By Danielle McCartan (@CoachMcCartan)
BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. – On Sunday, November 27, 2016, the New England Patriots (8-2) will travel to south to face their AFC East division rival New York Jets (3-7). This matchup was not quite what the National Football League was expecting, having moved the game to a 4:25pm kickoff. Although the game was flexed out of the primetime, Sunday Night Football slot, both teams have plenty to play for. After narrowly missing the playoffs in Coach Todd Bowles’ first year at the helm, the Jets are playing for the future. Against a championship caliber opponent, it is a perfect opportunity for them to perform a litmus test with creative play-calling and different personnel groupings and formations. This will expose top-priority needs for the 2017 NFL Draft. With a win in week 12, the Patriots’ Tom Brady can edge Brett Favre in most all-time wins for a quarterback.
New York Jets Keys to Victory
- Neutralize Rob Gronkowski. The entire league knows that Gronk is one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets, especially in the red zone. The Jets need to make him a non-factor in order to win in week 12. Through week 10, the Jets are ranked 18th in the league in defending against the tight end. They’ve allowed 47 receptions for: 3 touchdowns, 529 yards, and an average gain of 11.26 yards. These stats are not terrible, considering they’ve faced some of the best tight ends in the game: Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati Bengals), Jimmy Graham (Seattle Seahawks), and Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs).
- Defensive trickery. The Jets must do their best to disguise their defense. Rex Ryan’s Jets beat the Patriots only three times during his tenure, but he excelled at confusing Tom Brady with different defensive looks and schemes in those victories. Most notable was when he would set the minimum number of players on the line of scrimmage – the rest were walking about, not committing to anything until the ball was snapped. This way, Brady had a much more difficult time dissecting the coverages at the line of scrimmage. Brady’s stats from those losses are below:
- 9/20/09: 53.1 rating, 48.9% completion, 0 TD, 1 INT
- 9/19/10: 72.5 rating, 55.6% completion, 2 TD, 2 INT
- 10/20/13: 53.5 rating 47.8% completion, 0 TD, 1 INT
- Better situational play calling on offense. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is on the hot seat. With some questionable calls, the most pivotal being the mistake he admitted to against the Miami Dolphins. “When the ball goes on the ground, to be honest with you, I thought it was third-and-two,” Gailey said. “I thought it was third-and-two, two-and-a-half maybe and then all of a sudden when I look up after I’ve called the play, it’s third-and-one, a little over one, maybe one-and-a-half and I might have made a different call if I thought it was that down and distance.” Confidence in Gailey was high at the beginning of the season. Eric Decker said: “I think Chan is one of the better coordinators in this league. He has so much football experience [and is] very creative. I think his key is to [put you in] good match-ups. [He] puts you in a position to succeed.” With that being said, confidence in Gailey’s play-calling abilities will be restored with a win over the division-leading Patriots.
New England Patriots Keys to Victory
- Pressure the quarterback. It does not matter who the quarterback will be on Sunday (an announcement from Coach Bowles will be coming mid-week). A cause for serious concern is the Jets’ depth on the offensive line. Ryan Fitzpatrick, after sitting out in week 10 and with the week 11 bye is still tied with Blake Bortles (JAX) for most interceptions in the NFL. He will be starting against the Patriots in week 12. Coming off a bye week will definitely help the walking wounded: tackle Breno Giacomini (shoulder), center Nick Mangold (ankle), offensive tackle Brent Qvale (neck), and tackle Brandon Shell (shoulder). Will the extra week of rest be enough to heal these players back into action? It is important to note that the Patriots are ranked 16th in the NFL in sacks (21).
- Spread the ball around offensively. Brady is best when he spreads the ball to as many different receivers as he can. If the Jets can neutralize Gronk, others must step up. In 2016, there are seven patriots with receiving touchdowns: Julian Edelman, Martellus Bennett, James White, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell. Wide receiver (and North Jersey native) Hogan will be playing in front of family and friends- expect him to have a productive game.
- Take an early lead. The Patriots rank 6th in the NFL in average points scored per game (27.1), but during the last three games, they are experiencing an uptick (averaging 31.7 points per game). The Jets rank 20th in the NFL in points allowed per game (24.4). However, the Jets rank in the top third of the league in average points given up at home (18.8). Home-field advantage is, statistically, in the cards for the Jets defense. The Patriots must take an early lead to put the Jets on their heels from the outset. If they can take an early lead, they can, as safety and defensive captain Devin McCourty told me in July: “win as many games as we can”.