New York Jets: Five Things to Watch For vs New England Patriots

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New York Jets: Five Things to Watch For vs New England Patriots

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets head into their Week 2 clash with the rival New England Patriots feeling good about themselves. They picked up a nice win to start the season in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the performance of rookie QB Geno Smith was a pleasant surprise.

The Jets’ defense was also excellent in Week 1, holding the Tampa Bay offense in check for the majority of the game. The Jets believe that if they can replicate that performance, they will have a chance to win every week.

Making matters even better are the struggles of the Patriots. The Pats barely squeaked out a win against the Buffalo Bills, and they head into this game missing several key players on offense due to injury. With the weakened state of the New England offense, the Jets believe they have a chance to pull off the upset.

There are going to be several factors that influence whether or not the Jets can actually accomplish that goal. Despite their Week 1 win, there are quite a few areas on which they can improve, notably the run game.

Furthermore, one must never forget that the Patriots have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and that is enough to win quite a few games. The Pats have had the Jets’ number the last two seasons, and they do not want to let their biggest rivals steal a win on their home turf.

This should be another great game in one of the best rivalries in the NFL, and it should be a close, low scoring affair. If the Jets are going to win they will need several things to go right, and these are five areas to watch.

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Geno Smith: Round 2

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Smith was solid in his NFL debut, completing 24 of 38 passes for 256 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Smith was also surprisingly effective on the ground, scrambling 6 times for 47 yards. However, Smith is about to face a much more serious test.

His first road game is in the most hostile environment the Jets play in, and Smith will need to keep his cool under pressure. This game is a huge challenge for the rookie, and if he performs reasonably well it will be a huge boost for his young career.

Smith needs to play smart and patient like he did against the Bucs. He will be without Jeremy Kerley, so expect him to target tight ends Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland heavily. The Jets will be hoping Smith can build on his Week 1 performance and give them a chance to win.

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Can They Establish the Run?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets’ run game was an absolute disaster in Week 1. Both Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory were completely ineffective, and the line failed to create much running room. The Patriots have a solid run defense, but the Jets need to find a way to improve on the ground.

The team cannot afford to let the pressure to move the ball fall on Smith and the passing game. Establishing the run is crucial because it will allow the Jets to have shorter third down conversions and it will keep the defense honest, reducing the pass rush.

Equally important, a solid run game will allow the Jets to control the ball, keeping it out of Brady’s hands. Ivory should see his workload increase in this game, and if the Jets are going to win, it is absolutely crucial that he be effective.

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Must Take Away Patriots' Receivers

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots will be without Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen, three of their four best receiving options. That leaves only Julian Edelman as a proven threat. Jets’ cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner struggled in Week 1, and they must improve tonight.

The Jets’ secondary is far more talented than this current cast of Patriot wide receivers, and they should be able to provide excellent coverage all night. If the Jets can lock down the receivers and leave Brady with nowhere to throw, New England’s offense will be crippled.

Tight coverage also benefits the pass rush, and if the Jets can get to Brady consistently, they will have a very good chance to win this game. Cromartie and Milliner must improve, but they have the talent to take away the Patriots’ receivers.

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Avoid Mistakes

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

This might be the single most important factor in the game. The Patriots thrive on the mistakes of their opposition, with last season’s Thanksgiving night game being a prime example. The Jets have to protect the football, and Smith cannot afford to turn it over.

Mistakes are not just turnovers however. The Jets can’t afford blown coverages, missed blocking assignments, drops or poor game management from Rex Ryan. The Patriots are the kind of team that doesn’t make many mistakes, and they make you pay dearly for yours.

Given how young the Jets are, it is unlikely that they will play a perfectly clean game. However, they must limit mental errors and protect the football. If they can do that, they will have a shot to win.

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Chance to Earn Respectability

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This game will go a very long way towards earning respect for the Jets. People are intrigued with the team following their Week 1 win, and many observers are starting to realize that this team isn’t as bad as it has been made out to be.

A good performance, even if it’s in a losing effort, will show that the Jets can compete with anyone, and it will earn them quite a bit more respect from their opponents, the media and fans. It will also help give this young team confidence, which is very important.

The Jets can’t afford to get blown out in this game, because it will destroy the confidence the team built up with its Week 1 win. By playing smart, physical football, the Jets will give themselves a chance to win the game, and prove that they are far better than most observers thought.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google

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