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What to Watch For: Patriots vs Jets

Sunday, November 25, 2018

 

Devin McCourty

With the bye week behind them, the New England Patriots are back in action on Sunday as they travel to New Jersey to take on the New York Jets.

“When we go down there it's not many Patriot fans in there. If they are in there, you probably don't want to be too loud in that stadium because the Jet fans will get rowdy. It's a lot of fun. Especially around this time of year, around Thanksgiving, playing these guys in kind of a rivalry type of game, which Thanksgiving is huge – high school football around the country and rivalry games. So, it's kind of fitting to be playing them this week,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty during his press conference on Wednesday.

The Patriots come into the game with a record of 7-3 overall, while the Jets are 3-7.

See What to Watch For in the Slideshow Below

“It’s always tough down there with the Jets, and I’m sure it will be again this time. The last five times we’ve gone down there, they’ll all been hard-fought games, close games. The Jets do a good job – really good in all three phases of the game. It’s a team that’s really, I’d say, improved in all areas,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his press conference on Tuesday.

Game time is set for 1 p.m.

Patriots vs Jets

The Patriots and Jets will meet for the 119th time in history on Sunday, with the Patriots leading the series 63-54-1.

New England has won the last four games in the series, with New York’s last win coming in 2015 when they held off the Patriots 26-20 in the Meadowlands.

In fact, the last five games in New York have come down to the final possession.

“It's just a tough divisional road game regardless of whether it's the Jets, Buffalo or Miami. Home or away, it's always tough. It's never decided in the first quarter. We've got to go out there and battle for 60 minutes,” said Patriots running back James White during his press conference on Tuesday.

See What to Watch for in the Slideshow Below

 

Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Patriots vs Jets - November 2018

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Gronkowski

After missing three of the last four games, tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to return against the Jets on Sunday. 

"Definitely ready to get back there. I’m good to go and excited to be back out there with the team, excited to get back out there on Sundays and play some ball," said Gronkowski during his press conference on Friday. 

So far this season, Gronkowski hasn't been a major factor in the Patriots offense like we are used to seeing. 

In seven games, Gronkowski has 29 catches for 445 yards and just one touchdown, which came in week one. 

Even more concerning, Gronkowski has been targeted just twice in the red zone and has no catches.

"I’m trying to do as much as possible – if it’s a run play, if it’s a pass play, and if the ball goes my way, I’ve got to go out and got to go make a play. That’s what we’ve got to do. In the red zone, we’ve got to compete. I’ve got to compete and we’ve got to make plays," said Gronkowski. 

By comparison, last season at this time, (through 7 games) Gronkowski had 34 catches for 509 yards and five touchdowns. 

In the red zone last season, Gronkowski caught 11 passes on 22 targets for 94 yards and six touchdowns. The 22 targets were the sixth most in the NFL. 

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Run Defense

The Jets come into the game struggling offensively, having scored just 43 points over the last four games. 

"Offensively, this is an explosive group – a lot of big plays in the running game, big plays with receivers, guys that are really good with the ball in their hands, hard to tackle," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his press conference on Tuesday. 

Look for New England to try to shut down the Jets running game and force quarterback Josh McCown to throw the ball. 

New York's lead running back is Isaiah Crowell, who has rushed for 552 yards and six touchdowns this season. He averages 4.8 yards per carry. 

However, since October 7, New York has rushed for more than 83 yards just one time. 

As a team, the Jets have racked up more than 282 yards of total offense in their last four games. 

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Brady vs Blitz

Brady is the worst quarterback in the league against the blitz with a passer rating of just 59.6, according to ESPN.

He is behind Joe Flacco, Josh Rosen, Case Keenum and Matthew Stafford, all of whom rank among the worst.

“Any time you are last in the league in anything, that probably isn’t very good. I haven’t studied that as much. If they blitz, it gives us great opportunities to make plays. If we’re not doing that, we need to figure out how to do it. I think if [they] rush three or four or five, there’s going to be opportunities, really in any case. It’s just what you do with those opportunities,” said Brady during his press conference last week.

Part of the Patriots blitz issues will come down to running backs such as James White, Sony Michel and fullback James Develin picking up the blitz our of the backfield and making the block.

“There's nothing that we cannot handle. It's everybody just giving Tom more time and knowing who to block and blocking those guys for giving Tom enough time to find the open receiver, read the zone out. We can just do a lot better job of that,” said White.

The Jets come into the game as the best third-down defense in the NFL and one of the top red-zone defenses in the league as well.

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Sony Michel

To take pressure off of Tom Brady, expect the Patriots to give the ball to Sony Michel early and often in this game. 

Michel is in his second game back from injury after struggling in his first game back against the Titans prior to the bye week. 

In the game, Michel rushed 11 times for 31 yards. 

However, on the season, Michel has rushed for four touchdowns and 4.3 yards per attempt. 

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Road Struggles

The Patriots enter Sunday’s game with a record of 2-3 on the road and for the most part, have looked like a much different team on the road, even in the wins.

"We haven’t been a good team on the road this year. We haven’t brought enough energy. We haven’t started fast enough. We haven’t played consistently enough to be a good road team and that’s going to have to change. So, this is a huge game," said Patriots captain Matthew Slater during his press conference on Monday. 

In New England’s three road losses, they have scored a total of 40 points. In the two road wins, they have scored 38 and 25 respectively.

“I think just not executing for four quarters. Some games we start fast and then we kind of lull off in the middle of a game. Some games we don't start fast and never really can hit our stride. I think it's just going out there, playing hard from the first snap, from kickoff to the final snap. I think that's what it's going to take,” said Patriots running back James White during his press conference on Tuesday.

For example, New England has given up 10 of their 16 sacks on the road and New England’s offense averages just 233 passing yards per game compared to 304 passing yards per game at home.

Tom Brady's quarterback rating in road games is just 88, while his passer rating at home is 102. 

The running game has struggled away from Gillette Stadium as well. The Patriots average just 79 yards per game on the road compared to 138 yards per game at Gillette.

 
 

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