What a turnaround its been for the New York Jets this season. After winning just four games all of last season, New York has raced out to a 4-1 start, showcasing a terrifying defense and an offense that is making plays at every corner. While several of the teams in the AFC East made big changes over the offseason, the moves that the Jets made are the only ones that are actually paying off. New head coach Todd Bowles has to be a strong candidate for coach of the year, regaining Darrelle Revis has paid huge dividends for that defense, and offensive acquisitions in Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick (yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick) have really made the difference on that side of the ball. Things are so good that the playoffs are feeling like a thing that should happen for the Jets this season, not something that fans are only wishing for.
While things have been going so well for New York so far in 2015, Week 7 will serve up the team’s most difficult challenge of the year by far in the rival New England Patriots. With all that went on in the offseason, Tom Brady and the Patriots have been on fire to begin the season, holding an unblemished record through their first five games. If facing one of the best teams in the NFL wasn’t a big enough challenge, the Jets will get the Patriots in Foxborough to make things even more difficult on them this weekend.
In a heated rivalry, both sides always seem to have a realistic shot at beating one another. For the Jets, though, how good of a chance do they have to hand New England their first loss of the year? Let’s break down New York’s roster to analyze that chance.
Starting with that powerful defense, this Jets’ unit is truly top notch. They rank first in the NFL in yards allowed, first in points allowed, and third in takeaways. Aside from the team stats, this group holds a number of dynamic playmakers that can change a game in an instant.
We already mentioned Revis, who is among the best cornerbacks in the league. Look at that defensive line though. Rookie Leonard Williams is very promising opposite the great Muhammad Wilkerson, who already owns four sacks on the year. Moving to the linebacking corp, David Harris is one of the best interior backers in the league and leads a very active group. In the secondary, opposite Revis you have the at-times dynamic Antonio Cromartie, giving the Jets a great duo back there. They stop the run, they pressure the quarterback, and they cover receivers. This group is a nightmare for any one who steps on the same field as them.
Against the Patriots, this Jets defense must do two things above all else: pressure Brady and cover the monster tight end that is Rob Gronkowski. If they get in Brady’s head, he might make some mistakes and give the Jets great chances to accumulate points. Covering Gronkowski is a task few are up to, but New York must slow him down if they want a chance to win. The Jets have the talent to do these things, but New England also has the talent to beat their defense. These will be key battles that will ultimately decide the game.
While the defense for the Jets has been the main reason for the team’s hot start this season, you also have to give some love to their underrated offense. Their yardage totals aren’t impressive, but when you look at the fact that they rank 7th in the league in points per game, who cares about how many yards they are picking up? With those numbers, a few guys have really stood out as being big contributors to New York’s offensive success.
Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t even slated to start at QB over the incumbent starter Geno Smith after being acquired in the offseason. After a freak injury to Smith though, Fitzpatrick has taken the reigns of the offense and run with it. Initially, Fitzpatrick’s numbers aren’t all that impressive on the surface, with just 9 touchdowns versus 7 picks. What’s been great about him though is his efficiency in the red zone, which has been key in every win for the Jets so far. Other standouts start with running back Chris Ivory, who currently is third in the league in rushing yards. You also have to be impressed with the way Brandon Marshall has played, snagging four touchdowns already this season. The Jets have the perfect amount of offense to compliment their terrific defense, which truly makes them a threat to make serious noise throughout the rest of the campaign.
The Patriots have a better defense than you may realize, ranking 9th in total yards and 10th in scoring. Still, New York should have the ability to make plays and potentially keep up with the Patriots. They will need their defense to slow New England down a bit, but don’t discount the Jets even if it does become a shootout of sorts.
So yes, the New York Jets are most certainly capable of giving the New England Patriots a major challenge this coming Sunday. They deserve to be the underdog, but that surely doesn’t bother this team in the slightest. In a divisional rivalry that is as fierce as they come, you can expect one of the best games of the weekend in Foxborough. Will the Jets get it done though and end the Patriots early perfect season?
In a battle like this, it could come down to the final few possessions and in comparing the quarterbacks in this contest, you can’t go against Tom Brady (even if you can’t stand him). With the home field advantage in the first meeting between the two, the Patriots should come out on top. That second meeting later in the season could be a different story at the Meadowlands, however.