Zip's Inaugeral Game Preview - Pats vs. Jets
- After a few years tending other details I hope to have a full comeback this year at my Pats site:I've trimmed it to the Preview, Doghouse, Awards and Review each week and simplified things to handle the site. The details will post there and as long as there's no requests to stop I'll cross post them on these lists the following day if not sooner.I had far too little to review with it being the first game and I certainly didn't get into the details I hope to dig out now that I'm getting the page work sorted but there's some fun and if nothing else these lists will generally give lots of worthy criticism or side points.Go Pats!ZipGame Notes:The New England Patriots have been much in the news this off-season with many moves, much promise and some recent poignant concerns. Football is a sport which very much depends on how the team comes together and thus all the real news will begin this Sunday when the Patriots take the field against the New York Jets. These teams are fantastically familiar with each other and have some rather significant grudges to settle. Last year the Jets split the regular season series with the visitor winning each game. The Pats put it to them in the playoffs with Brady not falling for the pressure burst and using precision to pick them apart.The first game of the year is the hardest to predict where teams have developed from one season to the next and this will be no exception but the rivalry has more than enough firepower even before the inaugeral match of the season begins. The head coach pits master and pupil against each other and much as Belichick raided the Jets in his early career, Mangini is doing the same and loading his roster with former Pats players. All of this will have some relevance but the bulk of the story will be told on the field, a Jets home field. Pats hold the off season fanfare but now it's time for the season fanfare: Start Spreading the News if you Want to be a Part of It - New York - New York!Opponent Review:The Jets have added a very much missed running game to their team by signing Bears running back Thomas Jones. After spending much of the pre-season with a calf injury he's ready to crack New Englands defense and give Pennington the breaks he badly needed last year. His ability to power and speed rush enables the Jets very accurate short range passer to play action with enough space for his receivers but make no mistake this team wants to be a ground assault group. Ferguson has another year and will be eagerly looking across the line to move bodies and creat lanes while the new Captain Laveranues Coles joins Jerricho Cotchery as the Wide Receiver tandem that tore up New Englands defense for many yards after catch in the regular season matchups versus New England. Both have speed and moves but their deep threat is somewhat limitted by a tendency for Pennington to have too weak an arm to hit them accurately on the deep ball.Defensively Vilma is the center of a linebacker crew that loaded up a front seven force to harass Tom Brady and limit the ground game. Mangini brought in the 3-4 scheme very successful for the Patriots and thus capable of blitzing from all over the front and confusing an ill prepared Quarterback. Their secondary may be sorely tested as they've made some adjustments from last year including their first round pick Darrelle Revis. This isn't enough if the pass rush of Shawn Ellis doesn't improve but the Jets will risk the blitz to save their weaker secondary and offset the frequency in which they load eight into the box and attempt to play short zones.
Match-Up Strength:Tom Brady was too much for the Jets in the playoffs with a much weaker line-up and now he's loaded with weapons. His top receiver of last year is now a cast-off picked up by the Jets (Caldwell) and Randy Moss, Dante Stalworth and Wes Welker premier as the top three receivers. This group can get legitimately deep and the Jets will have to pay much more attention to how they approach this group or give up many big play passes. While the entire offense ahs an edge on the Jets Defense, this is particularly true when Brady opts to pass against the Jets. The plan is always to throw the ball to the open receiver and with Moss and Stalworth excellent deep threats, Welker with his shifty quick cuts may benefit over the middle while softening up the linebackers for the Pats ground assault behind speedy and healthy Maroney. Add to this the early season match and resulting lack of game film and the offense will have an edge on the defense whidch will make it a difficult day for Jets defenders.Defensively the Patriots are likely to be aware that Chad Pennington doesn't get the ball deep very well and thus play shorter zones from which their potent front seven can attempt to wreak havoc by punishing runners and the receivers who dare take short routes. Even without hard hitting Harrison to punctuate this crew, there are hitters aplenty and New England always prefers to scheme against a weakness and Pennington's arm is just such a weakness.
Match-Up Weakness:Defensively Samuels hasn't been around for the pre-season and thus hasn't had time to build chemistry with the secondary. This is particularly pivotal in a secondary which will lack the leadership of Rodney Harrison. A few mistakes in passing off receivers could leave a receiver open that even Pennington can hit deep or it could allow for the missed tackles and long Yards After Catch which heralded both of the regular season matches.Another absence, Richard Seymour, will inspire the Jets to test his replacement against behomoth Ferguson and Thomas Jones as the Jets attempt to control the ball on the ground. While Jarvis Green is no slouch, the line depth is particularly weak and fatigue is always a challenge early in a season, especially when you can be the target of a punishing ground attack directed at you as will no doubt be an option for the Jets.Strategy:New England's offense will react to the Jets approach as game time adjustments are a strength of the Patriots. They'll have an initial desire to let Maroney test the running lanes but if the Jets want to stack up too much then it will quickly be time to let Tom Terrific test the new tools in his arsenal via Moss and Stalworth deep. As soon as the Jets back off the safeties the Patriots will employ the short game with Welker and Maroney. Should the blitzes mount up then the Pats will show why they practiced so many screens in the preseason and New York will quickly have to back off and try and endure on the strength of Vilma's speed and tackling.Defensively the Pats will play a short zone trusting their linebackers to make the reed and stuff the run which will be forced out by the play of Vince Wilfork as the stalwart core of a great defensive line only partially impeded by the loss of Seymour. They'll work more out of the base 3-4 with their personell shortage but Vrabel, Colvin and Thomas give them linebackers who can play like a lineman when any play calls for it. Until and unless Pennington shows his ability to work the ball deep the Patriots will play the punishment game over the middle and work on sure tackling and smooth zone transitions. This won't be without some challenge but will play to the athletic strength of their secondary and the experience strength of their linebackers.The Jets are going to try a power game running Jones early and often with youngster Leon Washington giving an off speed burst to surprise the Pats should they show signs of fatigue. Pennington will combine that with his accuracy to hit the receivers if the Defensive backs give too much cushion as is often the case in New England's zone schemes. Also watch for the tight end to challenge safeties Sanders and/or Merriweather early.Defensively the Jets know Tom is dangerous and will mix in their blitzes with zone drops and hope he makes a rare mistake against them when under fire. This strategy worked well on a wet field when cuts weren't possible for the receivers and when Tom's pocket presence had no grip to give him that slide and fire which makes him so dangerous. If the weather is good this may become more zone drops than blitzes and a hope that Maroney isn't healthy enough to punish them nearly as much as Tom andhis deadly trio of receivers.
Prediction:The Patriots are the better team and the Jets didn't close that gap but saw it grow. Certainly there are aspects to exploit on both sides but ultimately there is a good reason Tom is 6-0 at the Jets and there is little reason to expect lucky number 87 isn't far behind. Points will come early and often before Maroney settles the Pats into a more ground control game and lets the defense play with a lead. This enables the Jets to move up and down the field a bit more than many in New England would like but it will come with a price and few points. Thomas may break one late against a tired team but the game won't be as close as New York and Mangini wish if they want the division to be a race.New England 34 - New York Jets 16