The Patriots enter their week 16 match up against the 9-5 New York Jets, with a chance to secure home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs. However with the Patriots already listing Danny Amendola, Patrick Chung, Julian Edelman and Devin McCourty out for Sundays contest, it looks as if rest for their injured players is more important than the award of gaining home field, at least for this week.
With Edelman and Amendola out the Patriots will rely upon a gimpy Brandon LaFell, Keshawn Martin, and rookie Chris Harper as their starting three wide outs, versus Darelle Revis and company. Hardly a strength vs strength option here. With McCourty and Chung both out the Patriots will be down to Duron Harmon, and the trio of Tavon Wilson, Jordan Richards and Nate Ebner. While Harmon has played well the other three are feast or famine. They do not give the Patriots the the ability that Patrick Chung has to line up in the box and stop the run. The Jets will most likely try to pound the ball against the Patriots, as linebacker Donta Hightower if he plays will be limited with a knee injury.
This Patriots offense is hardly the offense that you want going up against the Jets. In the first match up this year, the Patriots tossed the ball all over the field. Without their stars, this team may actually try and run the ball more with newly acquired running back Steven Jackson. They may also use James White more as a slot receiver.
The key for the Patriots with only needing to win one of their final two games, is to stay healthy this game, and try to win with their star replacements. This is a rest game for the Patriots who had their bye week all the way back in week four. If they win great, if not no big deal it will be onto Miami.
Even if the Patriots can not pull out a victory their is a chance to work on some things this week. First thing will be implementing Jackson into the back field with White. If the Patriots can establish a decent running game against the second best rush defense, that will say something moving forward into the real season. Secondly the Patriots need to show they can stop the run, without Donta Hightower, while I do expect Donta to be ready for the playoffs, the team needs to be able to play without him.
I somehow feel the Patriots pull this one out despite the injuries and win a low scoring game 21-17. Rob Gronkowski, can still be a nightmare for opposing defenses, last game versus the Jets he hauled in 11 passes for 108 yards and a score. The Jets did not have an answer for him. Unless the Jets decide to put Revis on him, a match up I would like to see, they do not have an answer for him. Speaking of Revis, last game he was on Edelman, Who does he cover this week? It seems a waste of his declining talents if you use him on LaFell or Martin.
On the defensive side of the ball I believe the Patriots will do what they can to stop the Jets run game. Last game they pitted Malcolm Butler against Eric Decker. This game I expect Butler to be on Brandon Marshall, and Logan Ryan on Decker. Expect the Patriots to defend the Jets with a man on man scheme. They will also use cover three zone as a way to help in the run game. Allowing the Patriots to have a safety in the box to stop the run game.
If the Patriots use this defense, I would think they would use Jamie Collins as the “W” or will linebacker, as his speed will help in stopping backside runs. One of the weaknesses of a cover three is run support opposite the strong safety (SS) Collins may be able to neutralize that weakness. As said above the Patriots will also play man, and by playing cover 3 they can also play cover one man, allowing the same type of coverage look in a man defense.
The cover one gives the same concept of the free safety, most likely Harmon playing center field in a zone, same as the cover three. The Patriots could also replace one of their linebackers with a corner or other safety in a big nickle look. Nate Ebner has played this role and this could be a spot with the injuries where he is asked to play more than his normal rotation.
Regardless of who is on the field for the Patriots, the Jets/Patriots rivalry game is always fun to watch. The Jets are also turning themselves into a formidable foe. Todd Bowles is a great coach and brings with him a strong coaching scheme and rids the Jets of the clown show known as Rex Ryan. Playing against the Jets will be a challenge for years to come. Of course anytime you have Tom Brady lined up under center, you have to like your chances.