Patriots’ keys to victory over the Jets
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
TV, radio: CBS, WBZ-FM 98.5.
When the Jets run
Isaiah Crowell is solidly built and rugged, with good instincts and vision. Crowell (5 feet 11 inches, 225 pounds) is a compact runner who attacks the line of scrimmage with excellent burst and powerful lower-body strength. He doesn’t have elite speed but consistently finds cutback lanes and has the ability to change directions quickly. Crowell is a physical player who will run through arm tackles and has the stamina to carry a heavy workload and wear down a defense. Trenton Cannon (5-11, 185) runs as if he’s been shot out of one. The rookie speedster is scrawny and lacks strength. Elijah McGuire (5-9, 212) is a slasher with good burst but he has a below-average feel for the game and will too often get bogged down in traffic. Jonotthan Harrison is a sturdy and savvy center. He has long, powerful arms and can redirect defenders. Harrison lacks athleticism, however, and he empties his tank quickly; there’s not a ton of gas left in the late stages. Right guard Brian Winters is a surly bugger who plays with excellent leverage and balance. Winters will work hard trying to get to the second level but he doesn’t always get there. Left guard James Carpenter has excellent size (6-5, 321) and adequate power. He’ll get caught flat-footed at times and he could stand to turn up his intensity level. New England interior defenders Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton are sturdy run pluggers. Linebackers Elandon Roberts (he’s fast) and Kyle Van Noy (he’s everywhere) will find the ball.
Rushing yards per game
New York offense: 107.3 (20th)
New England defense: 111.1 (16th)
When the Jets pass
Josh McCown is a savvy signal caller with a strong arm and sneaky speed. The 16-year veteran has played for eight teams and has seen just about everything a defense can throw at him. McCown is adept at recognizing formations and mismatches, and audiblizing into better matchups. Containing McCown is tougher than it might seem. He has a good feel for pressure and shows fancy footwork, allowing him to extend plays by stepping up in the pocket or taking off downfield. The Jets’ most consistent pass catcher is Quincy Enunwa, who has a terrific blend of size, strength, and explosiveness after the catch. Enunwa (6 feet 2 inches, 225 pounds) has a tight end’s physique, a receiver’s hands, and a fullback’s mentality. Jermaine Kearse (6-1, 209) has solid size and speed and runs superb and fearless routes. Kearse has a flair for the dramatic but he will drop a bunny here and there. Robby Anderson (6-3, 190) is skinny as a pickle but has excellent speed and athleticism. The man can sky like nobody’s business to come down with a pass. Tight end Chris Herndon is an up-and-comer. The rookie has good size, athleticism, and toughness. He’s a stout in-line blocker but can also disengage quickly and tear into a seam route seamlessly. His hands are a bit inconsistent but he will do some damage after the catch. Isaiah Crowell, Trenton Cannon, and Elijah McGuire all are adequate receivers out of the backfield. New England’s secondary is loaded with experienced playmakers.
Passing yards per game
New York offense: 191.2 (29th)
New England offense: 270.3 (25th)
When the Patriots run
Sony Michel is a powerful, decisive runner who wastes little motion dancing at or behind the line of scrimmage. His vision and ability to follow his blockers and flow toward open lanes have improved significantly. He runs with good pad level and balance and will break tackles and can also string moves together to make defenders miss in the open field. Knee woes have prevented him from flashing his full-speed potential this season but he has the ability to hit home runs. James White has slippery-quick feet and deceptive acceleration. He’s a decisive runner who shows decent burst and good lateral movement to slip tackles. He will rip off some nice gains on inside handoffs from the shotgun. Cordarrelle Patterson is electric with the ball in his hands but is still learning the position. Patterson lacks patience and feel, and will miss some open lanes. He also runs pretty upright and will absorb a ton of big hits. That being said, his acceleration and blazing top-end speed make him a legit threat to score from any spot on the field. New England’s interior three of center David Andrews (he’s smart), right guard Shaq Mason (he’s athletic and aggressive), and left guard Joe Thuney (he’s crafty) work in harmony to push bodies and provide space. Behemoth nose tackle Mike Pennel (6 feet 4 inches, 332 pounds) is the Jets’ first line of defense. He can anchor and redirect. Leonard Williams is a ferocious beast who doesn’t stay blocked for long and can set the edge. Linebackers Darron Lee and Avery Williamson are heat-seekers.
Rushing yards per game
New England offense: 108.5 (19th)
New York defense: 119.5 (21st)
When the Patriots pass
Tom Brady’s 300th career game — a 34-10 loss to the Titans Nov. 11 — was one of his most forgettable. And he’s had two weeks to stew about it. He’ll come out fiery and firing against a team he has beaten 25 times. Brady will be buoyed by having his full complement of weapons and protectors. The return of tight end Rob Gronkowski helps open things up for everyone else, as he often commands the attention of two defenders, leaving someone else with looser coverage. Gronkowski can attack underneath or down the seam. Julian Edelman will get his share of attention from both Brady and the Jet defenders. His superb quickness and ESP connection with Brady make him the most consistent and dangerous receiver in this corps. Josh Gordon provides a ginormous target, with the physicality to challenge for every ball and the speed to stress a defense deep. Gordon is equally adept at running man-beaters across the middle or go routes down the sideline. Chris Hogan is versatile and valuable, and Phillip Dorsett is a secondary speed option. James White gives Brady an invaluable security blanket/weapon. White can line up everywhere, gets open quickly, has reliable hands, and protects the quarterback, and the ball. The Jets have a decent pass rush and will blitz people from every level. Lineman Leonard Williams has awesome strength, linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Avery Williamson will attack from the second level, and safety Jamal Adams can shoot gaps and drop the quarterback.
Passing yards per game
New England offense: 268.7 (11th)
New York defense: 242.1 (16th)
Jets’ key player: LB Avery Williamson
Williamson kind of gets lost in the shuffle with Darron Lee dominating the conversation at the inside linebacker spot, but he rarely gets lost on the field. Williamson will land some bone-rattling hits.
How he beats you: By direct angles to the ball. Williamson is tough, physical, and competitive. He’s a high-motor player who sifts through traffic, avoids blocks, and initiates collisions.
How to shut him down: By wearing him down and matching his intensity. Williamson goes full-bore on every play, and that will catch up to him in the second half. Take it to him or he’ll take it to you.
Jets’ keys to victory
1. Air pocket: Quarterback Josh McCown has to be given the time to find some receivers. If he can’t avoid turbulence — namely Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy — this will be a long flight.
2. Ground speed: Isaiah Crowell has been New York’s most consistent offensive threat. Punch his ticket plenty to move the chains and keep that clock ticking.
3. Belt loader: Woolly mammoth Leonard Williams has to wreak havoc in the front seven. He must cause enough pressure to delay the departure of Tom Brady’s connections with his receivers.
Patriots’ keys to victory
1. On-time takeoff: New England’s struggles on the road this season have one common theme: slow starts. Get out of the gates early to ensure a smooth and successful business trip.
2. Baggage claim: Let Sony Michel handle some of the heavy work. The rookie running back is just about a month removed from his injury scare and appears poised to get back on track.
3. Operational upgrade: The coverage units have struggled this season. It’s time to button up those units and prevent electric return man Andre Roberts from flipping the field.
PREDICTION: Patriots 31, Jets 14