Rushing yards per game
New York offense: 108.6 (15th)
New England defense: 99.0 (10th)
When the Jet pass
Mark Sanchez is the most scrutinized player in the NFL. He is also one of the most inconsistent players. Despite reassurances from coach Rex Ryan that Sanchez is his man, Sanchez still must play in Tim Tebow’s ominous shadow. It can’t help his confidence that he frequently gets yanked so Tebow can run New York’s wildly ineffective Wildcat package for a play or two. Sanchez, coming off a solid performance (15 of 20, 178 yards) against the Rams, has good size (6 feet 2 inches, 225 pounds), deceptive athleticism, and quick feet. He can be very effective on short passes, but his accuracy tails off on anything over 15 yards. If he struggles early and Ryan pulls him (that’s doubtful), Tebow will get the call. Tebow is a wonderful athlete with great improvisational skills. He is also a dreadful pocket passer with poor mechanics (he looks like a natural righthander trying to throw with his left hand). Jeremy Kerley has developed into a consistent threat. Quick off the line, Kerley explodes in and out of his cuts. Rookie Stephen Hill (6-4, 215) has great size and explosiveness but runs sloppy routes. Dustin Keller is a terrific receiving tight end who uses his athleticism and strong hands to gain separation and move the chains — Sanchez will lock on to him early and often. New England’s secondary is still susceptible to big plays but this group is better with Aqib Talib in place and Devin McCourty settled in at safety.
Passing yards per game
New York offense: 192.7 (29th)
New England defense: 289.7 (30th)
Jets’ key player: Mark Sanchez
A gifted athlete with quick feet and a decent arm, Sanchez is one of the league’s streakiest players — looks like Joe Namath one day and Browning Nagle the next. When things are going well, he is the life of the party on the sideline. When they’re not, he stands alone.
How he beats you: By making smart decisions. He’s at his best when he keeps things simple and throws the safe ball. If he starts hot, his confidence builds and he will make plays and move this offense.
How to shut him down: By confusing and abusing him. Disguise the coverages and blitz him from every angle. If he turns the ball over early, his shoulders slump, he hangs his head, and he’s cooked.
JETS’ KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Inspiring words: Rex Ryan has to shelve the comedy routine and fire up this group. For all intents and purposes, Gang Green’s season is on the line.
2. Sting like a bee: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is big, strong, and athletic. He must create pressure off the edge and at least make Tom Brady uncomfortable.
3. Bubble boys: Get Mark Sanchez into a rhythm by throwing early screen passes to Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight. It will do wonders for all three players.
PATRIOTS’ KEYS TO VICTORY
1. First course: Score early and set the tone. These Jets are fragile. Getting out ahead quickly could cause them to lose interest — then the rout is on.
2. Second helping: Julian Edelman’s talent has teased for years. Get the ball in his hands and see if he can put together back-to-back dominating performances.
3. Stuffing: Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love need to dominate the trenches and turn back Shonn Greene and put the pressure squarely on Mark Sanchez’s shoulders.
Patriots 28, Jets 13
Jim McBride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.