These Patriots are not an easy bunch to figure out. One week they’ll try to ram the ball down an opponent’s throat with the run, the next they’ll spread it out and attack through the air, and they’ll follow that with an ultra hurry-up approach to rattle a defense and open up holes. What’ll it be this Sunday against the Jets? Our three Patriots reporters try to get into the mind of Bill Belichick and guess the game plan for Sunday.
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Mike Reiss: Balance will return to offense, along with 2-TE attack
After a week in which the Patriots had 59 dropbacks and 26 rushes against the Seahawks, balance has to return to the attack this week. The Patriots should be able to run and pass against a Jets defense that ranks 30th in the NFL on third down.
Unlike last week, when the Patriots ran a majority of their snaps with three receivers, more conventional multiple tight end packages seem like the way to go against the Jets. That will also contribute to achieving better balance. The question then would become how the Jets match that -- is it base or nickel? -- and then adjusting accordingly.
On defense, the plan is straightforward: Take away the slants and in-cuts that Mark Sanchez likes to throw and make him hold the ball longer than he wants. The thinking is that when Sanchez (49 percent passer this season) has to go through his progressions, he’s more prone to mistakes. And it goes without saying that limiting the ground-and-pound approach, and any Tim Tebow-specific run-based package, is another top priority. Similar to Sunday in Seattle, the Patriots figure to be in their bigger base defense more often than sub in this game.
Mike Rodak: Formula for a big offensive day for Patriots
When it comes to the Jets' defense this season, it has been a lot of bark, and not a whole lot of bite. The Patriots have talked them up this week as a unit that can go from one extreme to the other. They can send an overload blitz on one play and drop everyone back the next play.
That's all true, and there is always an element of unpredictability to the Jets defense. But the Patriots have, on a whole, handled it well over the last few seasons. They've scored 37 points, 30 points, and 45 points in three of their last four meetings.
And that was against a typically stout Jets defense. The 2012 version is porous, especially against the run. They rank 28th, allowing 150 rushing yards a game. On first-and-10 plays this season, only three teams have run more against the Jets, who have allowed 5.27 yards per first-and-10 run. Only four teams have fared worse in that category.
So what should the Patriots do? Run it, run it, and run it some more. Why not? Of course, with Aaron Hernandez making his way back to full strength from an ankle injury, the Patriots will have more weapons to use in the passing game. The combination of a potential strong performance from Stevan Ridley, as well as the Jets missing cornerback Darrelle Revis, could mean the Patriots will have a big offensive day no matter how they try to move the ball.
Field Yates: Commitment to run and steady dose of Welker
It’s never easy against the Jets, but even with Darrelle Revis down, the Patriots will look to attack them on the ground rather than through the air on Sunday. That starts with a strong day of overpowering offensive line play, taking advantage of a Jets defensive line that has played a part in allowing nearly five yards per carry to opposing backs this season (they’re ranked 28th against the run).
After straying from the run against Seattle in Week 6, the Patriots will re-assess the opponent this week and realize that running the football is a favorable matchup to open up the passing game. The Jets have played the Patriots physically in seasons past, but losing Revis would figure to limit the amount that the team can accomplish on defense.
When the Patriots do turn to the pass, look for another steady dose of Wes Welker this week, who is quickly ascending the league-wide leaderboard among receivers in both catches and yards (he’s currently second in both). His ability to control the underneath part of the field should set the Patriots’ tight ends up with the Jets’ secondary duo of Yeremiah Bell and Laron Landry in some man-to-man coverage situations.
Though those players were acquired with the intent of deterring Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the advantage still resides with the Patriots’ talented pair of tight ends