It's finally here...the Jets vs. the Patriots with first place in the AFC East on the line. This is what we Jets fans have been waiting for, a late season matchup against the reigning AFC champs with a chance to put them in out rear view mirror. This is the reason why the Jets got Brett Favre and all the other big names in the off-season, to beat New England in a game that matters. The Jets have been getting knocked around by the Patriots ever since Tom Brady took over the reigns. The Jets have been rolling the past three weeks and have plenty of momentum heading up to Foxborough on Thursday night.
Brett Favre, the old gunslinger, came here for a chance to win one more before he rides off into the sunset. This is the game the Jets really need him to step up and flash some of that "Favre magic". Last week against the Rams, Favre played a well managed game. He threw for only 167 yards and a touchdown, but no interceptions. They did not need him to do a lot with Thomas Jones running all over the field. Brett has seen a ton of these games during his career, more than any of his teammates have. The bottom line is that he is a winner and should be able to lead gang green to a win. The offensive line has also played a lot better in recent weeks. They have not allowed a sack the past two weeks, which has allowed Favre to cut down on his mistakes (one interception in the past two games). Jones has also benefitted from this as well. He now leads the AFC in rushing with 750 yards. However, the best part of the Patriots defense is their defensive line. If the Jets are to have any success on Thursday, then they need to somehow establish the running game.
As long as Favre is upright, then I expect the passing game to have success in this game. The Patriots have no Rodney Harrison or Adalius Thomas playing in the game and the Jets need to expose that. Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery are both having very solid seasons for Jets. I expect them to be a huge part of the offense in this game. Coles is always up for big games and he should be amped up for this one. Another option that emerged for Favre is Dustin Keller. He had his best game of the season last week against St. Louis to a tune of 6 receptions for 107 yards. The Jets are very high on their first round draft pick, especially after the game the just had. With Keller emerging and Chansi Stuckey out there, New York has plenty of good options for Favre to throw to. The difference between this game and the game in week two is that the offense is finally on the same page. The first time they played this season Favre did not know the playbook and the Jets were still meshing as a team. Favre knows what is going on now and the offensive line is really clicking with each other at the right time.
As usual, the defense will have its work cutout for them. In week two, Matt Cassel was making his first career start in the NFL and played a very smart game for the Patriots. He threw for 165 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, not flashy but it got the job done. He still has Wes Welker and Randy Moss to throw the ball to. The Jets need to find a way to slow them down. They will have some help this week with the free agent acquisition of Ty Law. He may not play all that much with only two days to prepare, but he is a veteran and knows both teams well. He also may not be a shut down corner anymore, but with him on one side and Darrelle Revis on the other, the Jets secondary will be much improved for the rest of the season. One of the keys will be to limit Welker as much as they can. Even if that means giving Moss one or two deep ones in the process. Welker helps that offense go. He is their go to guy on third down. Slow him down and they should be able to slow down the whole offense.
The defensive line, which in one of the tops in the NFL, needs to get pressure on Cassel. The Jets are second in the NFL in sacks with 31. Shaun Ellis is quietly having a pro-bowl season for New York, leading the team with seven sacks. The defensive MVP has been Kris Jenkins so far. What a huge difference he has had on the defensive line for the Jets. The Jets are 5th in the league against the run, surrendering only 76 yards per game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be starting for the Patriots this week and he is coming off a 105 yard rushing performance against a good Buffalo Bills defense. The Jets should be able to limit him and force Cassel to beat him with his arm. New York needs to keep constant pressure on him and force him to make mistakes. They had constant pressure on Marc Bulger and Trent Green last week and Trent Edwards the week before. They caused big turnovers that they turned into scores. Abram Elam had an interception return for a touchdown and Calvin Pace had a fumble return for a touchdown the past two weeks.
The bottom line is the Jets have to win this game to establish them-selves as a force in the AFC. This is a game that they went out and got Favre, Pace, Jenkins, Damien Woody, Alan Faneca and now Law. This is a great rivalry in the NFL and I would expect both teams to come out with guns blazing. The main key's for the Jets is just to keep pressuring Cassel and take advantage of his mistakes and for Favre to limit his mistakes and recapture some of the old "Favre magic". The Jets finally get over the hump and take this one on the road by a 28-17 score.