Men in the Middle
Since Demario Davis took over at Mike linebacker for Jets in place of David Harris, who was released in June, he's excelled. Davis vowed that he had returned to Florham Park a different player and he's put his money where his mouth is. The 6'2", 248-pounder leads the team with 154 tackles and 5.0 sacks and has become the leader of the defense. In Foxboro, Harris has received limited playing time with the Patriots and has tallied 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks in six starts. While the stats aren't on par with his past, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Harris has been great for New England. The 11th-year vet will return to the postseason for the first time since 2010.
"He gives us a lot of leadership, he's very professional," Belichick told the New York media on a conference call. "Always ready to go, has a lot of experience and sees things well. He's been a great teammate and has helped us on and off the field all year long. He's really a very, very professional guy, as you guys know. He's a little bit on the quiet side, but not too much, but very professional and team-oriented. He's helped us in a lot of ways."**
**After signing with the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2016, wide receiver Robby Anderson is 61 yards shy of eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark. The 6'3", 190-pound Anderson has blossomed in his second year with the team as he leads the Jets with 62 receptions, 939 yards and seven touchdowns.
"Robby Anderson has proven to be their No. 1 receiver," Jets play-by-play man Bob Wischusen said on The Official Jets Podcast Game Preview. "He's been a productive player literally from Week 1 all the way to this point and is now a legitimate complete route runner. I think that's the thing most impressive for me. He was obviously a guy whose role, when this team had Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa, was the every-now-and-then-on-the-field guy who would run a long way in a straight line. They would throw the ball deep once in a while and you wondered if he could become anything more than that. Well, he has clearly become a lot more than that."
Bring the Speed
Throughout the season, Kacy Rodgers' unit has sporadically implemented a four-safety look, which is part of their "Speed" package. The sub package contains seven defensive backs, two linemen and two linebackers, highlighting their secondary depth and speed.
"It confuses quarterbacks because he sees so many DBs," cornerback Buster Skrine said on Inside the Jets. "He doesn't know who's dropping back into coverage. We can get there just a little bit quicker than the D-lineman or the linebacker."
Lock Down Third Down
Entering the final three weeks of the regular season, the Jets defense knew it had tough sledding in facing three of the league's premier quarterbacks in consecutive weeks. The unit has responded well in the first two-thirds of the slate, especially on third down. Against Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, the Green & White held the league's No. 1 and No. 7 offenses (at the time) to a combined 32% on third down.
"On the outside, our coaches have been telling us to make sure we challenge the receivers on third down. Don't give them anything easy," Skrine said. "As a whole, we've been wanting to execute. When it comes down to third down, we have to execute. If you get off on third down, it gives you a chance on offense."
Jets quarterback Bryce Petty will close out this season where his 2016 ended — Gillette Stadium. Petty hurt his shoulder in Week 16 against the Patriots last year and it eventually required surgery. In his first two starts for the Green & White this season, the 6'3", 230-pounder has shown some good things but has struggled with his accuracy as he's completing 51% of his passes in two starts. The third-year signal caller has thrown for 290 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in two games. While Petty will start against the Patriots, head coach Todd Bowles is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding second-year signal caller Christian Hackenberg for the Sunday's contest.
"We're going to go in there and we're going to fight," Petty said. "I'm going to give these guys all I have, which has been my mantra since Day 1. It's exciting to know that I'm going to be able to play and it's going to be another opportunity to perform for these guys in here. All else out the window, it's about this locker room, these guys."