Scouts Inc.: Favre-Belichick a unique chess match
from ESPN.com - AFC East - Blog
Posted by Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd
Every week in the NFL is full of chess matches, but the matchup between New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is unique. Belichick has had the upper hand in the last four matchups between the two teams, but a lot has changed since the Patriots' 19-10 win in Week 2.
The teams are tied atop the AFC East and Thursday night's winner will have a leg up in the race for the divisional crown. Let's take a deeper look at how the Jets will try to exploit the Patriots' defense.
New York offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer runs multiple offensive sets and formational designs and will attempt to get his personnel into mismatches against the back end of the Patriots defense. The Jets have relied on running back Thomas Jones and an offensive line that averages close to 310 pounds to set up a quick, controlled passing attack that has allowed Favre to manage the game better. Favre's completion percentage in the past three games is better than 70 percent and he looks a lot more comfortable in the offense due to Schottenheimer's ability to use different formations and different looks to run the same plays.
We all know how meticulous Belichick is in his situational game planning, mixing things up both during a game and week-to-week depending on the strengths and weaknesses of an opposing offense. The Patriots utilize a lot of different defensive personnel groupings (3-3-5, 4-2-5, 2-4-5) depending on the situation and the spread personnel groupings on the field. One of the keys in this game will be how well the Patriots identify certain players in the formation. For example, how will they treat tight end Dustin Keller and running back Leon Washington? Will they stay in their base 3-4 or counter with one of the many sub groupings listed above?
The Jets can pose a lot of problems for any defense based on their skill-position players. Keller and Washington will pose problems for New England's back end. Washington is a dangerous change-of-pace runner who complements Jones and places a lot of pressure on the spacing of a defense because of his elusiveness, top-end speed and explosiveness as a runner. Keller is a mismatch waiting to happen due to his competitive style and breakaway speed. Both players also open up opportunities for other players within the formation in the passing game.
Defensively, the Patriots' game plan will revolve around stopping the Jets' running game and forcing Favre to beat them through the air. In watching the Colts game a few weeks ago, left inside linebacker Jerod Mayo was very competitive when covering Colts tight end Dallas Clark in passing situations. Mayo is a terrific young player who contributes as a three-down player, leaving the field in only certain game-specific situations. He is an explosive player with functional play speed and makes the defense a lot a faster, especially on the second level.
That being said, the matchup with Keller or Washington could be critical in the way the Patriots defend it in passing situations. The Patriots do a great job of reacting to route concepts in their underneath coverages, changing the rotation and rules within their coverage designs. Favre and his high-percentage passing game must find ways to attack the Patriots' back end and both Keller and Washington give the ability to do that.
Don't buy into the theory that the short week of preparation will affect the game because these staffs know each other well and have been game planning for each other since last week. There are a lot of intriguing story lines in this game, but the team that makes the fewest mistakes will go a long way in deciding the outcome of this game.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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