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On Sunday, the New York Jets will invade Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots in a key Week 5 contest between these two AFC East rivals in Foxborough, Mass.
The Jets sit at 2-2 after dropping their last two games against Oakland and Baltimore, while the Patriots are 3-1, recovering from the Week 3 blemish against Buffalo to defeat the Raiders last week. This will be New York’s first AFC East contest.
The Patriots got back to their winning ways, traveling to Oakland and defeating the Raiders convincingly 31-19. Tom Brady passed for 226 yards and two touchdowns while rookie rusher Stevan Ridley gained 97 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, on 10 carries.
Meanwhile, the Jets were embarrassed in front of the country in a 35-17 Sunday Night loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Mark Sanchez committed four total turnovers (three fumbles and an interception), while allowing the Ravens to have three defensive returns for touchdowns.
In last January’s AFC Divisional Round Playoff Game, the Jets physically abused the Patriots en route to a 28-21 win to advance to the AFC Championship. New England’s poor defense ultimately cost them their season, as Mark Sanchez passed for 195 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions on 16-25 passing.
The Jets were also able to destroy New England on the ground. New York rushed for 129 yards and one score on 19 carries. The Patriots were uncharacteristically lacking in discipline (six penalties for 44 yards) and were unable to protect Brady, as the Jets tallied five sacks for a loss of 40 yards.
The two teams split last year’s series, with New York capturing a 28-14 Week 2 win in the Meadowlands and the Patriots matching with a 45-3 Week 13 win on Monday Night Football. Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan has injected life into this rivalry, posting a 3-2 record against Belichick over the past three seasons.
While Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromatrie are two players who can change the outcome of a game on the outside part of the field , a key for New England’s offense tomorrow will be on the inside part. Brady may see the return of one of his favorite options in Aaron Hernandez, who completely gives the offense another look. Hernandez has improved in his sophomore campaign, totaling 14 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns in just two games.
Rob Gronkowski is another matchup nightmare for Rex Ryan’s D. Gronkowski’s run blocking will be vital in setting up the New England play-action attack. If the Arizona-alum can help open some lanes in the passing game, he can be a between-the-numbers option for Brady when they utilize the play-fake.
The Jets’ Divisional Round success against New England was primarily caused by their ability to run the ball down New England’s throat. Noticing this, Head Coach Bill Belichick completely retooled his defensive line during the offseason by acquiring Albert Haynesworth, Mark Anderson, Andre Carter and former Jets star Shaun Ellis. Meanwhile, New York’s offensive line has depreciated, leading to an ineffective running game through the quarter point of the year.
In their three wins, the Patriots have allowed a total of 226 yards to opposing running backs, forcing teams into a one-dimensional offense. If the Patriots can eliminate the Jets rushing attack via penetration along the defensive front, the Patriots will have a great chance at victory.
Besides possibly Calvin Johnson in Detroit, no receiver has had a better start to the 2011 campaign than Wes Welker. Welker has accumulated 640 yards already this season on 40 receptions, reaching the endzone five times.
His underneath presence has been key for the Patriots offense, as his lowest reception total this season is seven against the Chargers in Week 2.
Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez has not lived up to the hype statistically, but usually finds a way to help the Jets eek out wins they have no business winning. His numbers this year are disappointing; Sanchez possesses a 6-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 1,005 yards in four games. His four turnovers last week and one against the Raiders marred the Jets attempt at a win.
The Jets will come into this game hungry as ever following a pair of back-to-back defeats, but the Patriots will be motivated after last year’s stunning playoff loss. New England will attempt to establish a run game early, allowing Brady to connect on some deep passes later in the contest. This game will be close at halftime, but expect the Pats to pull away late.
Patriots 30, Jets 17