Curran's Patriots-Jets preview
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
You can’t say scratch the running game, but against the Jets you almost have to anticipate a very tough road because they are so tough to run against (3.0 yards per carry all season). The Patriots are pretty much healthy on the offensive line and in the running back group – Brandon Bolden is questionable with knee soreness; Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and Dan Connolly are all questionable as well with assorted ailments but they should be good to go. The big add, of course, is Gronkowski. His presence in the middle of the field has been desperately missed. Hopefully, he comes back with no trepidation about the arm after all he’s been through. Look for this to be a bigger game for the perimeter receivers, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. The Jets are usually able to stymie the slot for the Patriots and Julian Edelman is nursing a bad thigh.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
The first time around, the Patriots didn’t pressure Geno Smith very much instead opting to make him read the defense and get the ball out accurately. Our guy Phil Perry wrote about why it’s important to keep Smith throwing and not running can be found here. (http://www.csnne.com/blog/patriots-talk/patriots-focused-keeping-smith-pocket) The Jets ran the ball really well in the first meeting with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. With Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Jerod Mayo out, you figure that will be something they will go back to heavily. Aqib Talib is doubtful so the Patriots best cover corner may not be playing but the Jets don’t have an elite receiver to exploit the absence with. Still, Smith is a good downfield thrower and Stephen Hill can fly at the wide receiver spot so look for that to be a place New York will look to exploit. With Mayo down, the onus for running the front-seven falls to Don’t’a Hightower. Jets defensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg would be smart to challenge the linebackers with tight ends and backs in the passing game and see when or if the mental breakdown comes.
THE KICKING GAME
For the Jets, a new punter Ryan Quigley is doing the chores. He’s a switch from the last meeting. Nick Folk hasn’t missed a field goal this season. In the return game, Clyde Gates is the main kickoff returner and he’s averaging 23.2. Jeremy Kerley and Kyle Wilson split the punt return duties. In the first meeting with the Patriots, the Jets went without a return man and went for the block. It was weird. Julian Edelman continues to be a threat on punt returns. Ryan Allen punts a lot and he punts well – 41.4 net – and Stephen Gostkowski is having one of his best seasons with field goals and kickoffs.
PATRIOTS INJURY REPORT
OUT: Danny Amendola, WR, Tommy Kelly, DT, Leon Washington, RB; DOUBTFUL: Aqib Talib, CB QUESTIONABLE: Brandon Bolden, RB, Marcus Cannon, OL; Dan Connolly, G, Julian Edelman, WR; Rob Gronkowski, TE; Michael Hoomanawanui, TE; Matt Slater, WR, Tavon Wilson, DB; PROBABLE: Kyle Arrington, CB; Devin Mccourty, CB; Rob Ninkovich, DL, Nate Solder, OT.
JETS INJURY REPORT
OUT: Santonio Holmes, WR; Greg Salas, WR. PROBABLE: Quinton Coples, LB, Antonio Cromartie, CB, Kenrick Ellis, DL, Chris Ivory, RB, Jaiquawn Jarrett, DB; Jeremy Kerley, WR; Dee Milliner, DB, David Nelson, WR; Bilal Powell, RB, Darrin Walls, DB, Kyle Wilson, CB.
GAME WITHIN THE GAME
How stubborn the Jets will be with their running game. Coming into New England, the strength of the team would be on the ground. But if this one starts to get away from New York, will they go away from what their strength would be – power running against an injury-marred Patriots defense – in favor of letting Geno Smith throw. Even if Aqib Talib isn’t out there, the Patriots are still going to get the checkmark defensively against Talib.
PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP …
Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets big defensive lineman in his third year out of Temple is making a case as one of the league’s best young defensive linemen. He can ruin a running game.
JETS GOTTA STOP …
Julian Edelman. The Jets make it their mission to not let the Patriots beat them from the slot. After Wes Welker caught 15 passes for 192 yards against the Jets in 2009, Ryan said “no more.” The slot numbers since? 6 for 38, 7 for 80, 7 for 57, 5 for 124, 6 for 46, 6 for 66 and 7 for 71. Edelman had 13 catches for 78 yards in the first meeting this year. The Jets will take that.
DON'T BE SURPRISED IF …
Gronkowski comes out and plays like he’s good as new. He took all the time he and his people believed was necessary in coming back. Brady’s been missing him and making it clear everyone knows it. I expect Gronk – who is listed as questionable but has been cleared to play – to get the ball pounded to him if he is in there.
THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE
“Not so much as a heavier presence as me making sure to try to fill Mayo’s shoes, because that’s something I’m not going to be able to do. I can’t be Mayo. I’m Hightower. I can only do my job in ways that I feel that I should. I’m not going to have to go out on the boat and do something I’ve never done before. I’ve just got to keep the front-seven guys together, and hopefully those guys get my back in the back end.” – Dont’a Hightower on taking over as the lead communicator for the defense in place of Jerod Mayo.
THAT SUMS IT UP JETS STYLE
“I’ve said it before from day one (Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) are the best two I’ve ever gone against. They were when I came in the league many years ago as a defensive coordinator, and they’ve remained that way. Certainly we throw everything at them and see what happens, but we’re not just going to stand and play one or two coverages and let them pick us apart like he does a lot of people.” – Rex Ryan on defending Tom Brady
THE WINNER IS...
Patriots 17, Jets 16