By Gregory Hunt
The 2014 AFC East division title has already been clinched, so now the New England Patriots will work on their playoff seeding beginning with a meeting with the New York Jets Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. The Patriots can clinch a first-round bye with a win.
The Jets are in last place in the AFC East with a 3-11 record. They won their season opener over the Oakland Raiders, but they have beaten only the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans since then. Their 16-11 victory over Tennessee came just last week at LP Field, giving the Jets their first road victory of the season.
The Patriots/Jets rivalry dates back to 1960, when both franchises were founded as original members of the American Football League. The Jets trail the all-time series 52-55-1 in the regular season and 1-2 in the playoffs. The Patriots beat the Jets 27-25 at Gillette Stadium back in Week 7, but the Jets won the last postseason meeting 28-21 in an AFC Divisional Playoff game on January 16, 2011, also at Gillette Stadium.
Jets On Offense
Thanks to both injury and performance issues, the starting quarterback position has been split this season between Geno Smith (11) and Michael Vick (3). Both players have nearly identical statistics with completion percentages in the 50s and passer ratings in the 60s. Together, they’ve thrown 12 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. Former Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker is the team’s favored target; he has 62 catches while no other player on the roster has more than 35.
If there’s one thing the Jets can do well on offense, it’s run the ball. With the carries split between running backs Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson, the team is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Only the Seattle Seahawks, at 5.2, have a better per-carry average. Despite being behind in the score more often than not, the Jets have run the ball nearly 100 times more than their opponents over the course of the season.
Jets On Defense
The Jets are 6th in the NFL in total defense, but this statistic is misleading. The team is giving up 25.7 points per game, which ranks 24th in the league. Also, the team forces very few turnovers — it’s recovered only six fumbles (tied for 22nd) and caught only five interceptions (tied for 29th).
The defense is a little stronger when it comes to the pass rush. With 34 sacks, the team is ranked 13th in the league. Defensive end Sheldon Richardson, who was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year last season by both the AP and CBS Sports, leads the team in sacks with 6.5. Fellow defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is second on the team with 4.5 sacks, but he has missed the last three games because of a toe injury.
Now that defensive end Chandler Jones and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga are back in the lineup for the Patriots, the New England defense seems more formidable than ever. Thanks to a secondary anchored by cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, the Patriots can play man-to-man coverage on the Jets’ receivers and keep the linemen and linebackers focused on stopping the run game. The New England offense should be able to take care of business, so it’s hard to see the Patriots losing this one.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.