There will be no late-season drama between the Patriots and Jets this season, as the two face off for the second and final time in the 2013 regular season on Sunday in New Jersey (1 p.m., CBS).
The Patriots took the first game in an ugly Thursday Night Football Week 2 matchup, 13-10, which had Patriots fans shutting off their televisions more concerned than excited over the win. Now 5-1, the Pats may actually have more concerns than they in the hours following that rainy September night. For one, their defense is decimated with key injuries. Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo – two leaders on defense – are done for the year, and Aqib Talib – who was making a case for Defensive Player of the Year – hasn’t practiced yet this week due to a hip injury. That will certainly be a factor in Sunday’s outcome. Here are three more to look out for:
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Running into problems
Stevan Ridley had his best game of the season last weekend against the Saints, rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries – all season highs.. But it would be a surprise to see those numbers against the Jets' stingy rush defense. New York is second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game at 75.7 and they lead the league in yards allowed per rushing attempt at 3.0. Jets coach Rex Ryan credits the “outstanding play" of defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison, among others.
“I think we’ve got an outstanding group in the front seven,” Ryan said. “They’re young, and they’re kind of maturing together.”
Getting to the rookie
In Week 2, the Patriots made Jets QB Geno Smith look like the rookie he is. Smith went just 15-for-35 for 214 yards through the air and tossed three interceptions. While Talib had two of the picks, there are plenty of other defensive players for New England who can step in and wreak havoc on Smith. It starts up front with the defensive line. Look for Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich to close in on Smith, but not allow him to scramble out of the pocket too often. With rushed throws, and a less-than-stellar receiving corps, the secondary should be able to get by without Talib ... at least this week.
Despite the Patriots’ less-than-ideal health situation, they should beat the Jets on Sunday. One thing New England always seems to do is find ways to win – and that’s especially the case in division play. In fact, the Patriots own a 61-15 record in regular season AFC East games since the beginning of the 2001 season, the best intra-division record of any NFL team. And when it comes to the Jets, they’ve gone 20-7 against them since 2001, and have won the last five meetings.