WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN
The Patriots found a diamond in the rough with Dion Lewis, a player no one else wanted who is now known as one of the shiftiest, most elusive running backs in the league. His touchdown against Dallas could wind up on the NFL's year-end highlight reel. They also have LeGarrette Blount, the finisher at the goal line, who scored three rushing touchdowns through five weeks despite missing the first game of the season. This new-look rushing attack has added balance to New England's offense, but the Jets are awfully tough against the run with a front seven that includes nose tackle Damon Harrison and tackle-machine David Harris. It'll be difficult to find running lanes against this defense and the Patriots haven't been especially productive running the ball as of late.
WHEN THE JETS RUN
The strength of New England's defense so far has been its ability to rush the passer and create chaos by forcing quarterbacks into errant throws, thereby protecting a new-look secondary that has yet to be tested. They play a base nickel defense that has limited their production against the run with just two linebackers on the field on most occasions. Opposing teams have been able to move the ball on the ground. The Patriots have struggled stopping the run most weeks and that was the case again last week in Indy when Frank Gore averaged 6 yards a pop. This will be a tough test, with the Jets handing it off early and often to the resurgent Chris Ivory, who has been a workhorse and has done significant damage against the Patriots in the past.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS
Even with Darrelle Revis back in New York, this is still a tough matchup for the Jets secondary. As good as he is, Revis can't cover everybody, and the Patriots have enough weapons to spread the defense out and pick apart the weaker areas of New York's coverage. Revis may draw the assignment of covering Rob Gronkowski, which would create match up nightmares for the Jets against Julian Edelman. If Revis defends Edelman, it's open season for Gronkowski even if he winds up seeing a lot of Antonio Cromartie. The Jets have been among the best in the game against the pass, but this is the best quarterback they've faced so far by far, and the Patriots have a tendency to get rid of the ball quickly in their no-huddle offense, which negates the impact of recently activated edge rusher Sheldon Richardson.
WHEN THE JETS PASS
Losing Geno Smith might've been a blessing in disguise for the Jets, but Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't been much of an upgrade. The erratic Fitzgerald has thrown seven interceptions in just five games this season with nine touchdowns. Eric Decker continues to have ball-security issues since leaving Denver, even though four of his first 17 catches have been touchdowns. Brandon Marshall is the Jets most dangerous weapon and he's been a big part of the their passing game. Beyond Decker and Marshall, Fitzgerald doesn't have much to work with. The running backs aren't a factor in the passing game, and the only relevant tight end on the roster, Jeff Cumberland, caught two passes in five games. The Patriots secondary will eventually get tested but not this week against a limited passing attack with an erratic, gambling quarterback.
The Patriots have two of the best special teams weapons in the NFL in kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Ryan Allen. Not only did Gostkowski hit every field goal and extra point attempt through the first six weeks, he also helped limit opponents to the fourth fewest kick return yards during that same stretch, while Allen's ability to pin teams deep in their own territory held opponents to the fifth fewest punt return yards per game. The Patriots rank last in the league in kick return yards, but it's borderline irrelevant given the efficiency of this offense. The Jets inability to protect the line of scrimmage on punts could be a liability. The Redskins blocked one last weekend but were too far behind on the scoreboard to make the Jets pay.
This is a huge test for Jets rookie coach Todd Bowles as he looks to establish himself as the next great innovative mind in the AFC East. Beating the wily veteran Bill Belichick in his first game against the Patriots would be a tremendous coup. Bowles has done a nice job in his first season. The Jets know what works, and they stick to the game plan, but not being multi-dimensional offensively against a New England team that frequently rotates personnel to create matchup problems will make this a tall order for Bowles. The game is also at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots have the best home winning percentage of any team at one venue since the NFL merger in 1970.