The New York Jets are feeling good about themselves heading into Thursday’s showdown with the rival New England Patriots. The Jets started off their season with hard fought win, while the Patriots struggled to squeeze out a victory against the Buffalo Bills. Obviously the Pats are the favorites in this game, but the question remains: can the Jets pull off an upset?
If the Jets are going to win this game there are few things they must do. First and foremost is protect the ball. Turnovers cannot happen in this game for New York, or they will lose, likely by a lot. All one needs to do is look at highlights of last season’s Thanksgiving night demolition to know what the Patriots can do with turnovers.
Geno Smith has to be very careful with the ball, and he can’t force passes. He was very good with his decision making against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he smartly chose to tuck it and run several times. A repeat of this performance would be a great start.
The second thing the Jets need to beat the Patriots is a reliable running game. This is a tall task against a defense that just shut down C.J. Spiller, and the Jets have not shown any indication of being able to run consistently. However, they must at least keep the defense honest, so the Patriots can’t focus everything on Smith. Chris Ivory needs to be the workhorse back the Jets thought they traded for, and if he can provide tough, between the tackles running it will open up things for the passing attack.
The third item on the Jets’ checklist is improved pass coverage. They had outstanding run defense and a solid pass rush against the Bucs, but cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner struggled. If they make the same mistakes they did Sunday, Tom Brady will tear them apart.
Working in the Jets’ favor however, is the absence of Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola. This means the Pats’ most proven pass catcher is Julian Edelman, who won’t strike fear into the heart of any defense. Cromartie and Milliner have the ability to blanket the Patriots’ young receivers and shut them down, leaving Brady with few options.
This game figures to be low scoring, as the Patriot offense is missing several key players. Brady can still put up points, but the Jets have plenty of defensive talent to take his playmakers away. However, the Jets figure to struggle to put up points as well, especially if they can’t move the ball on the ground.
So will the Jets pull off the improbable upset? In all likelihood, no. However, this game should be much closer than many people think, and it would seem Vegas overshot it big time by making the Patriots 13 point favorites. The Jets have to like their chances, but in the end the Patriots have Brady and Bill Belichick, and the Jets don’t. That will be enough for New England to pull out the win.