Did anyone predict a winner-takes-first place showdown between the New York Jets and New England Patriots in Week 6 of the 2017 season?
Todd Bowles, who many assume is coaching for his job, has a New York Jets roster that many expected to be a “tanking” unit turning into surprise team with a winning record. Bill Belichick and the Patriots have finally hit a few speed bumps this year, but no one is picking them to lose a division they’ve dominated for so long.
With that being said, can Bowles on Sunday land his biggest win yet as Jets head coach? Once considered an impossible task, here’s how it could be accomplished.
Contain James White
The fourth-year running back and Super Bowl hero has already caught 29 passes in five games for the Patriots this season, averaging nearly 8 yards per catch. While Demario Davis has played well since returning to the Jets and Darron Lee had a promising performance in Cleveland last week, these Jets linebackers consistently struggle in coverage.
Letting White consistently convert first downs would make life too easy for Tom Brady. Bowles knows he needs to find a solution to contain White and it might be pretty obvious: Play Jamal Adams at linebacker for the majority of his snaps.
/Jamal Adams debut thread
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) September 12, 2017
Adams is a physical tone setter with a lot of speed to eliminate a short passing attack that runs through White. This will leave Marcus Maye with the brutal responsibility of covering the now-healthy Rob Gronkowski, but the Jets safety has certainly earned the opportunity to show he’s up to the task.
Marcus Maye has been excellent in coverage this year – he's gonna get one real soon: pic.twitter.com/dSaFzHkoRv
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) October 5, 2017
This would leave Davis and Lee splitting time in coverage against Gronk underneath, where he will certainly get his yards, but allows Maye to cut off anything over the top.
Veteran quarterback Josh McCown has played extremely efficient football through the first five games, completing over 71 percent of his passes with a 90.5 quarterback rating. The Patriots currently have the worst pass defense in the NFL, but their high-powered offense will always keep them in games. The key takeaway? McCown has to play their way, which means it’s time to take chances and push the ball vertically.
Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson has the deep speed to win over the top, especially against an underachieving secondary. Jermaine Kearse has been a solid addition, adding consistency at the wide receiver position with good routes and even better hands.
The X-factor throughout all this? Continue to get tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins involved. He’s a rare mismatch piece in the Jets offense that can exploit smaller defenders in coverage, but also has enough speed underneath to pick up first downs over the middle.
It’s rare to go into a game asking McCown to take chances, but this is the week the Jets are going to have to do it to get a win.
Can Elijah McGuire break one?
With Bilal Powell potentially out and Matt Forte still nursing a foot injury, Sunday could be the Elijah McGuire show in the Jets backfield. The sixth-round rookie has been impressive when given touches, averaging over 5 yards per carry and 11 yards per catch after a preseason where he flashed big-play ability.
Unlike most of the skill players in Gang Green’s offense, McGuire can create yards after the catch or contact on his own against tacklers in the open field.
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) October 2, 2017
With his speed to break off chunk plays, McGuire could make life easier on the passing attack and give the defense a lead to work with. The Jets need to feed him early and often, whether it’s in the run game or passing attack. The Patriots are currently ranked 24th in rushing yards allowed per game, making this a fantastic matchup for the rookie runner.
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