Here's a key matchup to watch in the Patriots-Jets divisional-round game:
Jets RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene vs. Patriots' run defense
The Jets gain a couple of advantages if they can establish a run game on Sunday. For one thing, it will take the pressure off the young and sometimes erratic QB Mark Sanchez. Running the ball successfully will eat up clock and keep Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense off the field. It can open up the passing game against a weak New England secondary and, most importantly, help the Jets put up points.
As many yards as the Patriots have given up this season, their run defense has been stout, ranked 11th in the league. In Week Two, the Jets ran for 136 yards (4.3 average), attacking the Patriots' sub defense. ILB Jerod Mayo, the league leader in tackles, referenced that on Tuesday.
"What they were trying to do was get us in those sub packages and things like that and run the football. Now, we show different looks and move the defensive line around a little bit and try to stop the run that way," he said.
In the second meeting, the Jets ran the ball for 152 yards (4.9 average), but most of that came with the Jets trailing.
The Patriots placed two defensive linemen on injured reserve last week, Ron Brace and Mike Wright. Another D-lineman, Myron Pryor, missed most of the second half of the season with a back injury. OLB Jermaine Cunningham is battling a calf injury.
The front seven for New England is banged up, but it will get ILB Brandon Spikes, its key run stopper up the gut, back after a suspension ended his regular season. Expect to see NT Vince Wilfork move around the line and play as many snaps as possible. Mayo and Spikes will need to avoid overpursuing while Cunningham and OLB Rob Ninkovich need to do a good job of setting the edge. Look for the Jets to run away from Wilfork and attack rookie D-linemen Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick.