NFL New York Jets

5 Things to Watch for New York Jets vs New England Patriots

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5 Things to Watch for New York Jets vs New England Patriots

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets head into Week 7 facing a pivotal game for their season. They are 3-3, and the rival New England Patriots are coming to town. The Jets lost a 13-10 heartbreaker to the Pats back in Week 2, and everybody wants to see if they have learned their lesson and can pull the upset.

The Patriots may be 5-1, but they are not the dominant team they have been the last few years. Tom Brady is throwing to a cast of unknowns who have major drop problems, and it appears he will be without Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski yet again.

The defense will be without Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and likely Aqib Talib, seriously weakening what has been a very good unit all season. The Pats still have Bill Belichick and they still have Brady, but the supporting cast is as weak as it’s been in recent memory.

That being said, the Patriots still have more than enough talent to beat the Jets, who will need to play a nearly perfect game in order pull off the upset. Geno Smith has been inconsistent and turnover prone, and he has spoken this week about the importance of playing a clean game.

The Jets have left a lot to be desired in terms of their pass defense as well, but their best performance this season actually came against Brady and the Patriots in Week 2. Antonio Cromartie and Co. need to get things figured out ASAP, or the Jets will be in trouble.

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Must Protect Geno Smith

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The Jets allowed 4 sacks of Smith in the first game, and both Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich have had success against the Jets in the past. Some of the blame goes to the offensive line, but a lot goes to Smith for holding the ball too long.

The Jets can’t afford negative plays that cost them field position and set them up in third and longs. Smith needs to make quick and smart decisions, and the line needs to have their best performance of the season.

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Can Jets Force Tom Brady to be Inefficient?

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Perhaps the biggest positive for the Jets from Week 2 was how inefficient they forced Brady to be, as he completed just 48.7% of his passes for 185 yards, both among the lowest single game marks of his career. The Jets’ defensive line was able to pressure Brady, and the secondary forced his young receivers into mistakes.

The Jets need to not only repeat this performance, but improve on it. They have to get more than one sack, and Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson should be up to the challenge. In the secondary, the Jets need to play physical man-to-man, especially on Julian Edelman. Their best chance for success comes from limiting Brady’s options.

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Who Will be Big Play Threat?

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Santonio Holmes will not play again this week, and Mike Goodson and Clyde Gates were lost for the season last week. That leaves the Jets short on playmakers again, with Stephen Hill as their only legitimate deep threat.

Without Talib, the Pats’ secondary is vulnerable, and the Jets need to take advantage of it. Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland must have big games, and if the Jets can stretch the field and get a big play or two it would increase their chances of winning tremendously.

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Cornerback Play Must Improve

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Cornerback play has been an issue for the Jets, as Cromartie has not been nearly as good this season as he was last year. Dee Milliner will return this week, but Kyle Wilson is questionable and Darrin Walls has been inconsistent.

No matter who is out there, all four corners must play better. Whoever covers Edelman is the key to the game, as he was able to record 13 catches and pick up several first downs in the first meeting. The Jets need to take him away and force Brady to hold the ball longer and look outside, giving the pass rush a chance to get pressure.

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Jets Cannot Afford Turnovers

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This is the theme of the Jets’ season, and it remains the most important factor in this game. The Jets simply cannot afford turnovers. It cost them their first game with Patriots, and they played a big role in last week’s loss as well.

Smith is third in the NFL in interceptions, but he knows that he has to get better and said so this week. He can’t risk forcing the ball into coverage, and he needs to make good decisions. Smith has shown he can play a clean game, but whether or not he actually does it will be the determining factor for the Jets on Sunday.

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