|This one's for ALL the marbles|
All the marbles.
Everyone is getting excited for the most anticipated regular season game since the Pats and Colts squared off in Super Bowl 41 and a half in 2007. And for good reason.
This game is going to live up to the hype. Last week, the Falcons and Packers played an extraordinary game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Falcons triumphed, getting the final score on a 47 yard kick from veteran Kicker Matt Bryant. The kick followed a frenetic 90 yard drive by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, which ended with a beautiful 10 yard strike from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson. Needless to say, the battle between two of the NFC heavyweights was great entertainment. I expect the same this Monday Night in Foxborough.
These teams hate each other. They may not say it but, oh wait, they do. Rex Ryan stoked the coals last year by grunting (I can't imagine him "saying" anything, every time I look at him I can only imagine him grunting) "I didn't come here to kiss Belichick's rings." Tom Brady took a blowtorch to those coals when he told reporters this summer "I hate the Jets."
The thing is, this year it is the real deal. The rivalry was always missing something. Usually, it was the fact that the Jets were so inferior to the Pats. Even the few times that they beat us (Screw you Mangenious), it didn't seem like they were better than us, they just outplayed us on that Sunday.
Now, things are different.
It was the Jets who went to the AFC Championship game last season, and the Patriots who got blown out at home by the Ravens. This year, with a little luck for both teams, the Pats and Jets sit side by side atop the AFC at 9-2. They matchup with each other extremely well. The Jets say they were "built to beat the Patriots." The Patriots are built to win Super Bowls. But right now, it doesn't seem like the Pats are going to win a Super Bowl without going through the Jets. Whoever wins this game will most likely get a Number One seed in the Playoffs, with home-field throughout. This is less important to the Jets (5-0 on the Road) than it is to the Pats (riding a 25 game -regular season- home winning streak). But confidence wise, this game is critical for both teams. The Jets haven't swept the Pats in the regular season in the Tom Brady era, and would love to get over that hump (though I did speak to a die hard Jets fan recently who said he doesn't care about this game, he only cares if they win in the playoffs. Wait, it's more important to win in the playoffs? I would have never known!)
How evenly matched are these teams? There are so many questions for both teams:
1) Where do you put McCourty? If you put him on Holmes, then Arrington has to cover Braylon (in week 2, Shaughnessy joked that Edwards was "eating candy off the top of his [Arrington's] head."), if you put him on Braylon, then Arrington has to cover Holmes (Arrington has had trouble with number 1's in the last few games, and Holmes has certainly earned the "number 1" tag after 2 game winning catches so far this season).
My Take: Put McCourty on Holmes, Arrington on Edwards (with help over the top from Meriweather), Chung on Keller, and pray to god that there is a good pass rush.
2) Is the focus on stopping the run or the pass? Usually, Belichick focuses on stopping the run and making Sanchize beat them. But it seems different now. The Jets have 5 legitimate weapons (Holmes, Edwards, LT, Keller, Smith/Cotchery) on the field every play. We've seen some beautiful throws from Sanchez to Edwards down the field this season (the one before the half in Detroit was gorgeous, and the throw down the sidelines against the Texans was perfectly thrown), we've seen some great yards-after-catch plays by Santonio, and obviously Keller DESTROYED the Pats in week 2. Do you try and stop the run game- which has slowed down lately- or try and stop the suddenly explosive passing attack?
My Take: Stop the run. Stop the run. Stop the run. As we've seen with the Patriots lately, if a team gets the run game going, the play action becomes a lethal weapon. The Jets do a great job with setting up play action by pounding the ball to Shonn Greene and LT. Stop them, and avoid big plays to Braylon/Holmes, and I think the Pats will put the Jets in a lot of third and long situations.
3) How long do you stick with the run game if it isn't producing big plays? We've seen what happens when the run game doesn't get going, and we've seen what happens when BJGE and Woodchuck have big games. The Pats offense is dominant when the run game is getting 4 or 4.5 yards a carry. In the past few games the Pats play action has been the focal point of the offense, and it has paid huge dividends, as the Pats are averaging a whopping 38 points per game in the last 3 games.
My Take: As long as the Pats don't fall behind by more than 2 scores (which I don't foresee), they should be running the ball often. Whether it is BJGE or Woodchuck will depend on the Jets' defensive game plan, but I don't expect to see a Pats offensive attack like we saw in week 2 (abandoned the running game, and forced the pass- allowing the Jets to disguise their defensive fronts and force some terrible throws from Lord Brady). I would guess that they start with BJGE early, and use Woodchuck later to offset the blitz with his trademark draw plays.
|He's also astonishingly good looking|
My Take: Don't give up the big play and stop the run. Both things the Jets do very well, and both things the Jets did very well in week 2 (Brady's worst game of the season). If the Jets force the Patriots to go down the field little by little, and don't allow any big plays from Branch or Tate (or anyone else for that matter), they have a chance to slow the high powered Patriots passing game.
2) How do you cover all of their players? The Pats have so many options on offense, and you never know which one will be the go-to guy for that week. There have been huge games from BJGE, Woodchuck, Branch, Welker, Tate, Gronk and Hernandez. That is seven weapons the Jets have to be aware of and game plan against. One of the reasons the Jets defense is so successful is their ability to shut down the other team's top WR with "Revis Island." Besides Darrelle, Cromartie has been fantastic this season (aside for a bunch of atrocious penalties- I think he had 3 block-in-the-back penalties last week. Is that even possible?). The thing is, those are two big, physical corners. They are built to shut down the Randy Mosses, Andre Johnsons and Brandon Marshalls of the world. They aren't built to run underneath with the slippery Wes Welker or keep up with route running wizard Deion Branch. Who covers Lebron over the middle? Oops, I meant- Who covers Gronkowski over the middle? Jim Leonard? Puh-leeze. He is 5'7- good luck with that.
My Take: Again, it is all about avoiding the big play. I would put Revis on Branch, Cromartie on Hernandez (or Gronkowski, whoever is in), double Welker with a LB and S, and assume that your front 4 can stop the Pats run game.
Keys to the game:
1) Protect Tom Brady. If the O-Line is as good as it has been lately, the Pats will run away with this one.
2) Tackle. Tackle. Tackle. Tackle. Pretty self explanatory. (Especially Brad Smith and Santonio Holmes)
3) Red Zone defense. The D has been shaky the last few weeks inside the red zone, and the Jets have done a nice job of finishing drives lately. Also, the Jets kicking situation is a disaster, so expect the Jets to go for some fourth and shorts inside Patriots territory.
|Why not? Tom is the luckiest man on earth.|
1) Pressuring Tom Brady without the blitz. With so many options, if Brady has more than 3 seconds to throw, he is going to complete the pass. The Jets did a wonderful job of getting to Brady without the Blitz in week 2. They need to do that again.
2) Finish drives. Field goals don't win games against the Patriots, it's that simple.
3) Keeping Brady off the field with long, sustained drives. If the Jets get the run game going early and grab an early lead, they could make the Patriots a one dimensional team- which would allow the Jets defense to disguise their blitzes more effectively (guys walking around the defensive line, zone blitzes, etc.).
This game is going to be a dogfight, but I think the Pats will win a squeaker 27-23.
And Another Thing:
LETS GO CAVS! LETS GO CAVS! LETS GO CAVS!