About the Author
Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain
Here is a key matchup to watch in the Week 10 game between the Patriots and Jets:
Patriots special-teams coach Scott O'Brien vs. Jets special-teams coach Mike Westhoff
In a battle for the top of the AFC East, the Patriots and Jets each boast some of the league's best special-teams units and coaches, but it's the Jets' special teams that has outplayed the Patriots' unit this season.
In a rivalry game that should be close, a big special-teams play, or gaffe, could turn the tables.
In last season's playoff game, a botched fake punt by Patriots SS Patrick Chung was a big momentum swinger. In Sunday's matchup, kickoff returns will be key.
Jets KR Joe McKnight leads the league with a 40.2-yard average on kickoff returns. He had an 88-yard return in Week Five against New England. The Patriots, on the other hand, are 30th in the league in kickoff return average and haven't found a steady answer since parting ways with Brandon Tate.
In the kicking game, Jets PK Nick Folk has generally been automatic, converting 12-of-13 field goal attempts. Patriots PK Stephen Gostkowski missed a chippy in Sunday's loss to the Giants and has missed three total field goals on the season.
Former Jets P Steve Weatherford, now punting for the Giants, was able to pin the Patriots back successfully in Sunday's game. Julian Edelman didn't make a dent in the return game, and look for the Jets to try to make Tom Brady work with a long field.
Patriots P Zoltan Mesko has punted the ball well this season and the Patriots coverage on punts has been solid. They may want to try and strip Jets PR Jeremy Kerley, who has two fumbles this season.
One big special-teams play may be the difference in what should be a close game. We will see which special-teams coach puts together the right plan to make that happen.