3TFO: Patriots @ Jets, Week 12
In 2009 and 2010, the Jets and Patriots games were ones you circled on the calendar because you knew you would be getting a great game. There was something special about putting Bill Belichick up against Rex Ryan with their unique personalities. However, the rivalry was a lot more fun when the Jets were one of the better teams in the league. Over the past two years the Jets as a franchise have gone downhill, which has allowed New England to win the last three meetings.
In Week 7, it took New England an overtime period in order to earn a victory. Although that game was just a few weeks ago, enough has changed that this matchup will look very different. Most of the changes favor the Jets, but will it be enough to stay alive in the division?
Austin Howard vs. Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham
For most of the season, right tackle Austin Howard has been the weak link in the offensive line. In the last matchup against the Patriots he allowed over half of the Patriots’ pressure by allowing a sack, a hit and five hurries. Over the past three games Howard has improved with a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 94.9, when he had one of 91.2 over the first seven games.
For most of the game he will be responsible for blocking Rob Ninkovich or Jermaine Cunningham. Both players are coming off back-to-back games where they were able to come up with some pressure, but over a large number of snaps. Against the Jets the two players had a combined Pass Rushing Productivity of 11.0, but over the past two games it’s been a low 7.1. With the improved play of Howard and declined play of Ninkovich and Cunningham, we shouldn’t expect the Patriots to get as much pressure in this game. Pressure is a key for the Patriots’ defense, as the Jets averaged 8.3 yards per drop=back without pressure in Week 7, and 1.3 yards per drop-back with pressure.
Patriots Interior Receivers vs. Jets Interior Defenders
In the first matchup, the Patriots’ pass offense thrived with short passes to the middle of the field. On passes that were in the air for 14 yards or less, and in the middle, New England completed 17 of 20 for 172 yards. On passes to the left or right, or deeper than 14 yards, the Patriots completed just 9 of 22 for 87 yards. Rob Gronkowski was Brady’s favorite target in this area with five catches for 66 yards. With Gronkowski out, this just means more targets for Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead.
In the Week 7 matchup, the Jets’ slot corner was Isaiah Trufant who allowed four catches and 41 yards from Welker, but Trufant is now on injured reserve. Safety Antonio Allen allowed three catches for 47 yards in the last game, but he has since returned to the practice squad. In their place Ellis Lankster has been the third cornerback, and Eric Smith has been the third safety. Rookie inside linebacker Demario Davis is likely to see a lot of snaps, like he did in the first matchup against New England. In Week 7 he allowed four catches for 41 yards, but in the past three games he has allowed just two catches. The Patriots will still likely find some success in the middle of the field, but without Gronkowski and with some better play out of the Jets secondary, they probably won’t repeat their triumph from before.
Patriots Run Game vs. Muhammad Wilkerson
One of the biggest stories from the Patriots this year is their commitment to the run game, where Steven Ridley has 844 yards, which is over 150 more yards than any Patriots back had last year. Over the first six weeks of the season, the Patriots averaged 5.0 yards per carry when running to the left and 3.7 when running to the right. Over those six games New England had Logan Mankins at left guard. Over the past four games Mankins has played in only a half of a game, but players on the right side of the line like Sebastian Vollmer have stepped up their run blocking. In that span, the Patriots have averaged 5.3 yards per carry running to the right compared to 3.5 when running to the left. The earlier game against the Jets is one of the games where New England played better running to the right than left.
The player the Patriots need to be most worried about is Muhammad Wilkerson, who has a Run Stop Percentage of 11.4% which is only topped on the 3-4 defensive end leaderboard by All-Pros J.J. Watt and Justin Smith. Outside of the first game against New England, on 59.8% of plays Wilkerson lines up on the defenses right (or offenses left side). However, because the Patriots were having more success running to their right, Wilkerson lined up more on the left side than right in their last matchup. We should all enjoy the chess match of the Patriots trying to avoid Wilkerson, and Wilkerson trying to line up wherever the Patriots might run.
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