New York Jets (12-5) at New England Patriots (14-2)
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.
Sunday, 3:30 p.m. (NBC)
Regular season numbers
- Points per game: Jets -- 22.9 (T-13th), Patriots -- 32.4 (1st).
- Total Off. Yards per game: Jets -- 351.0 (11th), Patriots -- 363.8 (8th).
- Penalties: Jets -- 103 (24th), Patriots -- 83 (T-7th).
- Points per game allowed: Jets -- 19.0 (6th), Patriots -- 19.8 (8th).
- Takeaway/Giveaway: Jets -- +9 (T-5th), Patriots -- +28 (1st).
Keys to victory
Center Nick Mangold and guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson must hold their ground and find creative ways to control Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork. If they can keep Wilfork out of the backfield on first and second downs, running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene should be able to find enough space to gain positive yardage.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has to attack the right side of the Patriots offensive line. With regular starting guard Stephen Neal not available, and back-up Dan Connolly's status questionable (post-concussion syndrome) a huge hole will be burning to Tom Brady's right. During the regular season Brady was sacked just twice from his right side, so a little pressure (he's not use to) may go a long ways in getting him rattled early.
The Jets as a team pride themselves on fundamentals. However, if they get caught up in the emotion of the game, being that it will be against perhaps their biggest division rival, they will make costly mistakes.
Running back Danny Woodhead must be a big part of the overall offensive gameplan. He knows some of the Jets schemes, and is about the purest football player the Patriots have. Plus, he was a key contributor during the Patriots' 45-3 stomping of the Jets in Week 13, as he caught four passes for 104 yards.
Safeties Patrick Chung and Brandon Merriweather have to help support against the run, and stick to tight end Dustin Keller like glue. Keller recorded his best game of the season (7 receptions, 115 yards, and 1 touchdown) in September against the Pats secondary and could end up being a weapon of choice for Mark Sanchez if Devin McCourty keeps Braylon Edwards at bay.
Tom Brady has to stay mistake-free, and take what's given to him. If Brady starts to try and fit passes where they don't belong, the Jets defense will make him pay.
Jets WR Braylon Edwards vs. Patriots DB Devin McCourty -- Much like last week, the Jets will need Edwards to come up big to keep the Patriots defense honest and out of the box. The problem is that New England will have one of the best defensive backs and rising stars blanketing him all game long. McCourty limited and shutdown plenty of opposing stud receivers during the regular season, and he may just do the same to the Jets receiver this week. If that happens I suspect a road block will be placed in front of the Jets rushing attack, which will spell the word "end" for the Jets hopes of moving on.
Final score prediction: Patriots -- 24, Jets -- 14.