The New England Patriots were supposed to run through the New York Jets in their Week 12 matchup, but major injury questions surrounding Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have made the matchup much more intriguing.
Here’s what the Patriots have to do to beat the Jets.
BREAK TAKEAWAY-LESS STREAK
The Patriots haven’t forced a turnover since the first quarter of their Week 7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers over a month ago. Fumbles aren’t bouncing the Patriots’ way, and interceptions are falling through their hands.
The Patriots must swarm around the ball more consistently to be in better position to recover errant footballs, and they must start to play more aggressively in order to force interceptions. The Patriots have played passively on defense, which has been great at preventing yards after catch but poor at forcing mistakes.
The Patriots are winning and allowing just 18 points per game — good for third in the NFL — but they’re allowing long drives that could be cut down with takeaways.
It feels like we’ve been saying this for weeks, but this could be the week the Patriots finally begin to pile up some turnovers. The Jets are averaging two giveaways per game. They have a -12 turnover differential.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is back under center, where he has thrown a league-leading 13 interceptions on the season.
TARGET DARRELLE REVIS
Former Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis has been a mess this season, getting burned deep regularly by No. 1 wide receivers. The Patriots should try to test Revis with their “X” receiver, which either will be Chris Hogan, who’s questionable to play with a back injury, or rookie Malcolm Mitchell.
The Jets have allowed the third most passing plays of over 40 yards this season (10), while Brady has been unusually accurate on deep passes.
Revis ranks 80th of 119 cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus’ grades. Fellow starting Jets cornerback Buster Skrine ranks even worse at 86th. The Jets’ third cornerback is Darryl Roberts, who the Patriots released after training camp.
PROTECT TOM BRADY
Brady already is dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of two practices this week. Now the Patriots must face three of the NFL’s top pass-rushing interior defensive linemen in Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson.
The Patriots’ entire offensive line will have their hands full with the three former first-round picks. Protecting Brady becomes even more important with his knee already banged up.
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images