FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots don’t have it easy this week, but it could be a lot worse.
New England’s opponent isn’t overly difficult, but overcoming key injuries in a matter of days will be tough. Danny Amendola and Zach Sudfeld have just three days to recover from groin and hamstring injuries, respectively, that limited them in Sunday’s game and Monday’s practice.
The Jets may have won Sunday afternoon against the Buccaneers, but the Patriots are lucky they’re facing their AFC East foes rather than a team like their Week 4 opponents, the Falcons. The Bills and Jets share enough in common that while transitioning between the two teams won’t be simple, it will at least be similar.
Mike Pettine brought much of what he coached when he was New York’s defensive coordinator from 2009 to 2012 to Buffalo. The Bills showed multiple fronts with aggressive cornerbacks and linebackers who can blitz. Buffalo brought pressure from all angles, including some effective secondary blitzes.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see much of the same in Rex Ryan‘s Jets defense. New York’s defense may not be quite as talented either. With Quinton Coples out, the Jets had to start Garrett McIntyre and Calvin Pace at outside linebacker. Neither player is the caliber of a Mario Williams or Manny Lawson.
And while the Jets’ front three is stout, with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison, so is the Bills’ with Alex Carrington, Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams. New York does have a fully healthy secondary, which is more than Buffalo could say.
“I think there’s a decent amount of carryover,” Bill Belichick said about going from Pettine to Ryan. “I think the thing about that defense is that they game plan up a lot. I think we saw some things yesterday from Buffalo that were very probably specific to us, things they hadn’t shown in their preseason, obviously, naturally. I think that some of the things that we saw the Jets do yesterday against Tampa, we won’t see and I think we’ll see some things that Tampa didn’t see. There is certainly some familiarity and some carryover between the two schemes but at the same time, both those schemes are predicated on game planning and matchups and trying to create schemes and matchups that are favorable and that is going to change from week to week, no matter who they play. Obviously with different personnel involved, that’s another factor in it too. There’s still a big degree of unknown there.”
Belichick seems to be trying to dismiss the carryover to a certain degree, but if Pettine and Ryan are trying to exploit the same things in the Patriots’ offense, then there should be plenty of similarities, despite the different personnel. Going from Pettine to Ryan may be the most carryover the Patriots will see from one week to the next all season. It’s not like the Patriots are going from Atlanta’s 4-3 to the Jets’ 3-4.
The Patriots will also see a similar quarterback this week in Geno Smith. Both EJ Manuel and Smith are mobile quarterbacks who look to throw before they will take off running. They have similar size and decision-making skills and obviously both are rookies.
Once again, there are some differences between Manuel and Smith, but it’s not like they’re going from Manuel to Matt Ryan. New England may not need to worry as much about containing Manuel’s legs as they did with Buffalo’s signal caller, but it will still be a consideration.
Neither the Bills or Jets have elite-tier wide receivers and both teams concentrate on the run more than the pass. And going up against Chris Ivory and Bilial Powell is much easier than facing C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
Both teams’ biggest strengths are in their front seven, it’s just at different spots. The Jets rely on Wilkerson and Richardson at the five-tech positions, while Buffalo depends on Williams on the edge and Dareus in the middle.
A three-day break is never easy. And while the Patriots still have to overcome injuries, they don’t face a huge challenge in changing their gameplan from week to week. After Thursday night, New England will have all the time in the world to get ready for Tampa Bay, who they already practiced against for a full week.