If last week’s 35-9 win over the Colts was a “must win” for the now 3-3 Jets, then this Sunday in Foxboro is a potential statement game. Going up to New England is never an easy task for the Jets and doing it with an injury riddled lineup this week won’t make it any easier.
Three things to watch for ...
1. Secondary is the primary concern
The biggest struggle year in, year out for the Jets in this game has been corralling the wide receivers and tight ends and limiting quarterback Tom Brady’s options over the middle. Last year, the Jets struggled against tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had a combined 12 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns in helping to beat the Jets twice. This year could be different, with the offseason acquisition of physical safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry.
“They use a lot [of guys] in there. They use a lot of different guys,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “I’m not sure exactly what we’ll get, but we’re preparing for all of it. They’ve all done a good job.”
2. That pesky Wildcat
Through six games, the Tim Tebow-led Wildcat hasn’t produced as expected, partly due to the offensive line having difficulty executing anything related to the running game. While the results have been underwhelming, especially in goal line situations, it might have to be implemented more this week given the uncertain status of running backs Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight, both of whom left Sunday’s game with injuries. After running the ball so effectively against the Colts, the Jets need more of the same this week and can utilize Tebow to methodically move the ball down the field. In the Wildcat they can eat up yards, spell running back Shonn Greene a bit, change field position and control the clock.
“To run the ball, we have to do a great job,” Tebow said. “Get on our double teams, push them back and find lanes and be efficient with our runs as well.”
It won’t be easy, as the Patriots have the No. 8 rushing defense in the league and are allowing just 82.7 rushing yards per game.
3. The other Jets quarterback
It says something that quarterback Mark Sanchez answered questions with his 11-of-18, 82-yard performance last week. He was efficient and threw two touchdowns, but the proclaimed face of the franchise simply managed the game. It was not pretty, but Sanchez efficiently managing the offense gives the Jets their best chance of beating New England.
“That’s every week, to try to control the football, control time of possession, especially against a team that can run upwards of 70 plays a game,” Sanchez said. “When you look at that stat, it’s staggering how many plays [the Patriots] get off. It’s really incredible, the way they do that. It’s important for us to play well.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.