There is no love lost between the Jets and the Patriots. Respect can be found, but this is one of the NFL's top rivalries. Even though the Green & White have dropped the past three regular-season meetings in the series, they are 3-4 against the Men of Belichick since Rex Ryan took over.
The Jets most impressive win under Ryan was their 28-21 divisional playoff triumph over the Pats in Foxboro, MA on Jan. 16, 2011. If they find a way to get the job done at Gillette Stadium again on Sunday, the victory would be perhaps their most notable regular-season win under Ryan.
(If you want to send me a quick key to Sunday's game, I will publish a few comments in this space over the weekend).
Brian Great Neck, NY
Q: Darrelle Revis is one the best tackling corners in the league — if not the best. The remaining corners on this team need to not only cover better, but tackle as well to help out with the run D. Who in the secondary do you think can help fill this void?
EA: The Green & White must find a way to contain the Patriots rush attack when they load the field with DBs. You don't replace a Darrelle Revis and you are so right — No. 24 is a dynamite tackler. All the defensive backs have to help in the tackling department and they're all more than capable of pitching in. Both of the Jets starting safeties — LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell — are excellent tacklers and rookie S Antonio Allen will throw his body around. Everyone knows Antonio Cromartie has excelled in coverage and he is playing a feisty brand of football. Kyle Wilson has been solid in the physicality department, Ellis Lankster plays big and Isaiah Trufant will throw his body around. (Tru has some terrific coverage skills as well).
Dennis Thurman's crew has an enormous challenge ahead this week against the Pats No. 1 offense. We know how deadly Tom Brady can be through the air, but the Pats are No. 4 in rush offense (152.3 yards per game) and they can kill you on the ground in nickel and dime situations.
The D needs sound tackling across the board and that includes the linebackers, a unit that will be counted on in coverage as well. Rookie Demario Davis got 30 snaps last week against the pass-happy Colts and WLB Bart Scott is playing courageously with a bad foot. David Harris has to have a huge game — he logs more play time than any other 'backer. The biggest change in the Patriots offense is they are running the ball more and they're more committed to the ground.
Tyler F.Eastchester, NY
Q: Do you think the Jets will focus more on 4-man fronts this weekend with the Patriots O-Line being the worst it has been in a decade? It could be an interesting way to try to: 1.) Pressure Brady and get him on the ground without blitzing, 2.) Take Gronk out of the equation by forcing him to stay in to help block, 3.) Limit running lanes for that three-headed rushing attack with Ridley, Bolden, and Woodhead.
EA: You all are ready for this game. Impressive. The Jets are going to change their fronts and personnel packages. Disguising is important against Tom Brady because he'll carve you up like a pumpkin if he knows what you are doing. The Pats are going to push tempo and they want to exhaust the opponent and catch them in personnel gaffes.
You have a sound plan, Tyler, but I think the Jets have to continue to mix it up. There are different ways to attack the quarterback and simulated pressure is critical. The Jets would love to prevent free releases from everyone and it's a bonus to see Gronkowski in the backfield, but the coaching staff has confidence in Landry and Bell in coverage.
Akil C.Laurens, NY
Q: I hear all this talk about the Jets not using Tebow in the right way. Do they have a plan or they just got him for show?
EA: The plan changes each week. This talk about not using Tebow the right way comes from the outside. Mark Sanchez is the starting QB and Tim Tebow is a backup QB/offensive package player/special teams performer. The Jets have played six games and the former Heisman Trophy Winner has played 50 offensive snaps. He has rushed 18 times for 64 yards and completed two of three passes for 32 yards. Like a few other areas, the Green & White wished they experienced some more success with the Wildcat. But Tebow has been a weapon on special teams, converting 4th-and-shorts against both the Dolphins in Week 3 and the Texans in Week 5. Then in Week 6, Tebow converted with a nice jump pass to Nick Bellore on a 4th-and-12 play that picked up 23 yards.
Michael P. Port Jervis, NY
Q: This is a big week for the Jets and I'm psyched for this game. Do you think that McKnight should stay at the RB and KR position or should he presume his previous role solely as a Kick returner?
EA: I like McKnight in both roles. He averages 29.7 yards a return, ranking fifth in football. Also remember he had an 88-yard KR up at Gillette last October. He also rushes the punter a bit, but he adds another dimension to the offense.
Last week, McKnight had a career-long 61-yard run against the Colts. The guy has really good hands and he can do some damage in receiving situations. The big issue this week is we don't know if McKnight will play against the Pats due to an ankle injury.
Q: With the trade deadline fast approaching, why not work out a trade for someone like Steven Jackson, who is clearly not wanted anymore. Or a WR? Either would help dramatically?
EA: Who says Jackson is even on the trade market? Like Shonn Greene, he is in the final year of his contract. Greene is the No. 1 back here and that won't change in 2012. We should note that SG23 is coming off a career-game against the Colts. He is averaging 3.5 yards per carry and has 4 rush TDs while Jackson is averaging 3.6 ypc and has no rush TDs. The Jets will see Jackson in a few weeks, but they'll try to make sure they contain him when they visit St. Louis on Nov. 18. Jackson has said in the past that he wants to retire in St. Louis.