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Scouting the Matchup: Protect Brady and let it fly

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN

This may be a week where the Patriots might shy away from the running game, since stopping the run is the strength of a Jets defense that is limiting opponents to an average of 85.4 yards per game. New York has held seven of its 10 opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, although New York's last two opponents each passed the 100-yard mark (Miami ran for 137, and the Rams gained 125). Although LeGarrette Blount is having a productive season, the Patriots have struggled to move the ball on the ground against good defenses. They had 72 yards rushing (3.1 yards per carry) in their second game against Buffalo and were held to 81 yards (2.9 per carry) in their loss to Seattle before wearing down the Niners weak run defense last week. Advantage: Jets

WHEN THE JETS RUN

The Jets have the ability to do some damage with Matt Forte and their running game. Forte has rushed for 732 yards and seven touchdowns on 189 carries, an average of 3.9 yards per rushing attempt. He's gained an even 100 yards twice this season, and those rushing performances helped produce victories over Buffalo (37-31) and Baltimore (24-16). Bilal Powell doesn't get the ball much but is usually productive when he does. He's second on the team in rushing with 272 yards on 40 carries, an average of 6.8 yards per attempt. The Patriots are in the middle of the pack in terms of both rushing yards allowed per game and rushing yards allowed per play, and the group has struggled lately. Add in the potential loss of Alan Branch, who is appealing his four-game suspension, and this could be a difficult task if the score remains close.  Advantage: Jets

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS

The Patriots have six players who have caught at least 19 passes this season, and six who have hauled in at least two touchdown passes. Even without Rob Gronkowski, who missed last week's game against San Francisco (chest injury), New England is getting more production from the tight end position than most teams. Martellus Bennett is tied with running back James White for the team lead in touchdown catches (four) and is tied with White for second on the team in receptions (39). Clearly, quarterback Tom Brady is feeding all of his receivers. Leonard Williams leads the Jets with six sacks. Cornerback Marcus Williams and safety Marcus Gilchrist each have two interceptions, and Darrelle Revis is struggling mightily in the Jets secondary. If Tom Brady gets the time he will shred this average secondary. Advantage: Patriots

WHEN THE JETS PASS

In terms of New York's problem areas, quarterback play has been at the top of the list. Ryan Fitzpatrick has completed 56.4 percent of his passes. He has thrown for eight touchdowns but been intercepted an NFL-worst 13 times. After Fitzpatrick suffered a knee injury in a Week 9 loss to the Dolphins, second-year quarterback Bryce Petty got his first NFL start in New York's 9-6 loss to the Rams. He was 19 of 32 for 163 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception. Brandon Marshall is the team's leading receiver (43 receptions for 601 yards), but his partner Eric Decker is out for the season. Decker's absence has forced Quincy Enunwa into a larger role and the depth at receiver has taken a hit. The Patriots have five interceptions in their 11 games and have struggled to force any turnovers. Something has to give. Advantage: Patriots

SPECIAL TEAMS

It's been a rough season for the Jets in this area. Their worst moment may have come in a Week 9 loss to Miami, when Dolphins rookie Kenyon Drake returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, erasing New York's 23-20 lead and helping Miami to a 27-23 victory. The TD return came one play after Antonio Allen was penalized for being offside on a kickoff on which the Jets seemingly had pinned Miami's Jakeem Grant deep in his own territory. Kicker Nick Folk has had two field-goal attempts blocked and has missed two of his 19 PATs. Matthew Slater, one of New England's top players on kick coverage, suffered a foot injury against the 49ers, and Stephen Gostkowski missed his third PAT of the season in last Sunday's victory. Advantage: Patriots

OTHER FACTORS

The Jets are at home and are coming off of their bye week. Typically those factors might point to a possible upset, but, as is often the case, the Jets are dealing with their share of distractions. Some in the New York media have suggested the Jets should part ways with second-year head coach Todd Bowles, and there's a quarterback controversy brewing as well. Fitzpatrick may give the Jets the best chance to win, but there's no long-term gain by playing someone unlikely to be in a Jets uniform next season. Petty has thrown only 34 passes since he was drafted last year but may be the Jets future at the position. Both of New England's losses have come at home. The Patriots are 5-0 on the road. Advantage: Patriots

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