Even with 11 days to break down this season’s most important game in the AFC, we could still be playing catch-up with all of the coverage that goes into this historic rivalry. So, we welcomed back Eric Allen from newyorkjets.com to help us out.
Allen discussed Mark Sanchez‘s progress, the Jets’ resiliency and a myth about New York’s game.
NESN: What have you learned about the Jets since Week 2?
Eric Allen: They are truly a resilient and resourceful bunch. They were staring 0-2 right in the face against the Patriots, trailing 14-10 at halftime after having watched Darrelle Revis exit with a hamstring injury on that memorable one-handed Randy Moss 34-yard scoring grab in the second quarter. But Antonio Cromartie shut out Moss in the second half, the Jets outscored their longtime rival, 18-0, and they cruised to a big divisional win.
Since then, it’s been a heart-racing ride. The Jets were taken down to the wire by the Vikings, Broncos, Lions, Browns and Texans and they found a way to win each of those contests. Santonio Holmes, who served a four-game suspension to start the season, made game-changing plays in four of his first seven outings with the Green and White. He drew a pass interference penalty to set up the winning touchdown in Denver, raced 52 yards in overtime against the Lions to set up the winning kick, ending an extra-session thriller with a 37-yard score against the Browns in Week 10, and then was on the receiving end of a six-yard score from Mark Sanchez as the Jets averted disaster against the Texans.
If you calculate Holmes’ averages over a 16-game slate, he’d have 73 catches, 1,122 yards and nine touchdowns.
NESN: How has Darrelle Revis played since recovering from the hamstring injury? Is it in the Jets’ best interest to man him up on Wes Welker?
E.A.: Revis declared himself 100 percent following the team’s Week 7 bye, and he has looked like the old Darrelle the past five games. He held Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to just one catch for 13 yards in Week 9 and then feasted on Terrell Owens on Thanksgiving night as T.O. had three receptions for 17 yards.
You would expect the 5-foot-11, 198-pound Revis to man up the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Welker at times, but it’s not clear at this point how the Jets plan on covering Welker, Deion Branch, the two-headed rookie monster at tight end, Danny Woodhead, etc. We do know the Jets are prepared for the Patriots to attack them inside with the underneath routes, and the defense will disguise coverages as much as they can for Tom Brady.
The Jets have tremendous respect for Welker, though, and there is absolutely no way you’ll see a repeat of that 15-reception, 192-yard effort in Week 11 last season.
“His route just might be to run across the field, but he might make up his own route to get open. He’ll stem you up, juke you this way, option route that way and get open. It’s very tough,” Revis said of Welker. “We struggled with that early with teams attacking us inside. We do have to be aware of them trying to attack us on the inside again.”
NESN: Have the Jets started to transition from LaDainian Tomlinson to Shonn Greene?
E.A.: No. Nobody ever took the team for their word, but the Jets have always considered both players to be No. 1 backs. Remember, Greene (15) had more carries than Tomlinson (11) back in the Jets’ Week 2 win over the Pats. That was also the case in Week 4 vs. Buffalo (22 to 19) before the current three-game streak of more carries for Greene.
People have to remember that Tomlinson leads the Jets with 45 receptions, and his 211 touches pace the club by a wide margin (Greene has 149 touches).
When one of the pair gets warm, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer tends to feed them the ball more. It just makes sense, and Greene hurt his playing time with three fumbles overall and two lost.
NESN: How has Mark Sanchez progressed throughout the season?
E.A.: People tried to bury him because of the Jets’ conservative approach in that 10-9 season-opening loss to Baltimore, but he has never looked back after completing 21 of 30 for 220 yards with three scores in that 28-14 Week 2 win over the Pats. His ball security obviously has been much better, as he’s thrown twice as many touchdown passes (16) than interceptions (eight) after throwing 20 interceptions last year and passing for just 12 scores. The 24-year-old passer has good footwork, has shown veteran poise in the pocket and he’s comfortable throwing on the move.
The front office did a great job assembling weapons around Sanchez, and he’s taken advantage. We mentioned Holmes above, Dustin Keller is one of the finest receiving tight ends in the NFL, Braylon Edwards is averaging 17.7 yards a catch and the Jets hope to get Jerricho Cotchery back in to the lineup this week. And when plays have needed to have been made down the stretch in the fourth quarter and beyond, Sanchez has stepped up in tight games with comeback wins and a pair of overtime victories.
“Mark is doing an excellent job,” left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson said. “He’s made it a lot easier because he’s helped us get out of some tough spots. He’s real poised. Everybody can see the poise that he as well as the offense has in difficult times. I think this is going to be really big for us the later the season goes when we face tough opponents. It’s good that when it’s tough like that, you can still win and come out on top.”
NESN: What is your prediction for the game?
E.A.: Jets 30, Patriots 20.
Rex Ryan has the better football team.
The Jets have made themselves complete with a balanced, explosive offense that is actually ranked ahead of the Pats (13 to 11). They will be able to dictate what they want to do offensively against a defense that is surrendering 399 yards a game. New England is an opportunistic group, and its plus-11 turnover margin is impressive, but Sanchez is no longer a mistake-prone rookie, and Holmes, Edwards and company could have field days against that 32nd-ranked pass defense. The Green and White also run it for 148 yards a game, and they’ll be able to pound away against the New England front.
Tom Brady is one of the best ever, but the Jets’ defense will slow him down and frustrate him at times with those overload pressures. Special teams are always important, as well, and Brad Smith is coming off a game in which he took one to the house. I don’t expect this one to come down to the kickers.
The Jets are better, and they’ll get their first sweep of the Patriots since 2000.