Thanksgiving Football: Patriots @ Jets Preview

Rob Ninkovich and the Patriots D has been doing a better job of getting to the quarterback.

After marching down the field and punching it in for touchdowns on their first two drives, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts set the high-pace tempo for a shootout late Sunday afternoon. The Patriots prevailed to earn a 59-24 victory on the heels of an epic performance by WR/ST Julian Edelman and three scores from the D/ST. While “Jules” took the spotlight with 222 TYDS, Brady outshined the rookie Luck and racked up another 331 YDS with 3 TDs and no interceptions.

The praise for TB12 is due, as HC Rex Ryan stated “He’s a robot back there” earlier this week. The Patriots (7-3) take on the Jets (4-6) for the nightcap on Turkey Day as New England looks to solidify their position atop the AFC East. New York picked up a 27-13 victory in St. Louis last week in an attempt to convince supporters their season is still alive. The past three games between the Jets and Patriots have all been one-possession affairs in the fourth quarter. Will New England let New York hang around or will the Patriots drop another 50 spot? NE has taken 15 out of the last 19 regular season matchups including the most recent four. Take a look at my three keys to victory for New England on this Thanksgiving night:

1)   Stay balanced: While this phrase has been featured in a few early season previews, the injury to Rob Gronkowski puts an extra emphasis on the ground game tonight. Take away Edelman’s 47-yard end-around last week and the Patriots rushed for a measly 68 yards on 24 attempts (2.83 YPC). Shane Vereen stepped up in absence of suspended Brandon Bolden and found the endzone once alongside fellow back Stevan Ridley.

Although the Patriots were playing from behind and the Colts had their top two CBs out, New England gained twenty first downs through the air to five on the ground. Until Aqib Talib took one to the house, the Patriots were not in control of the game and that was reflected in McDaniels’ no huddle play calling. The availability of Hernandez is not looking promising and New England should manage the time of possession tonight for another dominating victory. If the Patriots can take an early lead, look for Ridley and Vereen to get back on track.

2)   Disguise defensive fronts Despite the departure of rookie standout Chandler Jones early in the game this past Sunday, Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich took over. Each has proved to be disruptive on a consistent basis this season and although the Patriots sit just in the middle of the pack in team sacks, their pass rush has been a factor of late. With the Jets’ leaky offensive line the Patriots should be able to take down Mark Sanchez. In fact, Sanchez has been sacked 24 times this season which is tied for eighth most in the NFL (Tom Brady has been sacked just 15 times).

The Patriots are used to playing from ahead and their 10th ranked rush defense should not be tested. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots can keep their turnover-forcing D going.

3)   Stay away from Antonio Cromartie. Brandon Lloyd was held to just one catch for nine yards in the previous Jets match-up this season. Antonio Cromartie has done an admirable job filling in for the injured Darrelle Revis and it’s safe to say the outside corner will stick to Lloyd who stays outside the numbers predominately. While Lloyd has been a mild disappointment by most counts, it will force Tom Brady to find alternative receivers in the absence of Rob Gronkowski (6-78-2 in the last match-up).

Wes Welker hauled in six catches for a nifty 66 yards against the Jets in week seven. He of course will be relied heavily as always. But where will Brady’s other targets go to?

Julian Edleman saw an increase in playing time last week and he certainly did nothing to see that time scaled back. Except him to see #11 on the field and if he can get open you will hear his name a lot. Then there is Aaron Hernandez who is expected to be back and assuming he is healthy, he will slide right back into his mid-field dashing ways.

The real question will be where does Tom Brady go when he is in the red zone? That question will be tough to answer, as Gronk is such a vacuum in that area. Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass every game these days so someone will surely step up and find pay dirt.

What’s better than vegging on the couch on Thanksgiving evening, surrounded by family, and full as can be when the Patriots are on? It will be a staple for all New England fans tonight.

Don’t eat too much turkey, it will be a late night!

Happy Thanksgiving readers and go Patriots!

Prediction: Patriots 38 Jets 24

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