It’s been two years since the New York Jets last defeated the team that represents everything that is vile and unholy in the NFL.
Gang Green stomped on the soggy field at Gillette Stadium and powered their way to a hard-fought 17-14 victory over the very bane of their existence.
Since that game, the New England Patriots continued their winning ways over New York, including a playoff victory that spiraled out of control in the final minutes.
But this time, the Jets are going to Massachusetts with a new team, heightened confidence, and a chip on their shoulders that didn’t exist in Week Two. Brett Favre has a rapport to speak of with his teammates, and the offensive line’s chemistry has gotten better every week.
Thomas Jones is proving he’s much more than a one-cut back, displaying patience and strength as he fights for tough yardage. Whether or not it’ll be possible against New England’s defensive line will be a concern for New York. But it’s not the only way they can secure a victory.
There are mismatches galore for New York to exploit against a New England defense decimated by injuries.
Plucking the Pats from First Place
Those pesky Patriots and their demonic head coach refuse to be severed from the top of the AFC East. No franchise quarterback, no problem—right? The running game is inconsistent, the quarterback has been a career backup, and the defense isn’t as dominant as it once was.
That drop-off in production comes a year after being the most dominant team in NFL history. Falling from such a high spot only placed them on par with the rest of the NFL.
Fans are only imagining that it’s worse than what it is because of how great they’ve been for the better part of a decade.
They’re still the team to beat.
Injuries aside, Belichick has consistently managed to put winners on the field with unfamiliar faces. So it should still be just as sweet when the Jets beat them in their Thursday night contest.
It shouldn’t matter what Belichick can do with his team—the Jets are playing football at a level the Patriots have never seen from them before.
It’s not the same crew of misfits that caught them off-guard on a rainy Sunday two years ago.
The Jets are a team that’s playing like they deserve first place and a spot on everyone’s top-10 list. Finally being able to combine their potential with confidence, the Jets are in prime position to take a division they haven’t had since 2002.
Favre Under Pressure
He knows it, fans know it, you know it, and New England knows it—Favre is here to make victories in games like this a reality. He was acquired in an effort to close the gap with New England.
The gap is closed. This is now about taking it away from the Patriots.
The pressure that Favre needs to avoid isn’t going to be coming from New England. Without Adalius Thomas, the threat of quarterback pressure takes a significant dive.
The pressure we speak of is the kind that creates mistakes when you’re trying to do too much.
Favre has been a winner, but he’s also been the guy that will seal his team’s fate with a costly error. With him beginning to understand the complexity of the New York-New England rivalry coupled with the importance of sole possession of first place, it’s crucial that Favre plays like the man NFL fans know he can be.
Favre needs to be the difference-maker in this situation. He needs to be the one that breaks the Jets’ losing ways when it comes to New England.
Yes, indeed—this game is why the Jets traded for Favre.
And this is also the exact type of situation Favre dreamt about when he chose to come out of retirement. Playing meaningful games is the kind of rush his competitive spirit wasn’t prepared to move away from.
This is his opportunity to prove that coming out of retirement wasn’t a mistake. The concern is if the importance of the situation will be conveyed properly through his play.
Laying Down the Law
The Jets’ recent signing of veteran cornerback Ty Law should tell fans one thing: no more screen passes.
Acquiring a veteran that’s seen it all, and is a well-known ball-hawk shows that New York is placing a premium on taking away the plays that New England has killed them slowly with for years.
When they faced-off in the 2006 postseason, the Patriots countered the Jets’ aggressive blitzing schemes with quick passes to Jabbar Gaffney. They’ve continued that approach with Wes Welker, and any running back they decided to line up that week—and they’ve done it with great success.
A Jets’ defense that’s ranked second in the league in sacks will need to play on their heels a bit more often than they’d like.
This means fans should expect to see nickel and dime coverages more often as the game-plan calls to bend around what New England does well.
Having a defensive back like Ty Law roaming the field poses a legitimate threat to the short-passing game. His knowledge of the game can place him in position to disrupt plays, and hopefully, jump some routes to create turnovers.
Storming the Cassel
New York had the misfortune of seeing Matt Cassel in his first start. There was no real game film on him, no knowledge of his tendencies, and no way to prepare. Belichick and friends decided to handcuff him and only allow quick, efficient passes.
In the weeks since that game, fans have seen the good and the bad from Cassel. And it’s safe to say the Jets have, too.
With some experience under his belt, it’s safe to say Cassel will have more in his repertoire than he did in Week Two.
This bodes well for New York. If Cassel feels like taking a chance or two, he will open himself up for errors.
He’s thrown seven interceptions this season, but has been sacked 29 times—an astronomical number for a Patriots’ line.
While his speed is something the Jets should be weary of, the potential for pressure and coverage sacks while he looks for something to do with the ball.
Don’t Forget the Third Unit
Most NFL fans only think of the battle between offense and defense in a game. Special-teams only becomes relevant when they make a big play. And even then the full-importance is neglected.
That’s not the case with the Jets and Patriots.
In Week Two, New England’s special-teams crippled New York. The field position battle was won by New England as they started every drive with exceptional real estate. Most New England drives began in territory where two first downs placed them in field-goal position, while the Jets were forced into looking at a long field every time.
Coincidentally, it was Mike Westhoff’s first week back with the team. His expertise was required to repair the damage left on the unit by Kevin O’Dea, and it’s helped leaps and bounds.
Australian punter Ben Graham was released in favor of Reggie Hodges from the Patriots’ practice squad, and he’s performed admirably. Wallace Wright is have a Pro Bowl year with his special-teams coverage, racing down the field to stop returns before they begin.
Leon Washington is finding his wedges and squeezing through them effortlessly on his returns.
The only inconsistency is Jay Feely and whether or not he’s going to nail a field goal.
With all the talk on the Jets’ defense and Favre’s comfort in the new system, it’s very likely that this game can be decided by an exceptional play when both units are watching from the sidelines.