Previewing the opposition: Jets at Patriots

The Jets have already faced the Patriots once this season, but - as the teams prepare to contest a pretty meaningless game from the Jets' perspective - we can update that now, based on who is healthy, who's getting reps lately and who could be rested on Sunday.


Tom Brady is an MVP candidate once again, albeit almost by default as there don't seem to be many obvious choices to win this year's award. He's actually had better years in seasons where he wasn't a contender.

In fact, by Brady's standards, he's in a real slump right now. He's thrown an interception in five consecutive games - something he hadn't done since 2002. He also threw a pick-six last week - his first since the Super Bowl.

With the playoffs about to get underway, Brady perhaps won't play the whole game so we could see Brian Hoyer, who the team re-signed when they traded Jimmy Garoppolo away at the deadline.

Offensive Line

The Patriots offensive line has done an excellent job in the running game this year but has struggled in pass protection, although that's partly attributable to Brady hanging onto the ball for longer than usual this season.

Most of the pressure comes from the blindside as left tackle Nate Solder and guard Joe Thuney have combined to surrender nine sacks. Solder has also been called for a team-high nine penalties.

Shaq Mason is the team's most consistent run-blocker at right guard, working well in tandem with center David Andrews.

With Marcus Cannon now on injured reserve, both LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming have started games at right tackle. Waddle has been limited in practice this week, so Fleming will probably start.

Ted Karras is the primary reserve on the interior.

Running Backs

The Patriots have garnered solid contributions from Dion Lewis this season. Putting some injury issues behind him, Lewis' playmaking skills have helped him to rack up over 800 yards on the ground at a rate of over five per carry and eight total touchdowns. They are otherwise banged up at the position though.

James White has 56 receptions as the third down back but was limited in practice this week. Mike Gillislee recently took over the short yardage role from Rex Burkhead but both are out today, so maybe we will see Brandon Bolden's return.

Fullback James Develin continues to do a solid job as a lead blocker.


Brandon Cooks has given the Patriots a different dimension this year with his downfield abilities and surpassed a thousand yards on Sunday.

This year, Danny Amendola has been the more productive possession option, ahead of Chris Hogan even though Hogan is listed as the starter. Hogan is questionable having been limited in practice during the week.

Phillip Dorsett is another big play threat off the bench, although he only has nine catches on the year.

At tight end, Rob Gronkowski has had another big year with 69 catches, over a thousand yards and a team leading eight touchdown catches. He had two scores in the win over the Jets in October and has a chance to earn some big money incentives with a big game on Sunday.

Dwayne Allen, who had a big game against the Jets last season backs up Gronkowski.

Defensive Line

While the Patriots' offense is dominant, the defense is not, especially in the front seven. However, former first round pick Malcom Brown is good against the run and Deatich Wise has five sacks so their starting tackles have been productive.

The Patriots haven't been faring too well against the run, but they have some decent run stoppers on the interior including former first round pick Malcom Brown and veterans Lawrence Guy and Alan Branch. Undrafted rookie Adam Butler got his first NFL start last week with Branch out and he'll fill in again because Branch is out today too.

Trey Flowers has been New England's best pass rusher as he is leading the team with 6.5 sacks.


With veteran Dont'a Hightower out for the season, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts get all the reps at linebacker. Van Noy has been productive with 73 tackles and 5.5 sacks but leads the team with 11 missed tackles. He's dealing with a calf injury though, so may be limited.

The Patriots signed David Harris in the offseason but he has just 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks as Marquis Flowers is often the first linebacker off the bench.

The Patriots also just signed veteran James Harrison who is expected to get reps as a situational rusher this week and in the postseason.

Defensive Backs

New England play a lot of nickel defense and their secondary has played well this year. Stephon Gilmore has bounced back from a slow start to provide a reliable compliment to Malcolm Butler.

The Patriots play a lot of three safety sets with Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung, each of whom has had a reliable season. Jordan Richards is the fourth safety and could see extra playing time with McCourty nursing a shoulder injury.

Johnson Bademosi, who started the previous game against the Jets with Gilmore out, is basically no longer in the rotation as Eric Rowe and Johnathan Jones are the first cornerbacks off the bench. Rowe clinched the recent win over the Steelers with a clutch interception.

Special Teams

The Patriots kicking game is solid with Ryan Allen on punts and Stephen Gostkowski kicking. Gostkowski has missed just three field goals all year, all of them from between 40 and 49 yards. Allen has had an underwhelming year, averaging just over 40 yards net per punt despite only allowing 101 return yards.

Amendola has been the team's punt returner and averages a solid nine yards per return. Lewis has been returning kickoffs and had a touchdown earlier in the season.

In coverage, pro bowler Matthew Slater is their best player but he's questionable with a hamstring injury. Brant Boyer also praised the likes of Bademosi, Jones, Bolden, back-up tight end Jacob Hollister and reserve defensive end Geno Grissom on Thursday.