Big one in the Meadowlands this Sunday, as our Patriots are on the road to take on the desperate 9-5 Jets. Let me start by saying this: I’m nervous. I’m nervous for a number of reasons.
No, the Jets are not the better team. No, the Jet offense doesn’t scare me, and shouldn’t scare you. No, Todd Bowles and Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t hold Belichick’s clipboard, or shine Brady’s cleats.
That all being said, the at home, hungry, and mostly healthy (!!!) Jets represent one of the toughest matchups all season long. In week 7, it was Edelman and Amendola flanking Gronk and LaFell.
This week, it’ll be Keshawn Martin and perhaps Chris Harper It was Dont’a Hightower plugging gaps and stuffing Ivory at the line of scrimmage, on Sunday it’ll likely be some mixture of Jerod Mayo and (gulp) Jon Bostic. The Pats’ depth has truly been tested to the maximum this season, and thus far, has held strong. At this point in the season however, the Pats face a fork in the road. In one scenario, you limit/rest your guns, you don’t beat the Jets, you don’t lock up the #1 seed in the AFC (yet). In the other, you push the accelerator and lose another contributor to injury.
Don’t get me wrong, Belichick won’t be doing the Jets any favors and laying down. No way, no how. Not that team. However, there is a fine line. If the Patriots have 13 wins at sometime around 4:30 PM on Sunday, with no further significant injuries of note, it will be the most impressive feat thus far this season. Let’s take it around the room and see what the BBS staff has to say…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 300 yards passing?
Niko: Statistically speaking, Tom Brady was very good against the Jets in October. With the eye test though, he was GREAT. Taking into account the, I don’t know dozen drops, lack of anything resembling a running game, and against that defense? He simply refused to lose the football game. Without Edelman, Lewis, (probably) Amendola, and a limited Gronk, he’ll need to be just as good if not better for the Pats to win this ballgame. OVER.
Pete: This is going to be a tough game all around. I am not 100% sure how the Pats approach this game. Do they rest their guys and proverbially succumb to a loss? Or do they play everyone and try to kick their ass? I have to go with the latter, knowing Bill Belichick and his hatred for the Jets. Knowing that, I will say Touchdown Tommy is UNDER, but barely.
Jordan: I'm going to have to go with UNDER on this one. Only because, at the moment, Edelman and Amendola are both limited in practice and they're the top 2 receivers in Brady's arsenal. With the current state of the team, I expect more of a run-based offense to get Steven Jackson and Joey Iosefa in the mix more.
Joey Iosefa/Steven Jackson: Over/Under combined 50 yards rushing?
Niko: Let me preface this by saying I’m on board with the 5-game Steven Jackson signing. I think he can give the Patriots most if not all of what Blount was contributing (plus: Bolden moves back to primarily special teams). I also like the hard-hitting Iosefa and think he can carve out a niche role moving forward. That being said, I have to go UNDER here. Brady led the Pats in rushing (15 yards) against these guys the first time around.
Pete: Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that we would be talking about Joey Iosefa and Steven Jackson being the leading rusher for a 12-2 Pats team? Surely not me. The Jets have the best run defense in the NFL, but I think the Pats will grind their way to at least 50 yards. It may not be pretty, but they will be OVER.
Jordan: Combined, OVER. I don't see either of them rushing for more than 50 yards only because, while he impressed me against the Titans, Iosefa is only playing in his second NFL game and it's against a solid front seven from the Jets. Jackson, first week in New England, will probably get somewhere around 10-15 carries to get his feet wet. He's still almost a year removed and I would be pleasantly surprised if he has a big game.
James White: Over/Under 55 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: White is one of Brady’s guys now. With trust comes opportunity, with opportunity comes production. OVER.
Pete: This kid is great. Niko and I have been on the James White train since its inception, but he is really starting to learn his role with this team. Surprisingly, he is making that first guy miss, kind of like Dion Lewis, and figuring out what he does best for this team. In this game, White will be huge if the Patriots want to win. I will go OVER.
Jordan: OVER. White has really looked good in replacement of Dion Lewis and, in a game of screen passes and slants, I see White having north of 70-80 yards and even a TD.
Rob Gronkowski: Over/Under 5.5 catches, 80 receiving yards?
Niko: Gronk had a career high 11 catches on 16 targets in the first meeting against gang green. Although I do think he will be somewhat limited with health in the playoffs in mind, the volume will be there. I’ll go OVER on both.
Pete: To be honest, I hope Gronk doesn't play in this game. There is no reason to put him out there when he isn't 100% against one of our biggest rivals. The Pats only need one of these next two games, and the Phins game should be a virtual lock. If he plays, however, I will go OVER.
Jordan: UNDER. Only because the Pats are one win away or a Denver loss away from clinching the one seed in the AFC East. And Gronk had a scare against the Broncos so his health is key. Like I said before, I see the Pats trying to work the run in a little more than they have this season as they try to keep their banged up receivers available come playoff time. Under in yards but over in catches if it's close late.
Brandon LaFell: Over/Under 4.5 catches, 59 receiving yards?
Niko: JoJo finally brought something to the table against the Titans (4, 88). He’ll probably get a good dose of Revis, but that doesn’t mean what it used to. I’ll go UNDER on catches, OVER on yards. Considering his performance against the Jets the first time around, Brandon owes Brady one (at least…).
Pete: JoJo had a good game last week against the Titans. With Danny Amendola likely out, LaFell will need to have a good, if not great, game this week. Setting up screen passes to get him going early will be key. I will hesitantly go OVER.
Jordan: I'll go OVER and OVER with JoJo. He's gotta prove something this week against the team that he began his season against and had 8 drops. And with the availability of Amendola and Edelman still a question, Lafell is the only WR I'm certain will be on the field on Sunday.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: Over/Under 255 yards passing?
Niko: UNDER. I really think the Pats front 7 is going to give the Jets offensive line fits. I expect another big day out of Hicks, Sheard, Jones, and the rest of the boys up front against an aging, inconsistent Jets O-line. If the rush can get home, Fitz will struggle to complete much more than 50% of his passes.
Pete: In order for Fitzpatrick to be limited, the Pats will to get pressure early and often on him and the offensive line. With such a stout defensive front, I think the Patriots will be able to put a lot of pressure on Fitzpatrick. I will go UNDER, but barely again.
Jordan: UNDER. The way Ryan and Butler have played this season, I see the Jets having a hard time getting the ball to their guns for long stretches of the game.
Chris Ivory: Over/Under 69 rushing yards?
Niko: Ivory was held to 41 rushing yards the first time around, and has looked sluggish in recent weeks. He runs violently, and it looks like the hits are starting to pile up and take a toll. Not to mention Bilal Powell has cut more and more into his workload as the season has progressed. I’ll go UNDER here, even with the expected absence of Hightower.
Pete: In order for the Patriots to be effective Sunday, they will need to limit Chris Ivory. Ivory was limited with an injury last time these two teams played, so it will be interesting to see how they use him this week. I will go OVER, but I am still not sure how effective he will be in this game.
Jordan: OVER. I don't care who the Pats have playing in their front seven, a 100% Chris Ivory is going to get his. I see a little bit of Marshawn Lynch in him in terms of being a guy who can give the Pats problems.
Bilal Powell: Over/Under 70 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: Powell has hit this mark the last 3 games and as mentioned above has slowly cut into Ivory’s workload. He’ll most definitely be involved in the passing game and I think he’ll get just enough on the ground to hit this mark on Sunday. If Chung goes, he’ll get some work on Bilal. Collins should get some time on him as well. OVER.
Pete: UNDER. The Jets don't have a ton of playmakers, aside from Brandon Marshall and Chris Ivory. Eric Decker is good as a #2, but I think the Pats will breathe a sigh of relief when they see Bilal Powell take the field.
Jordan: UNDER. Chris Ivory is going to be the focal point of the Jets offense in my opinion. It wouldn't surprise me if Powell gets close to the 70 yard mark on dump passes and occasional runs, but I don't see him eclipsing 70.
Brandon Marshall: Over/Under 88 receiving yards?
Niko: OVER. Without McCourty playing center field, I think Marshall can break one or two. Facing pressure, Fitz will try getting the ball to the guy he knows can win 1 on 1 or even 2 on 1 matchups.
Pete: After having an interview all set up with the Pats, Marshall was snatched away by the rival Jets. It sucks, and while he's a ticking time bomb, he has been fantastic for the Jets all year. This dude is going to get his often, but I wonder how much of a difference it is really going to make. OVER.
Jordan: OVER. While I said before that Fitzy will have a hard time getting to his guns for long stretches of the game, when he needs a play, Marshall is his guy and he'll make the plays most likely.
Eric Decker: Over/Under 75 receiving yards?
Niko: UNDER. I think Butler wins the matchup this time around. Not a huge Decker guy, although he has had a nice season playing second fiddle to B Marsh.
Pete: If Malcolm Butler is on Decker, which by all indications seems to be the case, then this will be a long day for the Jets slot receiver. Butler was just selected to his first Pro Bowl, so the always confident defensive back should be on Cloud 9. UNDER.
Jordan: UNDER. I'm sure that Malcolm Butler isn't satisfied with his first pro bowl selection. I see him proving it Sunday and keeping Decker in check.
Niko: Malcolm Butler vs. Eric Decker. In October, Decker had his way against Malcolm, racking up 6 catches for 94 yards and drawing a pass interference call. If Belichick/Patricia choose to use a similar scheme (Ryan/safety help vs. Marshall, Butler 1 on 1 with Decker) the spotlight will be on this matchup again on Sunday.
Pete: I think I will go with Brandon Marshall vs. Logan Ryan. Ryan has had a phenomenal season and blown away everyone's expectations. Can he do it against one of the better receivers in the NFL?
Jordan: Butler vs. Decker. Malcolm needs to prove his pro bowl status to those who question his selection and Decker needs to prove he's worth the investment to the Jets. Big game for both and, conveniently, they're going against each other.
Niko: Keshawn Martin steps in for Amendola and racks up 45+ yards and a touchdown. Keshawn Martin has to contribute Sunday for the Pats to move the football with any efficiency.
Pete: It may not be too bold, but I will say that Chandler Jones gets 3 sacks. Last week he broke through and recorded a sack for the first time since roughly Week 10, so he should have some extra confidence now.
Jordan: Tom Brady explodes for 400+ yards and 5 TDs against a stellar Jets secondary.
Game Total: Over/Under 46 total points?
Niko: UNDER. I don’t think this game will be pretty by any means. Points will be hard to come by for the banged up Pats offense against this defense, and the Jets have their own issues scoring consistently, especially against a surging Patriot defense.
Pete: Surprisingly, I'm going to go OVER. Both teams have good, if not great, defenses, but the Jets and Pats always seem to surprise us.
Jordan: UNDER. With the exception of the matchup in Foxboro, Pats-Jets games are usually grind it out sessions and I see this one being a fairly low scoring game.
Niko: 20-16 Patriots. Big effort from the D, and gutsy performance by Brady gets it done. Pats do just enough to complete the season sweep.
Pete: 27-17 Pats. I just don't think that the Jets have enough going on offense to keep up with the Pats.
Jordan: 17-14 Pats.