Pats Preview: Pats Vs. Jets
As the New England Patriots get set to battle the New York Jets in an AFC East Divisional throw down, here are some pregame thoughts.
Battle For 1st Place- The week seven match up pits the 5-0 Patriots against the 4-1 Jets, so a win for either team would solidify their place atop the AFC East. Both teams are 1-0 in the division through their first five games as the Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills week two and the Jets beat the Miami Dolphins in London, in week four.
Revis Return- In preparation for the game, a huge note since the summer has been that it will mark the return of former Patriot Darrelle Revis. Last year Revis was of course a key piece of the Super Bowl winning defense that the Patriots ran onto the field week in and week out. After declining a $20 million option to retain his services this season, however, New England lost out to the Jets in free agency. Revis made a few interesting moves, regarding the Pats, after joining New York, which caused Patriot fans to get up in arms. Expect Revis to be boo'd all day long.
Walking Wounded- Like every NFL team does at some point in the season, the Patriots are withstanding a somewhat prolonged visit from the injury bug. A week after putting starting left tackle and number two cornerback Tarrell Brown on injured reserve, the Pats dealt with a rash of injuries last week that have carried over into this week's prep. Marcus Cannon, who was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Solder, injured his toe early in the Indy game and has already been ruled out this week. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard has also been ruled out due to an ankle injury. Moving onto questionable guys, New England was without the services of starting linebacker Dont'a Hightower last Sunday, due to a rib injury. After participating in practice all week on a limited basis, he's a question mark for today's game, though his ability to play would be a huge boost for New England's run defense which has its hands full against a powerful Jets Running attack. On the other side of the ball, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss, the Pats will most likely be without the services of Dion Lewis, who has led the charge from the running back position early onthis year. He had been limited in practice all week, but Reiss broke news today that he is not expected to play. New England also has another offensive line issue as rookie guard Shaq Mason missed multiple days of practice before returning with a new knee brace Friday. He might not be ready to go by game time. Finally, keep an eye on special teams captain Matthew Slater, who needed to be helped off the field last Sunday with what appeared to be a bad knee injury. He practiced throughout the week and by all accounts is expected to bounce back and play today.
O-Line Questions- With Cannon out and Mason a big question mark for today's action, the New England Offensive line will be limited and challenged today. New York gets great pressure on the quarterback, so the new Pats starting line will have to play well and withstand the pressure all day long. Because New England has just two tackles (Sebastian Vollmer and Cameron Fleming) on the roster right now, there is not a lot of opportunity for the usual rotation the Pats employ, to key their linemen fresh all game long. Look for tight end Michael Williams, who played tackle during his time with the Detroit Lions, to maybe resurrect his interior line career a bit throughout the game today, whether it be in a unique or traditional way.
Flustering Fitzpatrick- Jets quarterback has struggled against New England in his career winning just one of seven games against Bill Belichick's teams. One of the quarterback's biggest issues is limiting his interceptions against New England, as he's thrown 17 picks in those seven match ups. He's already thrown seven picks this season, so look for the Patriot defense to look to add to that number and give their offense as many opportunities to grab the lead and run with it.
Return Of LaFell- Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell is back, after being activated off of the PUP list yesterday. Look for him to get some touches today in a most likely limited role against the high octane Jets defense.
Top O Vs. Top D- The game will pit one of the league's top offenses against one of the team's top defense. The Patriot offense has proved, over the years, to be a chameleon that can change from week to week, depending on the type of defense its set to face. New York's defense has been top notch this season, playing well against the run and bottling up the passing attack of most teams. It will be interesting to see which team's top unit will best the other's.
Prediction- When looking at all the factors in today's game, this game appears to be one that could go down to the wire. Both teams always play each other tough, and this year their both winning games so a close game should be in order. Although the Patriots are pretty banged up and will be without a few key players, expect them to find a way to win the game. Look for a heavy dose of Rob Gronkowski on offense and don't sleep on LaGarrette Blount, who is coming off of a strong game against the Colts and will most likely see a bulk of the snaps from the running back position today. On defense, expect Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to devise a game plan that forces Fitzpatrick to beat them. If they can do that, they should be able to neutralize the Jet defense and make a few big plays to really change this game.
Patriots 24, Jets 14