Six Points: Patriots vs. Jets

December 24, 2015

The New England Patriots and New York Jets enter Sunday's rematch with very different things on the line. The Patriots are vying for home-field advantage in the AFC while the Jets are fighting for their lives as they're currently on the outside looking in.

It's far from a must-win game for New England, but the Jets will likely need to win out to make the playoffs, and it starts with coming away with a win against the Patriots this week. Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing as well as any quarterback in the league, but the defense will have its hands full with Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense. The Jets came close to topping the Patriots earlier in the year, so they'll attempt to avenge their loss with a win this time around.

Here are three keys to the game for both the Patriots and the Jets.

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1. Play press coverage on Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall

Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall are statistically a top-2 wide receiver duo in the league, having caught 10 and 11 touchdowns, respectively. They're also one of the tallest pairings in the league, which could be an issue for the Patriots' cornerbacks. Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan are both listed at 5-foot-11, which isn't exactly small, but Decker and Marshall have at least four inches on each of them. Butler and Ryan have showed the ability to play press coverage, which they should do against the Jets to knock them off their routes.

2. Ease Steven Jackson into the offense

The Patriots have officially signed Steven Jackson to the active roster, giving them four running backs to use. Given that fact, they can afford to ease him into the offense, seeing as he hasn't played a down this season. He'll be more valuable in the postseason, so overusing him as the lead back right now wouldn't be wise. They can lean on Brandon Bolden, Joey Iosefa and James White for the time being until Jackson gets up to speed.

3. Utilize running backs as blockers to slow pass rush

The Jets' pass rush is relentless, led by Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. Additionally, Todd Bowles likes to blitz fairly often and will undoubtedly attempt to put pressure on Tom Brady and the offensive line. Using Bolden, Iosefa and Jackson as blockers can help give Brady extra time in the pocket and allow downfield routes to develop.

1. Get pressure on Tom Brady with four rushers

The Jets are 12th in the league with 35 sacks, 12 of which have come from Wilkerson alone. They have obviously showed the ability to get to the quarterback fairly often this season, but doing so with just four pass rushers will be key against the Patriots. If the Jets can drop seven into coverage and still get pressure on Brady, they'll have much more success in defending the pass.

2. Continue to use Bilal Powell in passing game

In the past three games, Bilal Powell has caught 20 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. He's emerged as an exceptional pass-catching running back out of the backfield and provides a spark when Chris Ivory needs a rest. His speed and shiftiness could give the Patriots' linebackers trouble in the open field. The Jets would be smart to continue using him in the passing game.

3. Protect against delayed blitzes by linebackers

The Patriots have had a great deal of success using delayed blitzes by their linebackers. They've had Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Jerod Mayo blitz on numerous occasions and it's something the Jets have to watch out for on Sunday. This specifically has to do with running backs in pass blocking as they'll be tasked with protecting Ryan Fitzpatrick from blitzing linebackers.