Even without Rex Ryan stoking the fire with his usual “I wanna beat Bill Belichick!” bravado, the first Jets/Patriots game of the year feels like it could be a big one. Todd Bowles and the Jets will try to deliver the Pats their first lost next weekend in Foxborough (1:00 PM Eastern, Nov. 1). (Yes, we’re already chalking up a New England win over Indy in Week 6.)
With their team boasting the top offense in terms of yards per game and a defense that is top-ten in points allowed, Pats fans have started to rumble about an undefeated season. At age 38, Tom Brady is on-pace, not just for his best season ever, but to break the single-season record for passing yardage! (After 2007, that is saying something.)
New England doesn’t have an overly daunting schedule this season, so every time they encounter a capable-looking opponent, the pressure will be ramped up to deal this team a loss.
The Jets are at least a “capable-looking” team heading into this week. In fact, if this franchise wasn’t associated with years of comically bad play, or didn’t have Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, perhaps people would take them more seriously as a potential AFC East winner.
After all, it’s a two horse race between the Jets and the Denver Broncos for the title of best defense in the league. A machine at generating takeaways and applying pressure, the unit will only get better this week with the return of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Meanwhile, on offense, Chris Ivory is tied for the league lead in rush yards per game (104.7), a development that has helped take the pressure off Fitzpatrick. And when “Fitzy” does have to throw, he has the likes of Brandon Marshall to lean on. The longtime Bear is averaging 100 receiving yards per game in his first year with the team.
This game is a good matchup on paper for New York. The Patriots defense is weak against the run, surrendering 112.8 yards a game heading into this weekend, which means the Jets should be able to move the ball on the ground and keep Brady on the sidelines. New York averages a respectable 24 points a game, but they won’t be able to win a shootout. To claim victory, they’ll need their defense to step up and limit Rob Gronkowski and this powerful Pats offense.
I think the Jets can play the Pats tough, and perhaps even force Brady into his first interception of the season. But New England has won six of the last seven games between these two when they have home field advantage.
Straight-up pick: Patriots.
(Photo credit: Jack Newton (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdn/10556799426/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)