The Jets face their biggest rival on Sunday with not only a chance to beat a team their fans love to hate, but also to take a big step forward toward their playoff goal. The Patriots come into this game beat up and perhaps a little drained after Sunday's dramatic comeback against the Saints.
The last time the Jets beat the Patriots was on Jan. 16, 2011 in the playoffs. Since then, the Patriots have won the last five meetings. And in a flip of the script, they've been more dominant on the road at MetLife Stadium than at home. In the last two games at MetLife Stadium against the Patriots, the Jets have lost by an average of 25.5 points.
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Three things to watch for ...
1. Seven up front
When the Jets played the Patriots and Tom Brady in Week 2, the defensive front made it incredibly difficult for New England to get its passing game going. Brady was harried and hurried and hit, throwing him off his rhythm and timing. In terms of their defensive line, the Jets have as good a young unit in the league, led by Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson coming off the edge.
“The front seven is very active. They got some great lineman that get a lot of penetration,” Patriots running back Stevan Ridley said. “They play the run as well as getting pressure on the quarterback.”
If the Jets defense can get to Brady, it will be all the more difficult for him to connect with a wide receiver corps that is young and inexperienced.
2. On Geno showing up
Geno Smith can't let what happened in Week 2 happen again. He threw away a close game with three interceptions in the fourth quarter of what still ended up being only a 13-10 loss at the Patriots. Turnovers continue to plague Smith, including four in a Week 4 loss at the Titans and two interceptions in the last week’s loss at the Steelers.
“The final 12 plays of the game, in my opinion, are what changed it for us. We were right in it. I think we played a sound second half. If you want to talk about my personal game, I think I took too many sacks in that game. It was my second start and I wasn’t seeing things as clearly as I’m seeing them now,” Smith said. “I’ve got a ton of reps and a ton of experience, but off the of the top [of my head] from that game, just 12 plays, those three interceptions at the end, are what I believe changed it for us. We were right in it, [and] had a chance to kick a field goal. [We] had another chance to go down and tie the game, but we didn’t get it done. We hope to build on that.”
If Smith is more like his form in Week 5, when he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after a win at the Falcons, the Jets can win this game. He must limit mistakes with the margin for error slim.
3. Making statements
The Jets were supposed to struggle to get a couple of wins this year, and a handful of wins would have been considered overachieving. Now in Week 7, there is talk about the Jets beating the Patriots and perhaps even the playoffs as a possibility. But first they have to find some consistency.
“If it was easy, we would have already fixed it. It starts with the fundamentals. It starts with protecting the football. It’s all those types of things— eliminating mistakes, eliminating penalties,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “All those areas are things we need to improve and certainly the effort’s there. We’re trying every day and we will get better. I don’t think there’s any doubt, we’ll get better. But so far, we’ve earned what we’ve earned. We haven’t been consistent for whatever reason.”
The Jets have found balance on both sides of the ball this year and while they aren't elite, they certainly have some good pieces in place. A win here isn't out of the question.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.