By Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff
Tonight’s game against the trash talking Jets, pits two of the worst 9-2 teams in recent history. Lets face it, with one of the leagues worst defenses that manages to let 3rd and longs be converted as easily as 3rd and inches, the Patriots have a long way to go until they become as dominant as their record suggests. Jets are in a similar predicament: a magnificent record that was earned by pulling out miraculous victories when defeat was at the doorstep. Despite their great records, an early playoff exit for either of these teams will not be a total surprise and Captain Hindsight will surely let us know exactly why it was obvious before the fact.
However, in a year where there are no teams without serious flaws and bad losses, home field advantage and a first round bye in the playoffs can make all the difference. And that’s exactly what is on the line tonight. It will surely be a great game, as there is much media hype about it, and the Patriots are well rested and playing at home. If the Patriots are to reach the lofty 10-2 goal, look for them to get the upper hand in these matchups:
1) Jets Running Backs vs. Patriots Linebackers
It is not a secret that the Jets have a great running game which will strain the Patriots linebackers. To add to the New England’s troubles, Tomlinson is also great at catching the ball in the flats which will force Mayo and Spikes to play sideline to sideline and open up the middle of the field for the likes of Keller and Holmes.
2) Patriots O-line vs. Jets Blitz
The Jets have gotten Calvin Pace back into to their linebacking corps, which frees up Jason Taylor to do what he does best; rush the QB. Combine that with Bart Scott and Rex Ryan’s blitzing schemes and it becomes an offensive line’s nightmare. Considering that Stephen Neal is now on the IR, there will be little room for error.
3) Dustin Keller vs. Patriots Secondary
The Jets tight end, Justin Keller, is one of Sanchez’s favorite targets. He often functions as an escape hatch for ‘Sanchise’, who frequently looks to his tight end in a pinch. Look for Chung and Meriwether to try to contain him.
4) Patriots Second Half Adjustments vs. Jets Schemes
In their week 2 meeting, it was only in the second half that things started to get unraveled for the Patriots. It was reminiscent of their problems from a year ago, when they were handily outscored in the 3rd and 4th quarters. Since then, the Patriots have gotten better in the second half and they will surely focus on not falling into the same trap against the Jets again.
5) Shayne Graham Vs. New England Weather
While his efforts are commendable, he is just not up to snuff. His kick-offs only make it to the 7 yard line, a sight so sorry that it has me considering dusting off my soccer cleats and trying out myself. However, some footie-pajama wearing blogger will accuse of me of being only slightly better then Graham and then I will know what it would be like to be criticized just for trying to make a living.