AFC East nighttime clash caps off Thanksgiving Day trifecta of games
The New England Patriots look to build on their three-game lead in the AFC East as they take on the New York Jets in MetLife Stadium at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC. The Patriots have won four games in a row, a streak that started with a 29-26 overtime victory against the Jets in Foxboro back in Week 7. The Jets snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a 27-13 win in St. Louis. Their record is 4-6 and they can ill afford another loss, especially in divisional play, if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
When the New England Patriots have the ball:
To really no one’s surprise, New England is leading the league in both total and scoring offense, as the Patriots are generating nearly 432 yards and 36 points per game. They are fourth in passing offense, but also have been equally successful rushing the ball. The Patriots are fifth in that category, averaging 142.9 yards on the ground per game. Compare that to last season when they finished 20th in the league in rushing. Tom Brady is once again among the league’s passing leaders with 2,976 yards (fifth), 21 touchdowns (tied for fourth) and just three interceptions. Stevan Ridley is leading the charge on the ground with 842 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Brady has plenty of receiving weapons at his disposal, including Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, but the question will be what happens now that tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for at least the next few games after suffering a broken forearm late in last week’s game. Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez is capable of stepping in, but he’s missed the past few games with an ankle injury. On top of that, Gronkowski is the team’s second-leading receiver and was responsible for seven touchdowns in the past four games. Two of those came in the Patriots’ Week 6 win over these Jets.
The Jets rank 14th in the league in total defense and have had a hard time stopping the run consistently this season. They are 30th against the run, giving up nearly 142 yards per game on the ground, but are fourth in pass defense (200.1 ypg). The latter is even more impressive when you consider that All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3. Even though the Jets haven’t been able to generate a lot of pressure (17 sacks), they have forced 18 turnovers. They also are 21st in the league in scoring defense, surrendering an average of 24.1 points per game.
When the New York Jets have the ball:
The Jets have struggled on offense all season. They rank 29th in the NFL in total offense (301.3 ypg) and 23rd in scoring offense at 23.2 points per game. The main culprit has been a passing attack that also is 29th in the league, as Mark Sanchez has completed less than 54 percent of his passes and has only 11 touchdown passes. He is the 29th-rated passer in the NFL right now. The offensive line, which has surrendered 25 sacks, and the running game are not without blame, however. The Jets are 15th in the league in rushing with 108.6 yards per game, but are only averaging 3.7 yards per carry as a team and have scored seven rushing touchdowns. Shonn Greene has matched that 3.7 yards per carry mark and his inconsistency has resulted in more opportunities for Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes was lost for the season (Lisfranc injury) in Week 4 and no one has really stepped up to take his place. The Jets also have been reluctant to utilize Tim Tebow in the offense, but his mere presence and Sanchez’ lack of productivity has resulted in a season-long, media-driven quarterback quandary that has only added to the Jets’ issues. Turnovers have not helped their cause either as the Jets have coughed it up 18 times (8 INTs, 10 fumbles) in 10 games.
New England is 28th in total defense, but is allowing fewer yards (388.7) and points (22.5) per game than the offense is generating. Pass defense has been the biggest issue, as they rank 30th in that category. The offense’s ability to put points on the board and jump out to big leads is a contributing factor to this statistic, but that doesn’t totally excuse the Patriots in this matter. Consider that Sanchez put up 328 passing yards against them in Week 7 and we’ve already documented his struggles. That said, the defense has done a better job against the run (10th, 99 ypg) and, typical of a Bill Belichick unit, has capitalized on turnovers. The Patriots have forced 27 turnovers and have scored three defensive touchdowns. The Patriots’ defense has bent plenty this season, but has rarely broken, one of the reasons why they are 7-3 and in the driver’s seat in the AFC East.
New England has won four of its last five games against the Jets and has an 18-9 edge in the series overall since 2000. The Patriots won 37-16 in last season’s meeting in MetLife Stadium and a victory tonight could basically wrap up the AFC East for them, while potentially eliminating the Jets from playoff contention. The Jets gave the Patriots all they could handle in Foxboro back in Week 7, but this Patriots team is on a roll offensively. They put up 59 points in the win over Indianapolis last week and are averaging 47 points per game since that overtime win over the Jets. The Jets have scored 47 points once all season and that came in Week 1.
Patriots 38, Jets 23