How Jets can upset Patriots for AFC East lead

With an improved secondary and strong defensive front, the Jets can challenge the Patriots in Foxborough.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

How Jets can upset Patriots for AFC East lead


In years past, Sunday’s crunch encounter between the Jets and the Patriots would have been top of the news carousel in most major media outlets. The upstart Jets heading into Foxborough just half a game behind the juggernaut Patriots, seeking to wrestle control of the AFC East away from New England, with New York’s head coach making noise about how they could do it.

Times have changed with Todd Bowles as head coach, and there isn’t the same brash and vocal confidence from the Jets as there was under Rex Ryan. However, the situation remains eerily similar to recent seasons.

The Jets have taken care of business against their early schedule, seeing off Andrew Luck and beating the Dolphins in London, and have the chance to take first place in the AFC East away from the Patriots, setting up a season-long battle for top spot. If the Jets are to go into New England and topple the Pats, their keys remain largely similar to what they were under Rex Ryan. But how do they shape up, in terms of being able to control the game with their defense, particularly up front, while taking advantage of their opportunities on offense to see defeat Tom Brady and company?

The key battleground for the Jets’ defense is up front, where they hold up a comprehensive advantage in the trenches over a Patriots’ offensive line that will be relying on their quarterback for protection as much as their quarterback looks to them for protection. Defensive end pairing Muhammad Wilkerson (88.7) and Leonard Williams (85.2) have been lighting it up this season, and that grouping only grew stronger with the return of Sheldon Richardson (79.2) from suspension last week (seven pressures and three stops in the Jets’ two-touchdown victory over Washington).

This mouth-watering array of talent will go up against an offensive line that is shuffling the pack, both by design and necessity, with only guard Josh Kline (76.1) and tackle Sebastian Vollmer (79.8) earning above average grades so far this season. Around those two veterans, the Patriots are trying to juggle personnel to cover both injuries and get linemen into favorable scenarios by rotation (a novel principle), allowing the line to hold up. This will be their sternest test of the season, however.

In a two-point defeat in New England last season, Richardson and Wilkerson combined for four hits on Tom Brady, despite forcing the QB to hold the ball 2.7 seconds, on average, before releasing a pass. The Jets still didn’t record a single sack, and Brady lit up the New York’s secondary for a passer rating of 125.5 on his 18 dropbacks holding the ball for 2.6 seconds or longer, compared to a passer rating of 68.5 on his 20 dropbacks of 2.5 or shorter.

Last year, however, Darrelle Revis was on the opposite sideline, while three Jets defenders surrendered 60 yards or more in coverage. Back in green, Revis has only allowed 10 yards in coverage in the Jets’ last three games, and will be part of a unit looking to limit Brady’s effectiveness if the Jets are able to keep the ball in his hands, as they did a year ago. The margins will be tight once again, but if New York can repeat their game plan of a year ago, their improvements in the defensive backfield, led by Revis, and their offensive backfield, led by Ryan Fitzpatrick, could be enough to see the Jets to victory and setup a season-long division race.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Douglass Pinkard

    This is the greatest website since the invention of either webs OR sites, much less the two together. Thank you.

    • Lux

      I concur, articles and insight always on point.

  • humper-dinkle dinkle-humper

    I think that Jets have a real shot here. New England looks great, but they really haven’t played anyone (like all the other unbeatens). During the closest thing to a test, it was close until Indy lost confidence due to what happened in previous games and not what was happening that game. Strong defensive teams are NOT a good match for New England. Their flaws will be exposed.

    • Jim Winslow

      yeah but the jets haven’t played anyone good yet also, I think the jets win a game against new england but not in foxborough

    • Zachary Mills

      They did pretty well against Seattle several months ago. And they’re 5-0 so far. Jets present the toughest matchup for NE. Pats have banged up OL and CB group. If the Jets are going to beat NE, now is the time.

  • crosseyedlemon

    The poor Jets just can’t seem to catch a break. Just when they are on the verge of making a breakthrough the METS come along and steal their thunder by reaching the World Series.

    • Mehl81

      It’s actually great what the Mets are doing. Keeping the Jets under the radar is the way to go.
      Not sure how a baseball team takes “thunder” away from a football team.
      If the Jets somehow manage to win Sunday, there will be plenty of thunder, lightning, and hail in New York for the Jets.

      • crosseyedlemon

        In the major metropolitan cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles there is always a rivalry between the various sports franchises to be the pride of the city. Those bragging rights mean something to the athletes no matter which sport they play.

        • McGeorge

          I hope the Mets win the World Series.
          And it will be forgotten by play off time, assuming the Jets do well.
          The NYC Metropolitan area is huge, the Mets aren’t the Yankees, and there will be plenty of happy fans to celebrate the Jets accomplishments.

          • BrokeRage

            The mets success will fuel the fan interest in NY/NJ metro area. Mets fans overwhelmingly are Jets fans , asnd as a representative of this group … It’s an awesome time to follow my teams! Mets, Jets, Rangers and even a few reasons to follow the Knicks such as the development of our potential “Dirk” Porizingas.

          • McGeorge

            Though I grew up following the Knicks and Rangers (starting in the 70’s) as long as Dolan owns them, I’m rooting against them.

    • James Cox

      Just because you CAN post on every single PFF article doesn’t mean you should, as you inevitably end up posting nonsense such as this in your quest to post just for the sake of posting.

  • a57se

    Between the Jets power running game, the mismatches their WR’s present to the Pats and the Jets defense, this should end up being a very good game and the Jets have a good shot at ending up in first place after Sunday.
    The opening line on this game was Pats -10 which was utterly ridiculous.

    • Mehl81

      Good morning 57!

  • Hans Bump

    NE 24-Jets 17

    Fitzpatrick will have turnovers….

    • George Medina

      Not if Todd Bowles tells Ryan Fitzpatrick to limit his passing attempts which will most likely happen so that turnovers will be limited and the running game can open up for Chris ivory

  • BrokeRage

    Tom Brady will be placed in captivity on Revis island…. Lurking in the lush undergrowth waiting to destroy him will be The Jets D Line !!!!!

    • iceberg325

      How;d that prediction turn out for you?