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Written by Kurt T. Poway on 11/13/2011
A month ago, one would have thought this Sunday night’s game between the Jets and Patriots would have been a final-nail ceremony for the Jets season. They had lost three games in a row and the juggernaut Patriots were rolling.
But a reenergized Jets team, fueled by big wins over the Chargers and the Bills, come into Sunday’s game with a 5-3 record, same as the Pats. On the line? First place in the AFC East and some serious moment and a psychological edge to start the second half of the NFL season.
The Patriots are headed the opposite direction. They know little about three-game losing streaks but face one of their own, having lost two in a row. It would be the first such streak for the team in 9 years, back when Tom Brady had short hair and dated actresses instead of supermodels.
The Jets rebound has been led by a defense that looked horrible early in the season, with a bunch of aging players not living up to their marquee names. During their current three-game winning streak, the Jets have allowed fewer than 13 points a game and have forced eight turnovers. That defense will be put to the test against Brady and co., who have amassed 437 yards per game this year.
But yards have not equated to points for the normally flawless Brady, who seems to be showing that he is actually human. The Pats have not broken the 20-point mark in their last three games and turned the ball over four times to the Giants last week, the third time they’ve done that this season. In half a season, Brady already has twice as many interceptions as he did all of last season. His decision making has been far from the excellence he is used to.
Brady also lacks weapons at receiver outside of the always-reliable Wes Welker and lead-footed tight end Rob Gronkowski. Chad Ochocinco was brought on to provide size and speed, but has thus far been almost as big a disappointment as Albert Haynesworth on the defensive side of the ball. In the lost last week, Ochocinco caught zero passes for zero yards. With the Patriots offense limited at receiver, expect Darrelle Revis to lock Welker down on Revis Island, further hurrying Brady into bad decisions.
The Patriots may be putting up over 400 yards on offense, but they are also giving up more than 400 yards on defense. They are the only team in the league that gives up more than 300 yards passing every week on average.
Despite Mark Sanchez’s great success against the Patriots, the Jets would be wise to avoid the temptation to throw on the Pats all day and stick to what they do best, which is opening holes for Shonn Greene, who has almost doubled in his run production from the early part of the season, averaging 131 yards per game during the Jets win streak. With the Jets line finally reaching full health, the team seems to be firing on all cylinders and you know Rex Ryan would like northing more than to take the lead in the division by beating their nemesis, the Patriots.