Rex Ryan called Tom Brady "a machine," and now the Jets' coach has to figure out a way to make the machine blow a gasket.
Brady is 17-5 against the Jets, but "only" 5-3 against Ryan-coached teams. So, yes, Ryan's defense has experienced some success in this rivalry. Ryan has used different approaches over the years. Early on, he employed pressure schemes against Brady, switching to more coverage-based schemes in recent meetings. In the Week 7 matchup, the Jets sent 5+ rushers on only seven pass attempts -- and Brady burned them for two touchdowns.
So what to do Thursday night at MetLife Stadium?
The loss of TE Rob Gronkowski definitely changes the way the Jets can play the game. They can be more aggressive with their pressure, especially in the red zone. Gronkowski is Brady's go-to guy inside the 20. In fact, Brady has completed 20 of 30 passes to him over the past two seasons, while hitting only 14-for-49 while targeting other players in the red zone, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Without Gronkowski to worry about, the Jets can shade more coverage to WR Wes Welker. One concern is athletic TE Aaron Hernandez -- assuming he plays on his troublesome ankle. S LaRon Landry is best suited to cover Hernandez in man-to-man, but the Jets have used CB Antonio Cromartie on him in the past -- not a lot, but in certain situations.
The Patriots protect Brady exceptionally well, having allowed only 15 sacks -- only one over the past three games. But G Logan Mankins is out with an injury, so look for the Jets to attack his replacement, Donald Thomas, who will see a lot of DE Muhammad Wilkerson.
This is a daunting challenge for the Jets. The Patriots lead the league in points per game (35.8), which would be fifth highest average in NFL history. They also lead in scoring margin (+133) and turnover margin (+20). They're just the third team to have a turnover margin of +20 or better through 10 games in the past 25 years, joining the 2005 Bengals (+20) and 2001 Jets (+22), per ESPN Stats.
And, oh, yeah, they've won 18 straight games in the second half of the season, the longest such streak since the 49ers (1991 to 1993).