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The Patriots will face the Jets on Sunday for the third time this year. Here is what the Patriots will need to do to earn the W and move on to the AFC Championship Game:
1) Stop the run
If the Jets beat the Patriots, it certainly won’t be because they got shredded by Mark Sanchez. In New England’s Week 2 loss to the Jets, Tomlinson and Greene combined for 128 yards on the ground and averaged nearly five yards per carry. In the 45-3 drubbing the Patriots handed the Jets in Week 13, Tomlinson and Greene were non-factors. The best chance for the Jets to win is playing a simple game of playground keep-away from Brady and the offense, so they will need their running backs to move the chains and keep the clock moving. If the Patriots can keep New York’s running game in check, they win this game.
2) Get off the field on third down
New England had the league’s worst third down defense during the 2010 regular season, and it wasn’t close. They allowed their opponents to convert more than 47 percent of the time on third down; the next closest team was Tampa Bay at just over 43 percent. That’s a Vince Wilfork-sized gap. New England dismantled the Jets in Week 13 in large part due to third down defense, allowing just 3 conversions in 12 attempts. If the defense can get the ball back to Brady and the offense, the Pats stand a great chance of feeding Rex Ryan so much crow that his lap band will pop.
3) Avoid costly turnovers and penalties on offense
When the Jets beat the Patriots earlier this year, they won the turnover battle by a whopping +3. When they beat the Pats last year, they were aided by 11 penalties for 89 yards. The Pats have played virtually mistake-free football in 2010, turning the ball over just 10 times and committing the seventh-fewest penalties in the league. When the Pats don’t turn the ball over or get called for dumb penalties, they are tough to beat. Emotions will be running high in this game, so they can’t allow the constant chirping from the Jets to boil over into a stupid personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct call.
4) Keep the Jets defense on their toes
The Patriots kept the Jets off-balance throughout the Week 13 beatdown by using a massive number of different formations and personnel groupings. Wes Welker ended up in the backfield on a few occasions, leaving New York’s cover corners matched up against tight ends split out wide. Linebackers and safeties were matched up against wide receivers. Dogs and cats were living together. Antonio Cromartie was not having unprotected sex with strange (and apparently fertile) women. Long story short – the Jets defense was dumbfounded. The Patriots creative gameplan created a number of mismatches for Brady to exploit. If they can confuse the defense and create those kinds of situations again, the Patriots will have no trouble putting points on the board.