Thursday, September 12, 2013

Four Point Stance: Jets at Patriots


Six days ago, the majority of football fans planned to tune in to Thursday's game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots simply to watch the impending train wreck. Now, they might be watching an actual game.

A stellar showing from the Jets' defense last weekend and the steady performance of rookie quarterback Geno Smith gave Gang Green a shot in the arm just in time to face a Patriots team that is without nearly all if its top offensive weapons. New England beat the Bills on a last-second field goal last week but lost top running back Shane Vereen and top receiver Danny Amendola in the process. The kicker: Tom Brady is still standing. (photos: Matt Britt, JDN, Flickr)


Ground battle. The Jets couldn't get much of anything going on the ground last week and will face another tough task with Vince Wilfork and a stout defensive line ahead. Meanwhile, the Patriots saw some flashes out of their offensive backfield last week but lost their top-producing tailback in Vereen to injury. They'll now rely on the slippery-handed Stevan Ridley to carry the load against a Jets defense that held Buccaneers running back Doug Martin to 2.7 yards a carry last week.

"Welker clone." Ryan said earlier this week that the Patriots had "a couple of Wes Welker clones" in Amendola and Julian Edelman. Amendola, however, was ruled doubtful for Thursday night, so the Jets' attention will be on Edelman, a familiar target of Brady's. Look for New England to move Edelman around a lot and for the Jets to be much more committed to getting in Brady's face than blanketing an unproven group of pass-catchers.

Rookie encore. Considering the circumstances, Smith was pretty damn good last week. He made a pair of expected rookie gaffes via a fumble and interception, but Smith showed a lot of mental toughness stepping into some good throws after taking a few big hits. He scrambled for some critical first downs and appeared to have good command of the offense. He'll get his first chance to play under the bright lights of primetime Thursday in the unfriendly confines of Gillette Stadium.

Chess match. The Jets vs. Patriots is always a glorified chess match. Ryan has always said the only way to beat Brady is to create confusion and pressure, because man-for-man, Brady is the favorite every time. Ryan has had success in the past of getting that done, but not as much as he'd like. Meanwhile, Patriots coach Bill Belichick schemes to shut down the Jets' run but always seems to have his defensive backs in position to make plays on the ball. It's a balance that allows for a lot of yards given up, but not a lot of points. Belichick is 14-4 against rookie quarterbacks.
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