outside receivers and Dustin Keller working the middle of the field are routes and options that Sanchez seems to favor, especially on 3rd down. A modified Cover-4, with the outside linebackers taking away the in-cuts with an underneath zone and bringing one of the safeties into the middle of the field instead of taking a deep quarter to help stop Keller could be effective.
Win the field position battle
A spectacular kick-off return by Antonio Cromartie was likely the key reason the Jets were able to get into field-goal range and win the game against the Colts. Winning the field position battle to set up the offense will be key on Sunday. I expect the Jets’ defense to play better than they did during the Week 13 beating, which means that the shorter the field the Pats have to go, the more successful they will be. Bill Belichick always emphasizes all 3 phases of the game, and special teams will need to be dominant. The defense also plays a role here. By stopping the Jets deep in their own territory, the likelihood of the Pats’ offense starting in good field position increases.
Spread the Jets’ defense
The Patriots were able to pick apart the Jet defense Week 13 largely due to spreading them out with multiple receiver and tight end sets. I don’t expect the Jets to blitz as much as they did Week 13 and will instead rely on more zone coverages to make Tom Brady hold onto the ball longer. Luckily, Brady can make quick decisions and is pretty good at picking apart zones, as long as the line provides him the time. Spreading out the defense allows Brady to get a better read on what the defense is doing and creates more mismatches. The Jets simply do not have enough DB’s or athletic linebackers to cover all of the options Brady has to throw to. I expect a heavy dose of spread with formation/play variations that the Jets haven’t seen yet.
Run out of the spread
The Patriots have to keep the defense honest and establish a running game. It will not be easy against the Jets’ front seven, which is why running out of the spread will be an effective way to gain some yards on the ground. The Jets’ front 7 will not be able to bunch up in the box to stop the run and if they do, Brady will likely change the play to a pass and take advantage of what the Jets are doing. Danny Woodhead’s 50-yard run Week 13 came out of a spread formation, as there was plenty of space for Woodhead to weave in and out of. Without an effective running game, Brady’s play-action will be useless.
This game has all the makings of being a classic. It should be tight because both teams know each other well. It will likely be decided on a single big play, be it defensive, offensive, or on special teams. The Pats have a big advantage playing at home. We’ll find out if it’s enough to put them over the top.