Florham Park is certainly never boring.
Between the incessant Sanchez/Tebow discussions and Bart Scott’s recent mutiny against the media, the Jets have no shortage of headlines. They are running short on time, though -- the 4-6 Jets are tied with the Bills and Dolphins in the AFC East, two games behind the Steelers and Colts for the two wild-card spots.
Injuries to the likes of Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes have left New York short on impact talent, with Jeremy Kerley the most-targeted Jets receiver this season and the pass defense tied for third worst in the league with a plus-4 TD-Int differential on throws deeper than 20 yards downfield. Still, easy games are never the expectation against the Jets, particularly on the road.
Here are three areas to watch for on Thanksgiving night:
1. Sanchez has bettered Brady. Mark Sanchez has a winning record against the Patriots at home, winning two of his three career starts. Sanchez has averaged 7.6 yards per attempt with five touchdowns and two interceptions in those games. Sanchez actually has outplayed Brady in those three games. He faces a taller task this Thursday than in previous years, given the weapons around him. Though Holmes hasn’t played since Week 4, he still ranks second on the team with 272 receiving yards and 117 yards after catch. This patchwork group of receivers produced in the first meeting between the teams, with Kerley and Dustin Keller posting seven catches each and combining for 213 yards and a touchdown. Chaz Schilens also has been productive, catching Sanchez’s only two passing touchdowns over the last three games. Given that Sanchez threw for more than 300 yards in the last meeting (also without Holmes), moving venues might make them even better.
2. Tackling a problem. If Bart Scott attacked running backs the way he did the media last week, the Jets might not rank last in rush yards allowed after contact. New York has allowed 599 yards after contact this season, a total that would rank 19th among running backs in total rushing yards. That total averages to 1.9 yards after contact per rush, 29th in the league, and is a big reason why the Jets have the seventh-worst rushing defense in the league. From 2008-11, the Jets' run defense had been excellent, ranking fourth in the league with a 3.76-yards-per-rush average from 2009-11 (the start of the Rex Ryan era), and ranking 11th in yards after contact per rush over that span. The Patriots cycled running backs in during the Week 7 meeting between the teams, with Shane Vereen posting career highs with eight rushes for 49 yards and three first downs to go with Stevan Ridley’s 65 yards on 17 carries. The Patriots should exploit the Jets’ vulnerability against the run.
3. Ground to a halt. Ground and pound has been the espoused mantra for Ryan, but the Jets simply been an ineffective unit. New York ranks as the seventh-worst rushing team in the league with a 3.73-yards-per-rush average. Shonn Greene’s production has been inconsistent this season, but the offensive line shares blame. The Jets average 2.13 yards before contact per rush, eighth worst in the league. A Week 6 win against the Colts (252 rushing yards) was the only time this season the Jets have rushed for at least 130 yards, while they have given up at least 130 rushing yards on six occasions.