BOSTON (CBS) – It’s been a frustrating and somewhat disappointing start for the Patriots this season, but they can turn it around on Sunday with a divisional win over the New York Jets.
All four teams in the AFC East sit at 3-3, and the Patriots can begin to separate themselves from the pack with a big division win this weekend at Gillette. The Jets have overcome a pair of key injuries on both sides of the ball in Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes, but now they have to keep up with a Patriots team looking to take out their anger and frustration.
The Patriots are heavy favorites at 10.5 points, and should cruise to an easy victory, but anything can — and usually will — happen in these division games. Just as easy as one can predict a Patriots blowout, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Jets hung around and actually pulled off a sneaky win in Foxboro.
Here are four things to watch for in Sunday’s Patriots-Jets match-up:
An Angry Tom Brady
This week has been filled with talk of Tom Brady losing his edge. He had an awful game against Seattle, throwing a pair of interceptions and two more terrible passes that went for intentional grounding calls, and had to hear pundits question if he had what it took to win games anymore.
Local radio shows, national talking heads, even the Seattle defense got on Brady. Surprisingly, Antonio Cromartie has kept quite through it all.
Well, now is Brady’s chance to shut them all up, and he usually does. Then sprinkle in the fact he’s going against a Jets defense without Derrelle Revis, and Brady is primed for a big afternoon. The Jets secondary has done a good job keeping opposing quarterbacks in check so far this season, with Andrew Luck throwing for the most yards against them this season with 280 last weekend. Most of those yards came in the later parts of the 35-9 blowout, and the Jets picked him off twice in keeping him out of the end zone. Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub are the only other two QB’s to break 200 yards against the New York D this season, so they can still defend the pass fairly well.
But then again, none of those guys are Tom Brady, and Brady usually shines when coming off a poor or sub-Brady performance. He probably ignored most of the talk this week, but there’s no doubt he’s heard the chatter and wants to shut up all those critics.
Without Revis on the field, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd — along with the two New England tight ends — will create match-up nightmares for New York, and Brady should be able to take advantage and pick the Jets apart. Order will be restored, and Brady can hold his head high once again.
Return Of The Run Game
Where the Jets have struggled on defense this year is against the run, ranking 28th in the NFL surrendering an average of 150 yards per game.
And after hearing plenty of criticism about not running the ball against the Seahawks last week, expect Stevan Ridley to have another solid game this weekend. If the Patriots get up by a couple scores, look for Ridley to get his share of carries, rather than another 15 extra Brady passes like in Seattle.
The Patriots will be without Brandon Bolden, who left last week’s loss with a knee injury, but Ridley and Danny Woodhead should be able to handle the load against a team that can’t seem to stop the run this season.
Practice Report: Bolden Out; Hernandez, 10 Others Questionable
Secondary Bounces Back?
Probably not, but they should have a better game against Mark Sanchez and his rag-tag group of receivers. Although, having a “better game” doesn’t really say all that much when it comes to the New England secondary.
There could be numerous changes in the secondary this weekend, with talk of Devin McCourty sliding over to safety, with veteran Steve Gregory still out with a hip injury. This would free up a spot for rookie Alfonzo Dennard, who played well in his extended time on the field last Sunday.
The best thing going for the Patriots secondary this weekend is going up against Sanchez (although didn’t we say that about Russell Wilson last week?). Sanchez has thrown for more than 200 yards only twice this season, and last week against Indy had just 82 yards on 11-for-18 passing. It’s the only game this season he’s completed more than half his passes.
If the Patriots secondary can’t stop Sanchez, they can’t stop anyone. We’ll find that out Sunday afternoon.
The Jets are going to use the “most talked about backup quarterback” at some point on Sunday, just know one knows when or how.
Maybe he’ll take a few (or more) snaps as a quarterback. Maybe he’ll come in as a running back, as the New York Post suggested on Friday. Maybe he’ll even take the field on the punt team, take a direct snap and somehow get the Jets a first down — as he’s done three times this season.
Read: Patriots-Jets Preview
One way or another Tim Tebow will take the field against the Patriots, and Bill Belichick will have his team ready for whatever shoes Tebow wears.
Tune in to Patriots-Jets on Sunday at 4:25pm on WBZ-TV and 98.5 The Sports Hub. Coverage begins at 11:30am with Patriots GameDay on WBZ-TV, with Patriots Preview beginning at 1pm on 98.5. Following the game, stayed tuned for three hours of post game coverage on The Sports Hub, and Patriots 5th Quarter over on MyTV38!