By Gregory Hunt
The New England Patriots will play their third prime time game in four weeks when they meet the New York Jets Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots split the first two prime time games, a 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium and a 43-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium.
The Jets come into Foxboro with a 1-5 record, putting them in last place in the AFC East. They won their season opener 19-14 over the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium but they are now mired in a five-game losing streak. Their most-recent loss was 31-17 to the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium.
The Patriots/Jets rivalry dates back to 1960, when both franchises were established as original members of the American Football League. The Jets trail the all-time regular season series 52-54-1, but won the most-recent meeting 30-27 in overtime at MetLife Stadium on October 20, 2013. The teams have met three times in the playoffs: New England won the first two meetings, but the Jets won the last one 28-21 in an AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2011.
Jets on Offense
Second-year Jets quarterback Geno Smith has struggled this season, completing only 57.1 percent of his passes while throwing seven interceptions against only six touchdowns. He has also fumbled five times, losing two of them. Things became so frustrating for Smith that he cursed at a heckler when walking off the MetLife Stadium field after a 24-17 loss in Week 4 to the Detroit Lions. After a poor performance in the first half of a Week 5 loss to the San Diego Chargers, Smith was benched for the second half in favor of backup Michael Vick, but Smith returned to action the following week.
The deep passing game is virtually non-existent. Tight end Jace Amaro, wide receiver Eric Decker and wide receiver Jeremy Kerley have each caught 20 or more passes, but only Decker is averaging as many as nine yards per catch. However, the ground game is somewhat respectable. Running back Chris Ivory is averaging 4.9 yards per carry on 67 attempts, and the entire team is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, an entire yard more than its defense is allowing.
Jets on Defense
While the offense has struggled, the defense has done its best to keep the Jets competitive is almost every game this season. This unit currently ranks 6th in the NFL in total defense, just one spot below the 5th-ranked Patriots defense, but thanks in part to turnovers by the offense, the Jets rank only 25th in the league in scoring defense. Moreover, the defense has struggled to force turnovers, recovering only three fumbles and making only one interception through the first six weeks of the season.
The most dangerous pass rushers are outside linebacker Calvin Pace and defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, who have combined for more than half of the team’s 19 sacks. Pace and Wilkerson got one sack apiece against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the team’s previous meeting last season. Reserve cornerback Phillip Adams has the team’s lone interception.
Now that the Patriots offense is finally running at full speed this season, it’s hard to imagine that a struggling Jets offense will be able to score enough points to keep up with New England. However, now that New England starting running back Stevan Ridley is out for the season with a knee injury, this may inhibit the Patriots ground game enough to render the play action passing game ineffective. Also, the short week won’t allow New England much time to recover from a particularly physical game against the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday, so that may slow down the Patriots attack even more. Look for New England to win a relatively low-scoring game.
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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.