Tale of the tape: New England Patriots at N.Y. Jets
An old fashioned AFC East grudge match headlines Thanksgiving as the New England Patriots travel to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets. Find out which team has the edge with our tale of the tape.
The Patriots are absolutely rolling right now, having scored a whopping 141 points over their last three games. Of course, that's nothing new, as they've put up at least 30 points in seven of 10 games to date this season. New England did take a hit with TE Rob Gronkowski suffering a broken forearm in last week's game, but it looks like Aaron Hernandez will be good to go this week, and should pick up the slack in Gronk's absence. Also of concern are injuries to offensive line stalwarts Dan Connolly and Logan Mankins. Both are questionable to play Thursday.
New York finally showed some signs of life offensively in St. Louis, scoring 27 points in a blowout win over the Rams last Sunday. Keep in mind, the Jets still compiled only 289 total yards of offense and got a surprise effort from RB Bilal Powell, who ran for two scores. They can't count on Mark Sanchez to complete 75 percent of his passes again this week, so they'll likely need another big-time performance from their ground game in order to consistently move the chains. They've scored 17 points or less in five of their 10 games this season.
Edge: New England
New England's porous defense has been somewhat masked by its explosive offense. The Pats have given up 55 points in their last two games and come in allowing 6.4 yards per play over their last three contests, and 6.6 ypp on the road this season. The good news is their run defense has been solid away from home, limiting the opposition to only 3.4 yards per rush. Corner Aqib Talib returned an interception for a touchdown in his Pats debut last week, one of three picks by the New England defense on the day.
Strong defense has been the Jets calling card under Rex Ryan - at least that's what he's led us to believe. The numbers haven't always held up that claim, although the Jets have held their own this season, giving up just over 340 total yards per game on 5.3 yards per play. Even without Darelle Revis, New York's pass defense has performed admirably, holding opposing quarterbacks to just 6.2 yards per pass play. Needless to say, they'll need a world-class effort to slow down Tom Brady and the Pats offense Thursday.
Edge: New York
Julian Edelman showed just how dangerous he can be in the return game, running a punt back for a touchdown against the Colts last week. New England received a boost from Devin McCourty in the form of a 104-yard kickoff return touchdown in its previous meeting with the Jets this season. All told, the Pats' return game has been terrific, averaging 15 yards per punt return and north of 23 yards on kickoffs. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been reliable as usual, making good on 21 of 25 field-goal attempts.
The Jets hover right around the league average in terms of both kickoff and punt return yardage. Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley have split return duties. With McKnight in and out of the lineup due to injury, Antonio Cromartie has been given some opportunities as well. Veteran kicker Nick Folk hasn't been called upon all that often thanks to a sputtering offense, but has been solid, converting 14 of 17 field-goal attempts.
Edge: New England
Word on the street
“We don’t pay attention to too many stats. We just focus in on playing good, hard-nosed football and winning football games. At the end of the day, when that clock strikes zero, if we’re on the winning edge, we’re happy.” -- Patriots safety Steve Gregory on the 329 passing yards his team allowed against the Colts last Sunday.
"If you really take the positives from this game, build on those, continue to get better and improve, we can become a team that just doesn't turn the ball over. That could be our identity, if you want it to be and if you work at it." -- Jets QB Mark Sanchez referring to last week's 27-13 victory over the Rams.