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Game Matchups: Patriots suddenly diverse passing attack won't make life easy for Jets

Patriots Football Weekly's Paul Perillo breaks down the Patriots matchups as they get set for Thursday night's game against the New York Jets in Week 7.



The Jets haven't done much well this season, but they do rank near the top of the NFL in run defense. Of course, you could make the case that the numbers are skewed because New York's injury-riddled secondary has been less than spectacular against the pass, making it more attractive for opponents to attack through the air. The Patriots were in high gear against the Bengals, when they ran for 220 yards in a 43-17 victory. New England received improved play from the interior of its offensive line in that game, but center Bryan Stork missed last week's game against Buffalo because of a concussion, Dan Connolly left early due to a concussion and running back Stevan Ridley went down with a torn ACL/MCL. The flux in the Patriots running game gives the Jets the edge. ADVANTAGE: JETS



The Patriots could have their hands full with Jets running backs Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson, especially since the Jets will likely commit to the running game in an attempt to play keep-away from the New England offense. Many expected Ivory to fill a backup role when the Jets signed Johnson, but Ivory has been the team's most consistent runner this season. It will be interesting to see if his workload increases. New England will do itself a favor if it can get an early lead and force the Jets to get away from their running game sooner than they'd like. That won't be easy without Jerod Mayo, who went down with a lower leg injury against the Bills, and perhaps Dont'a Hightower, who missed the last two games with a knee injury. Denver held New York to 31 yards on 15 rushing attempts in last week's 31-17 victory. ADVANTAGE: JETS



Pass protection will be the key here, since the Jets have been at or near the top of the NFL in sacks for most of the season. Outside linebacker Calvin Pace and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson are among the players the Patriots will have to keep away from Tom Brady. Another thing to keep an eye on will be Brady's ability to get the ball to multiple receivers, as he did against the Bengals when tight end Tim Wright had a breakout game (five catches for 85 yards). Eight Patriots had at least one reception in the victory against Cincinnati, and 10 players made at least one catch last week against the Bills. The Jets have been dealing with injuries in their secondary all season, and dealing with the Patriots suddenly diverse passing attack won't make life any easier. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS



This is an area where the Patriots should have a significant edge. It could be a fun night for Patriots fans, if embattled New York quarterback Geno Smith gets off to another bad start. Jets coach Rex Ryan continued to express confidence in Smith even after he pulled the QB at halftime of a 31-0 loss to San Diego two weeks ago. Smith completed 4 of 12 passes for 27 yards and was intercepted once that day before he gave way to veteran Michael Vick, who wasn't much better. Wide receiver Eric Decker returned to the field last week against Denver after missing a game with a hamstring injury. The Patriots have done well defending the pass for much of the season. That trend should continue, even as rookie tight end Jace Amaro continues to emerge. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS



The Jets haven't been getting much out of their return game, either on punts or kickoffs, but punter Ryan Quigley is having a strong season. Quigley played at Boston College before signing with Chicago in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. This game will feature two of NFL's most accurate field goal kickers. Nick Folk has made each of his nine field goal attempts this season with a long of 52 yards. New England's Stephen Gostkowski has connected on16 of his 17 attempts with a long of 53 yards. Gostkowski made a career-high five field goals during the victory against Cincinnati. Julian Edelman provides the Patriots with a big-play threat on punt returns while the coverage has been airtight all season long. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS



The Jets enter this game on a five-game losing streak, which is the team's longest losing streak since Rex Ryan became New York's head coach in 2009. The offense has sputtered and the quarterback position has been a lightning rod for criticism and controversy. Even Ryan has admitted his job is in jeopardy. The home fans at Gillette will be smelling blood. After a subpar 2-2 start, the Patriots have generated some positive momentum by posting back-to-back wins against Cincinnati and Buffalo. Facing a weak Jets team at home will be an excellent opportunity to build on that momentum. It's the first of three consecutive home games for New England. Time for the Patriots to make some hay. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS


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