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Scouting the Matchup: Pats need to take care of business

Avoiding a letdown is the Patriots top priority against the 4-10 Jets.


LeGarrette Blount is having the best season of his seven-year NFL career. He has run for a career-high 1,060 yards and set the franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season when he ran for his 15th touchdown in last week's 16-3 victory over Denver. Blount has surpassed the 100-yard mark four times this season and averaged 6.1 yards per carry (67 yards on 11 attempts) when the Patriots beat the Jets earlier this year. At one point this season, the Jets had the NFL's No. 1 defense against the run, but New York entered last Saturday's game against Miami ranked 17th in that category. New York has surrendered at least 100 yards on the ground in four of its last six games, including 248 yards rushing in a victory over the 49ers. Advantage: Patriots


Matt Forte has been the Jets primary ball carrier for much of the season but has a torn meniscus in his right knee. Forte, who leads the team in yards rushing (813 yards) and rushing touchdowns (seven), was removed in the first quarter of New York's victory over San Francisco in Week 14 and had a reduced role in Saturday's game against the Dolphins. Bilal Powell replaced Forte against the 49ers and rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He gained 84 yards against Miami. The Patriots have been strong against the run lately. After New York rushed for 64 yards on the ground in the first meeting against New England, the Patriots held the Rams to 36 yards rushing, the Ravens to 42 and the Broncos to 58. Advantage: Patriots


Here's a good sign for the Patriots and their passing attack: The Jets have had trouble getting to the QB this season (23 sacks in 14 games). New York's pass defense was ranked 22nd entering last Saturday's 34-13 loss to Miami. No quarterback is playing better than Tom Brady, who has 22 touchdown passes and two interceptions in 10 games. Even without Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, New England has five players who have caught at least 29 passes this season, led by Julian Edelman (85 receptions for 866 yards and two touchdowns). The Patriots also have two running backs - James White and Dion Lewis - who can be difference-makers in the passing game. Advantage: Patriots


The Jets quarterbacks have been intercepted a league-high 22 times this season. Most of those interceptions came when Ryan Fitzpatrick was throwing the ball, but Bryce Petty doesn't strike fear in anyone either. Petty has thrown three touchdown passes and has been intercepted six times in three starts and two relief appearances this year. Brandon Marshall's production is down significantly this season, but the Jets do have a promising young receiver in Quincy Enunwa. Enunwa caught five passes for a team-high 109 yards and a touchdown in the earlier meeting between the teams this season. The Patriots have intercepted nine passes, but four of those interceptions have come in the last three games. Advantage: Patriots


The Patriots have received inconsistent play on special teams this year. It appears Stephen Gostkowski has worked through his confidence issues, but the Patriots haven't been getting much in the return game. Things were at their worst in New England's last home game, when the Patriots fumbled away a punt (Cyrus Jones) and a kickoff (Matthew Slater) in the third quarter of a victory over Baltimore. Special teams have been a huge problem for the Jets. New York's Lachlan Edwards ranks near the bottom of the NFL in punting and had one blocked for a TD in last week's loss to Miami. New York kicker Nick Folk has had three kicks blocked this season, two of which came on kicks of more than 50 yards. He has also missed two PATs. Advantage: Patriots


Most of the intangibles seem to favor New England in this matchup. The Patriots are at home, and there's no telling how hard the Jets will play on Christmas Eve. New York certainly didn't put up much resistance in a 41-10 loss to the Colts in Week 13 or in last week's 34-13 loss to the Dolphins. The Jets, who are minus-19 in turnover margin, seemed to throw in the towel on 2016 and turn their attention to next season when they replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick with Bryce Petty at the start of the third quarter against the Colts. Although the Patriots beat the Jets 22-17 in New York earlier this season, the Jets put up a good fight. It was 10-10 at halftime, and the Jets took a 17-13 lead with 10:17 to play. The fact that the Jets made things difficult probably means there's no chance the Patriots will take them lightly Sunday. Advantage: Patriots

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