Jets vs. Patriots: 3 things to watch

Gronkowksi broke his arm against the Colts on Sunday.

The Jets’ season very much rests on this Thursday night’s game against the Patriots.

A win and the 4-6 Jets would take a big step toward making a legitimate push for the postseason, while a loss would mean they would have to play perfect football for the five remaining games to have a chance of sniffing the postseason. There is hope for the Jets who played the Patriots to a 29-26 road loss in Week 7.

Three things to watch …

1. Patriots living life without Gronk

With Rob Gronkowski undergoing surgery on Monday to repair a broken forearm, the Jets catch a bit of a break with the Patriots offense losing one of their prime targets.

He is always a matchup problem for a Jets linebacker corps that is aging and slow, and there are question marks as to who will replace him. Tight end Aaron Hernandez is still recovering from an ankle injury and might make a limited impact on Thursday night, which means that the Patriots could well turn to Visanthe Shiancoe. Shiancoe is a veteran with a proven track record as an outstanding target, but he has failed to register a catch in the two games he’s played this season.

2. Jets try to get over the ‘Hill’ at receiver

Rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill was expected to go through some growing pains, but the learning curve has certainly been steep.

It isn’t an issue of the physicality of the NFL, as Hill has been tremendous in his blocking and has certainly gotten open on his routes. It also isn’t the playbook, as he has a good grasp of it.

The bottom line is Hill is having a hard time holding onto the ball, with several big drops, including one in the fourth quarter of the Jets’ loss in Foxboro several weeks ago.

“One thing I know for sure is we’re going to keep throwing to him and I think this young man is going to realize, by the way, you can play this game,” Rex Ryan said.

3. Winning the battle of time of possession

One reason why the Jets hung in the game at New England several weeks ago was their ability to systematically move the ball down the field and win the battle of the clock.

The numbers weren’t gaudy, but the Jets rushed for 106 yards and seven first downs in that game, meaning they did just enough to keep the chains moving. In doing so, they kept the ball out of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s hands and limited their ability to score points. In that overtime loss, the Jets held the ball for 35:49, four minutes more than the Patriots. If they can do that again, they have a chance to win.

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.


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