When we last left the Patriots, they were getting waxed 34-10 two weeks ago in Tennessee. Will a week off followed by a visit to the 3-7 Jets be enough to get them right?
By Land: The Patriots offense peaked when they scored 119 points in three games against the Dolphins, Colts and Chiefs. That’s when Sony Michel was at his best, Julian Edelman returned from suspension and Rob Gronkowski was available. They’ve scored 84 offensive points in the four games since and it’s been tough sledding at times. Even though the Jets aren’t a patsy defensively, this is a good week for New England to surge. Michel will be in his second game back from his knee injury, Gronkowski is poised to return from his injuries and the offensive line had two weeks to heal and should have Shaq Mason. In two of their past three games, the Jets have been routed on the ground (179 yards allowed vs. Chicago and 212 to the Bills). In order to take the heat off of Tom Brady and his tweaked knee and to begin preparing a playoff antidote to teams such as the Chiefs, the Patriots need to find who they are on offense. Rediscovering their ground efficiency is the best way to do that. Look for the Patriots to be run-heavy against the Jets. The Jets’ front is anchored by Leonard Williams and their primary linebackers – Avery Williamson and Darron Lee – are fast and fill well.
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By Air: The Tennessee game was a bad one for myriad reasons but the fallout centered on Brady. Same as it ever was when the Patriots look disjointed. The primary reason the Patriots were so punchless that day was protection. Tennessee got heat with four-man rushes all day. But Brady didn’t have a great patience either and, in the past four games, has been overly reliant on James White and Edelman. Good players to rely on, for sure, but the Patriots made it a point in their bye week to get under the hood and try to fix some of their tendencies. Look for more shots to players who’ve been under-utilized and an effort to get the ball downfield more than Brady has been. Brady is listed as questionable with his tweaked knee and an illness that kept him out of practice Friday but is expected to play. The Jets lead the league in third-down defense and are one of the top red-zone defenses in the league so this isn’t a walkover.
Kicking Game: Stephen Gostkowski is having an outstanding season for the Patriots with his only misses coming outside 50 yards. The Patriots are only averaging 7.5 yards on punt returns.in
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Key Matchup: Rob Gronkowski on Jamal Adams. The second-year safety’s been an impact player for the Jets and – with fellow safety Marcus Maye doubtful to play – Adams will be in the middle of things as Gronk, having three of his past four games, is trying to reassert himself.
Who’s Hurt: Brady, Gronkowski, Mason and Michel are all questionable. Tight end Dwayne Allen won’t play. For the Jets, Maye is the big injury to watch.
Recent Past: The Patriots lost to Tennessee before the bye but had won six in a row prior to that. They are 7-3 and a win would keep them a game behind the Chiefs in the race for the top seed in the AFC.
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