At 8-2, the New England Patriots are tied with the Oakland Raiders for the best record in the AFC. At 3-7, the New York Jets are bottom-feeders in the AFC East. But despite their respective records, the rivals’ first match-up of 2016 is heavily anticipated.
New England’s defense has wavered lately, while the Jets have not had much of one all season. Still, any time these two teams play, a tough game ensues. The Patriots must protect Tom Brady, establish the running game, and force turnovers to emerge as winners. Here is a breakdown of the New England Patriots’ Week 12 keys to victory.
New England Patriots Week 12 Keys to Victory
Protecting Tom Brady
The Jets’ defensive line is the strong point of their team. The combination of Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon and Muhammad Wilkerson average over a sack per game between them. Along with Sheldon Richardson, the foursome is the main reason why the Jets rank 11th in total yards allowed (3459).
It is a guarantee that Todd Bowles’ defense will blitz Tom Brady relentlessly. Not only is it one of the best ways to counter the Patriots offense, but the Jets have more than enough firepower to make it happen. With stars like Richardson and Wilkerson against an inexperienced offensive line, New England could fall behind if Tom Brady takes hits. Brady needs to stay on his feet for the Patriots to move the ball against one of the league’s best defenses.
Blount Force Needed
At 29, LeGarrette Blount is showing no sign of slowing down.
With 12 touchdowns in 10 games, the veteran running back has shouldered a heavy load for the Patriots’ offense. His number will once again be called against the Jets this coming Sunday.
As mentioned, the Jets’ defensive front is nothing short of a wall. New York’s defense allows just 85.4 rush yards per game, the lowest average of any defense the Patriots have played this season. Blount was invisible in New England’s loss to the Buffalo Bills in early October, and his absence was a main factor in the offense’s inability to get on the scoreboard in a 16-0 loss. Between his team’s two losses, he rushed for just 123 yards. The Patriots need his production to wear down the Jets’ defensive line and open up the passing game.
Go for the Ball
The Patriots’ defense needs to be aggressive. Plain and simple.
New England is 27th in total takeaways, with just nine in 10 games. The defense has failed to force mistakes in its two losses, allowing mobile quarterbacks like Tyrod Taylor and Russell Wilson to escape the pocket, wait for coverage breakdowns, and find the open man time after time.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is no track star. But he has above average footwork, and his pocket awareness allows him to extend plays. The extension of plays by quarterbacks has been New England’s kryptonite all season long. If Fitzpatrick has enough time, receivers Brandon Marshall and Qunicy Enunwa are talented enough to find holes in coverage.
If there was a game to break their takeaway slump, this Sunday is the time to do it. Fitzpatrick is tied for the league lead with 13 interceptions, and has thrown 10 less touchdowns then Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who joins him atop the INT leaderboard. There are few excuses for the Patriots to go another week without a forced turnover.
Few outside of the AFC East are expecting a hard-fought game between these teams. But history tells us that overall records matter little. Despite their often different win-loss totals, the last six Patriots-Jets games have been decided by less than a touchdown. Offensive efficiency and defensive resilience will be key to a Patriots victory this coming Sunday in East Rutherford, NJ.