After the Patriots beat the Jets 30-21 in Week Five, the Jets, at 2-3, looked like they wouldn't make the playoffs. The Patriots, at 4-1, looked like they wouldn't be stopped.
Fast forward to this Sunday. The Jets have won three in a row, including a convincing win in Buffalo on Sunday. The Patriots have lost back-to-back games and now their high-powered offense seems out of sorts.
As good as the Bills have looked, the Patriots and Jets are still the favorites in the division, and Sunday's game in MetLife Stadium is crucial for both squads. For the Patriots, they need to get back to their winning ways and Tom Brady has to return to his early-season form if this team wants to win the division. For the Jets, this is an opportunity to show the rest of the league they are the class of the division and to get revenge for Week Five.
Based on Week Nine, the Jets appear to be the favorite, even having a clear edge in Sunday night's big game.
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In Week Six, we saw a glimpse of how to slow the Patriots down by Rob Ryan's Cowboys defense, but Brady had the last laugh. In Week Eight, the Steelers took a page from the Jets with their aggressive man coverage in the win. In Week Nine, the Giants got pressure up front and used good zone coverages to alter Brady's throws.
As we've seen with Rex Ryan's success against New England, the Jets certainly have the personnel and the options in terms of a game plan to get a win.
Brady and Bill Belichick will need to be one step ahead. They face a very confident Jets team that held the Chargers to 117 second-half yards in Week Seven and the Bills to 11 points in Week Nine.
Credit the Jets' safeties, Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard, who have been sure tacklers and playmakers the last two games. CB Darrelle Revis has been as lockdown as ever and ILB David Harris and NT Sione Pouha are shutting down runs up the middle.
What gives the Jets the edge in this game, though, is the way they have put together offensive game plans the past two games. They have finally returned to running the football and setting up play-action passes for Mark Sanchez. Plaxico Burress had his best game as a Jet, and he wasn't 100 percent either, in the win over the Bills. Shonn Greene was effective running between the tackles and LaDainian Tomlinson had some nice plays as a receiver.
The Jets' confidence is at its peak right now, while the Patriots are in a rut. New England's run defense takes a hit, as LB Brandon Spikes will be out, and there are still plenty of question marks in the secondary. The Jets should get DE Mike DeVito back, which will be a key, as the Patriots manhandled the Jets in the trenches and ran the football well in Week Five.
Mark Sanchez could be the X-factor. If he was more careful with the football in the first half of last Sunday's game against the Bills, the Jets could have won by more than three touchdowns. The Patriots will be trying to dupe him into turning the ball over, which they did so effectively in last year's 45-3 rout. Sanchez needs to trust his receivers and TE Dustin Keller, and more importantly, he cannot try to win the game on his own. Brian Schottenheimer needs to stick to the Jets' game plan that they used vs. the Bills, as points can be had against the Patriots' 32nd-ranked defense.
We will know a lot more about each team after Sunday night. Is it time to panic in Foxborough, or will Brady put this team back on his shoulders? Are the Jets suddenly a team on a mission to finally get to the Super Bowl, or will the offense hold them back?
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