As if a New York Jets/New England Patriots game did not have enough gravy already, tonight’s game is the third of the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day special and is a game the Jets have to win if they are going to continue to fight back into the AFC playoff picture and give their fans something to be thankful for.
New York (4-6) has a chance to build off last week’s victory in St. Louis by defeating the rival Patriots (7-3), which would draw the Jets to just a game below .500 with five winnable games to close out the season.
During the team’s Week 7 game in Foxboro, much maligned Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez played well – as he often does in big games – but after a field goal by Nick Folk gave the Jets the lead with less than two minutes to play, Tom Brady drove New England down the field, setting up Stephen Gostkowski’s game-tying field goal on the last play of regulation. After Gostkowski kicked a field goal on the Patriots first possession in overtime, Sanchez fumbled on the Jets’ ensuing possession, ending the game. It was a game the Jets could have won and a game, many argue, they should have.
They have a chance to make up for that loss with a big win at MetLife Stadium tonight.
Spirit in St. Louis
In a must-win game coming off a bad loss in Seattle, the Jets responded by beating a below-average Rams team. Sanchez and the struggling Jets offense played a turnover-free game, Bilal Powell scored the first two touchdowns of his career and Folk kicked a pair of 51-yard field goals. Defensively, Gang Green forced three turnovers and played a strong game for the second week in a row.
State of the Jets
Jeremy Kerley, the Jets leading receiver, has been limited in practice all week and will be a game-time decision. Joe McKnight, Bart Scott, Sione Pouha and Aaron Berry were also limited but are expected to play.
What to Expect
The Jets and their No. 4 ranked passing defense caught a break when Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm on a point after on the Pats' final touchdown in their 59-24 romp versus Indianapolis last week, but tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has not played since Week 7, returns for New England to help offset the loss of Gronkowski.
The Patriots come into the game as the No. 1 offensive team in the NFL, averaging a whopping 431.9 yards per game, including 142.9 rushing yards, which is very unlike a Bill Belichick team. Meantime, the Jets have the No. 14 ranked defense, though they are ranked 30th against the run, so look for Belichick to involve Stevan Ridley and former Jet Danny Woodhead early in the game.
On the flip side, the Patriots trot out the No. 28 ranked defense to counter the No. 29 ranked Jets offense. The Jets have an improved rushing attack, but New England does a solid job stopping the run, ranking 10th in the NFL. If the Jets did not have the 29th best passing attack, they would be able to take advantage of the Patriots' 30th ranked passing defense.
This game has the makings of a shootout, and wouldn't that be a nice way to end Thanksgiving?
Jets: Sanchez -- 2,038 yards, 11 TDs and 9 INTs
Pats: Brady -- 2,976 yards, 21 TDs and 3 INTs
Jets: Greene -- 172 carries for 631 yards, 5 TDs
Pats: Ridley -- 185 carries for 842 yards, 7 TDs
Jets: Kerley -- 38 catches for 578 yards, 2 TDs
Pats: Welker -- 73 catches for 890 yards, 2 TDs
Jets: Harris -- 75 tackles
Pats: Mayo -- 101 tackles (leads NFL)
Jets: Thomas -- 2.5 sacks
Pats: Ninkovich, Jones -- 6.0 sacks
PATRIOTS at JETS
When: Thursday, 11/22, 8:30 pm
Where: MetLife Stadium
TV: NBC, Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth
Radio: ESPN New York 98.7 FM
Line: Jets +7