New England Patriots Gameplan: Week 7 vs. Jets
The Patriots get their Thursday night game out of the way this week, facing their divisional rival the New York Jets. When the Pats and Jets meet we cant throw the records out the window. Yes, the Jets are 1-5, but have had close battles in almost all of the contests and there’s little question Gang Green will be up to play their rivals.
Full disclosure - I love Rex Ryan and love that he coaches the Jets. He’s the perfect Yang to Bill Belichick’s Ying and his defensive gameplans are always fascinating to study, especially when he’s going against Tom Brady.
The Jets have the right talent in the right spots to exploit some of the Patriots’ weaknesses but the game might ultimately rest on the shoulders of Geno Smith. If he plays a mostly error-free game, it will go down to the very end.
With rain in the forecast, mistakes become magnified, so the biggest thing on offense is execution, especially being careful with the ball. The Pats practiced with wet balls this week to hammer this point home. With two teams that know each other well an untimely fumble could be the difference in the game.
The Jets feature an impressive defensive front and Sheldon Richardson Damon Harrison and Muhammad Wilkerson should test a Patriots offensive line that has been shaky at times throughout the season. With Stork and Connolly out, backup Josh Kline, who struggled last week against the Bills, should see plenty of aggressive attacks from the Jets interior.
Nate Solder will also have his work cut out for him against Wilkerson as he looks to get his season on track.
Perhaps most important though will be the communication on the offensive line. Rex Ryan loves to run all kinds of blitzes that will test even the most veteran offensive lines. They cannot afford to miss someone and allow a free hitter in on Brady, especially with slippery conditions.
If the passing game is affected by the weather it will put the magnifying glass on the Pats’ run game sans Stevan Ridley. Their ability to move the ball on the ground could be another one of the major factors in this game.
Between the wet conditions and Geno Smith’s penchant for turnovers, all signs are pointing to the Pats playing mostly zone defense tonight. This can be maddening to watch, but it’s a staple of Bill Belichick’s defensive philosophy. If he doesn’t think a quarterback can execute without multiple game-deciding mistakes, he’s happy to put seven guys into coverage, send limited blitzes and wait for the interceptions to come.
Sometimes the quarterbacks will put together an error-free game in this scenario and it can be frustrating to watch multiple underneath passes completed. But usually the Pats defense will stiffen in the red zone even if the turnovers don’t come.
This method puts the pressure on the front four of the Patriots. They must get to Smith to help force him into mistakes. If the pass rush is non-existent, Smith will make plays and then things could get dicey.
5 Points of Emphasis
1. Trench Warfare: You don’t want to oversimplify any points of emphasis, but this game will be won in the trenches on both sides of the ball. For the Patriots, protecting Tom Brady and picking up Rex Ryan’s complicated blitz schemes is paramount. As we’ve said time and again, if Brady has time, he’ll move the offense. If the Pats give up early pressure and don’t find a rhythm on offense it could be a long night.
2. Born to Run: With Stevan Ridley out of the season, the Pats must find who can carry the rock on early downs. Brandon Bolden might be the easiest choice, but he lacks Ridley’s explosiveness. Or perhaps practice squadder Jonas Grey gets a chance. Regardless, Shane Vereen must step up and make plays. If he doesn’t, the Pats offense could be dangerously close to one-dimensional.
3. Who will Stop (us from passing in) the Rain?: The Pats passing game is really starting to take off in the last couple weeks, and it would be a shame if the rain retards that development. With the Jets devastated by injuries in the secondary, it’s where they are most susceptible. Even with driving rain, the Pats must try to attack their cornerbacks.
4. One way to Skinner the Jets: Deontae Skinner is likely to see plenty of action tonight, and while he looked very much like a rookie last week against the Bills, this is a time to get a good look at Skinner in a significant role to get a feeling for his ceiling. If they could manage to get a lead, it would be beneficial to get Dont’a Hightower off the field to rest his injured knee. Even Jamie Collins is battling a thigh injury. Tonight is Skinner’s shot to prove the Pats don’t need to go looking for another linebacker outside the organization. He might not get another one.
5. Win: The Pats get an extended break after this one — a great chance to get a bit healthy after a string of injuries the last two weeks. If they can get to 5-2, including 2-1 in the division, they will be in great shape as they approach the halfway point of the season. Tom Brady hasn’t lost an AFC East game at home since 2006 and the streak should continue if the Pats play their usual clean game.