Pats Preview: Patriots @ Jets
As the New England Patriots head into a Week 6, divisional round game against the New York Jets, here are some pregame story lines to keep in mind:
A Battle For 1st- To the shock of just about everyone, this game will be a true battle for first place in the AFC East. Most people expected the Pats to be atop the division by Week 6, but you'll be hard-pressed to find even the biggest jets supporter who believed the Jets would have even one win at this point. Aided by a rather weak schedule to start, the Jets have shocked the world and got out to a 3-2 start, which has them knotted with the Pats and Buffalo Bills atop the division standings.
Brady's Battling Through- After taking a beating in the team's Thursday night win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady missed his first practice of the season this week. It was later reported that Brady is dealing with a shoulder injury. While he started the week on the injury report, Brady, along with a number of his teammates, was removed from the final injury list and is expected to be ready to go on Sunday. Though Brady is showing incredible toughness and keeps bouncing up, hit after hit, the team will need to do a better job of protecting him going forward. No one, unfortunately, is super human.
Getting Healthier- Despite Brady's shoulder injury, early in the week, the Patriots appear to be getting healthier. Along with the 40-year-old quarterback, Rob Gronkowski, Marcus Cannon, Elandon Roberts, Matthew Slater and Dont'a Hightower were all officially removed from the team's injury report, during the week. While starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore and running back Rex Burkhead are still out with injuries, the pats have some top players at full strength. Almost midway through the season, it is surely good news for New England to be getting some key players on both sides of the ball back to full health.
Thin In The Secondary- Due to a late-breaking announcement that starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore has been downgraded to out for the game, because of a concussion, the Pats will enter the game with little depth in the secondary. Third corner Eric Rowe had already been ruled out for the game, thanks to a nagging groin injury. That means that the team will have to likely rely heavily on second year corner Jonathan Jones and recently acquired special teams ace Johnson Bademosi to play a large role on Sunday. Jones has seen increased snaps so far this season and has played relatively well when called upon. The Pats could also elect to utilize safety Devin McCourty as more of a corner, Sunday, as he played the position when he first entered the league. While they'll be short-handed on Sunday, the injuries likely aren't expected to be long term as the team decided against clearing a roster spot for one of the four defensive backs on their practice squad.
A Chance To Get Back on Track- This week should provide an opportunity for the Pats to get back on track, offensively. After struggling this past week against Tampa Bay, the Pats will face a poor defense, which ranks 25th overall in the league. With Rob Gronkowski back in the fold, the passing game should open up a bit more and Brady should be able to get the ball out to his targets quicker. In last week's game, the team had to settle for field goals and also turned the ball over a bit. Against a porous Jets defense, the Pats should get back to being the offensive juggernaut that they are.
Opportunity To Build- Coming off of their first successful week, the New England defense will have the opportunity to build off of that performance, when they battle the lowly Jets offense. New York enters the game with the 26th ranked total offense and a less than stellar passing attack. The Pats should be able to further their defensive progression and continue to move in the right direction, despite the lack of depth in the secondary.
Prediction- While both teams enter at 3-2, they shouldn't really be considered on the same level. The Jets, while having overachieved so far, are not on the Patriots level, even though the Pats have struggled so far this season. New England should be able to show the clear distance between themselves and their division rival on Sunday and take a step closer to getting back to their normally high level of play.
Pats 36, Jets 9