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Game Preview: Patriots (5-1) at Jets (3-3)

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The New York Jets (3-3) welcome a familiar foe to MetLife stadium on Sunday, the New England Patriots (5-1).

Over the years, the Jets and Patriots have played 109 times. The Patriots lead the series 56-52, and have won five in a row dating back to 2011, when the Jets defeated the Patriots 28-21 in the play-offs. The Patriots won the last meeting 13-10, on Thursday Night Football in Week 2.

Here are three keys to victory for the Jets:

1. Run the ball up the middle
There are two significant changes to the Patriots defense since the last time these two teams met. The Patriots are missing DT Vince Wilfork, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles, and MLB Jarod Mayo, who suffered a similar fate last week due to a torn pectoral muscle. The Jets have a prime opportunity to put the power running style of Chris Ivory to the test. Ivory has struggled with hamstring injuries this season, and has seen limited action — 34 carries for 115 yards. Sunday’s game against the Patriots is a perfect opportunity to use Ivory, and run him directly at the Patriots defense. In the first half of the first game, the Jets, and Ivory, had a good amount of success against the Patriots, but in the second half they strangely gave up on the running game and went to the air, which resulted in 3 fourth quarter interceptions.

2. Throw the Ball Downfield
This point may seem contradictory to the previous point, but the Jets need to throw the ball downfield along with running the ball. For some reason, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called a very conservative game against the Steelers and limited Smith’s deep 20+ yard throw attempts to six. The longer route has been Smith’s forte this season — 16-0f-30, 549 yards 3TD — and taking that away from him and the Jets offense only hurts their offensive productivity. Yes, the Jets are missing key players — Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow Jr. — but they need to put faith in Stephen Hill and Jeremey Kerely and throw the ball downfield.

3. Pressure Tom Brady
In the past, defenses coached by Rex Ryan,  have often managed to confuse the future hall of fame quarterback — although it did help that Darrelle Revis was wearing green. The backbone of the Jets defense this season is the defensive line. If they don’t put pressure on the quarterback, the defensive backfield isn’t good enough to take away the opposing teams receivers — especially when Tom Brady is throwing the ball. Brady is a lot more static in the pocket than Roethlisberger was last week, but the Jets must get in Brady’s face before he can dissect the Jets defensive backs. It’s easier said than done, but it’s the only way to stop Tom Brady.

The Patriots have been playing incredibly well considering the amount of weapons they lost — Welker, Hernandez, Lloyd, Gronkowski, Woodhead. But the Jets have never, in recent history, been in a better position to beat the Patriots.  They played them close in their first meeting this season — the Patriots edged it 13-10 — but Smith, in his second game as a starter, on a short week, was overwhelmed by the situation and made three rookie mistakes in the fourth quarter.  Smith now has a lot more experience under his belt, a home crowd behind him, and  the confidence of having already faced the Patriots once before. It won’t be easy, but the Jets have a chance.

Prediction: Jets 20 – Patriots 17


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