Monday, December 6, 2010

Ready to Shock the World…AGAIN: JETS at Patriots Monday Night Football

The Jets head to New England for their Monday Night Football matchup with the Patriots this week. Gang Green has the opportunity to sweep the Patriots for the first time since the 2000 season. The Jets won the first matchup at home in week 2 after outscoring the Patriots 18-0 in the second half to win 28-14. In that game, Mark Sanchez outplayed Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady by throwing 3 touchdowns with no interceptions, while Brady threw 2 second half interceptions. Darrelle Revis sat out the entire second half with a hamstring injury, but Antonio Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson held wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker in check.

Without Randy Moss on the opposing sideline, who should Revis be covering in tonight’s matchup? Rex Ryan and Revis were both asked earlier in the week who Revis will be shadowing, and both decided to keep their lips sealed. This is likely going to be one of the games where Revis will move around a lot. I expect to see him covering Welker a lot, even with him lining up in the slot. He will also play a role in stopping the Patriots dangerous rookie tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez received for over 100 yards in week 2, something I am sure Rex is not going to allow to happen again.

In addition to the absence of Revis in the second half, the Jets were without wide receiver Santonio Holmes (suspension) and linebacker Calvin Pace (foot injury), who led the Jets in sacks the past two seasons. The addition of Holmes to the offense gives Mark Sanchez an extra weapon as he goes up against the 32nd ranked pass defense in the NFL, although this number is a bit inflated. The Patriots are the highest scoring team in the league; therefore, their opponents have had to throw the ball more while trying to play catch up. Holmes has 4 touchdowns in the last 3 games and has established himself as Sanchez’s favorite target this season.

We cannot forget the impact that Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller had in the week 2 matchup. Braylon scored an early touchdown (followed by a fantastic version of the Dougie) and also caught an important 2-point conversion when the Jets scored to take the lead. Keller made 7 catches for 115 yards and a late touchdown to ice the game. The addition of Holmes to the offense and a healthy Cotchery (who also had a touchdown in the first meeting) back this week makes Mark Sanchez and the passing game very dangerous barring tough weather conditions.

LaDainian Tomlinson will need to be effective in the passing game to help Sanchez keep the offense moving. I expect the combination of LT and Shonn Greene will have a big impact in this game. With sub-freezing temperatures in the forecast tonight, the Jets may want to rely on the ground and pound instead of making Sanchez throw the ball 35 times. Having played football his entire life in California, Sanchez still has not had much experience playing in cold temperatures. I am confident in his ability to adjust to the conditions since he has proven to be much more mature than last season, but the ground game needs to once again prove that it is a powerful force for this Jet offense.

The defense took a big hit this week. The Jets secondary lost their strong safety and captain, Jim Leonhard, to a broken shin this week after a freak collision with WR Patrick Turner. Leonhard is out for the season and will be replaced tonight by safety Eric Smith. Smith spoke confidently in interviews this week about taking over as the starter. Smith has always been one of the better tacklers on the Jets and has consistently played well since joining the team in 2006. I expect some combination of Smith, James Ihedigbo, Dwight Lowery, and Kyle Wilson to make a big impact for the secondary in this game. The Jets will have to throw something new into the game plan without Leonhard. If they can execute it well, it will be something the Patriots cannot have seen while watching film this week and will not be prepared for. The Jets will also need to bring plenty of pressure on Tom Brady. The Patriots offense is built to tear apart the zone defense, but the Jets rarely go into zone. The Jets will be playing man to man all night, and with pressure being brought on Brady, he should have a hard time finding open receivers. Some may be worried about the impact Danny Woodhead may have in this game. The Jets are 3rd in the NFL against the run for a reason. As much as I liked Woodhead, he will have as tough of a time as any trying to run on the Jets. The Jets will want to keep him behind the line of scrimmage in passing situation. The Jets have had trouble defending running backs on passing plays, but again, this is something I am sure Rex is ready for.

The Patriots are currently on a 3 game win streak. They have scored 31 or more points in each of these victories and, again, are leading the NFL in scoring. The Jets’ offense is more than capable of winning a shootout if necessary, but the Jets are 3rd in total defense and 4th in points against, so there’s no guarantee it will be necessary. The Jets have been winning ugly this season, but no team goes 9-2 by shear luck. They have beaten the Patriots once already and are built to do it again.

Today is 12/6/10. Tom Brady wears #12, Mark Sanchez wears #6. If this is fate somehow, then expect #10, Santonio Holmes, to have a big impact in the outcome of the game (the Patriots do not have a #10 on their roster). I could just be overly superstitious though.

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