On the Beat: 5 questions about the Jets, Part Deux

We check back in with New York Times Jets beat writer Ben Shpigel to get the latest on Gang Green.

1. The key to the Jets winning three-straight games has been…

Shpigel: I’m only allowed one? I’ll give you three: a renewed commitment to the running game, which has averaged 130.7 yards during the streak behind an offensive line stabilized by a healthy Nick Mangold; improved efficiency on third down (51.3 percent); and a defense that has executed its game plans — especially against Buffalo — to near perfection.

2. The Jets’ mindset heading into this game is…


Shpigel: That this is their chance to seize control of the division. This is what they asked for, this is what they wanted. Winning the division — and, thus, the reward of a home playoff game — has been front-and-center for them all season, and they know that it’s unlikely that they’ll get a better opportunity again this season to improve their position.

3. Do you think the Jets will open things up against the Patriots’ defense, or will they stick with what has been working?

Shpigel: I don’t think they’re going to abandon the run-first philosophy that has fueled their success. But I wouldn’t be shocked to see them take a few more shots downfield, perhaps emboldened by the pass-interference calls that Santonio Holmes drew last week. They’d love to integrate Holmes more, and Plaxico Burress’s performance in the last two games — 9 receptions, 104 yards, 3 touchdowns — reveals signs of an improved rapport with Mark Sanchez.

4. The bust out player for the Jets will be…

Shpigel: I went with Joe McKnight last time, and he ripped off a long kickoff return. We’ll go defense now. Let’s say Kyle Wilson, the second-year cornerback who has played very well in nickel coverage. Rumor has it, the Patriots like to throw, so Wilson should get a chance — or seven — to show his improvement.


5. Finally, the Jets win on Sunday if…

Shpigel: Last time, the Jets sacked Tom Brady four times and didn’t commit a turnover, and they still lost. So, I can’t say “pressure Brady” and “hold onto the ball,” however important both things are. I’ll go back to something I mentioned earlier: third-down efficiency. If the Jets can convert at a proficient rate — something they did not do at Gillette, when they went 3 for 11 — they’ll be able to control the clock, open up more play-action opportunities for Sanchez and keep the Patriots’ offense off the field.

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Thanks again to our New York Times Company brother for taking the time to do this. Check him out on Twitter and the Times’ Jets coverage.

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