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Week 5: New York Jets (2-2) at New England Patriots (3-1)

The Jets head up to Foxboro this weekend to take on arguably their most bitter rival, the New England Patriots. They return to the site of their worst loss of last season, a 45-3 humiliation, and greatest win, a 28-21 Playoff victory, of last season.

Key Matchup When the Jets Have the Ball: Nick Mangold vs. Vince Wilfork

New England is now a 4-3 team so Wilfork will not be lined up directly over the ball. He still will face Mangold plenty. The Jets offensive line has struggled a lot both run blocking and pass blocking. The return of Mangold to the lineup after missing two weeks is a boon for the Jets. Part of the problem for the Jets was Colin Baxter’s inability to win matchups without getting help. Requiring help as Baxter did took an offensive lineman from blocking somebody else. If Mangold wins this matchup, the offensive line can get back on track and make life easier for New York’s offense. If Mangold’s ankle is still giving him problems, and he cannot do the job, problems will persist.

Key Matchup When the Patriots Have the Ball: Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski vs. Jets Linebackers and Safeties

You might think it is Darrelle Revis against Wes Welker, but the Jets should be confident in Revis’ ability to at least hold Welker off his historic current pace of production. Where the Jets have real matchup problems are against New England’s two athletic tight ends. They have nobody who can win a matchup so they will need to rely on scheme. The Jets clogged the middle of the field with zones in the Playoff game and closed passing lanes. They will need to scheme to take away these tight ends again. They are more dangerous than the receivers the Pats have on the outside.

Three Simple Keys:

1. Mix Things Up: The Jets have beaten the Pats three times since 2009. There has been one common thread. They have changed their looks. A quarterback as smart as Tom Brady will pick up on tendencies and exploit weaknesses if a defense repeats itself. The Jets need to constantly throw new looks at him to try and confuse him. Sometimes they have confused Brady up front and attacked him. Sometimes they have confused him in the back with coverages.

2. Get the Run Game on Track: The Jets should probably avoid going back becoming the power run team they were in 2009 and 2010, but they need to run it more effectively. Without the threat of the run, pass rushers have an easier job because they can just fly up the field. Mark Sanchez is going to get killed if the Jets cannot rely on the rushing attack to get more yardage. It also would not hurt to run the clock a bit to limit Brady’s chances.

3. Get Mark Sanchez’s Confidence Up: After a bad game, it behooves the Jets to give Mark Sanchez some easy throws early to get him into the flow of the game.