By Gregory Hunt
Even though first-year New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith wasn’t expected to start in his rookie season, at times he has played reasonably well since taking over for injured veteran Mark Sanchez. Smith’s signature win came in Week Five, when he threw three touchdown passes to lead the Jets to a 30-28 road victory over the Atlanta Falcons. However, as is typical for a rookie, he tends to make a lot of turnovers, which may hurt him against a New England Patriots defense that’s pretty good at forcing them. Smith faces off against Tom Brady and the Pats next Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets come into this game with 3-3 record, good for third place in the AFC East two games behind the Patriots. Last week, the Jets failed to score a touchdown in a 19-6 loss to the previously winless Pittsburgh Steelers. In their previous meeting in Week Two this season, the Patriots came away with a 13-10 win at Gillette Stadium.
Formerly known as the New York Titans and the Boston Patriots, these teams are charter members of the American Football League, which began play in 1960. The Jets trail the all-time series 52-56-1 (including playoffs) and enter this contest with a four-game losing streak against the Pats. New York head coach Rex Ryan is 2-7 in the regular season against the Patriots, but he won his only postseason meeting, a 28-21 victory at Gillette Stadium in the 2010 Divisional Playoffs.
Jets On Offense
The Jets are ranked a respectable 13th in the NFL in total offense, which is higher than the 18th-ranked Patriots offense. Smith has shown an ability to spread the ball around by completing his seven touchdown passes to five different receivers. However, thanks to a minus-11 turnover ratio, the Jets have struggled to score points, averaging only 17.3 points per game. .
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes got off to a hot start this season, averaging 24.3 yards per catch over the first four games, but he has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. Running back Bilal Powell is the team’s leading rusher with 360 yards (4.1 yards per carry), but he missed part of last week’s game with a shoulder injury.
Jets On Defense
The Jets have played impressive defense this year, which has allowed New York to stay competitive in games even when Smith struggles. They are ranked fourth in total defense, 12th against the pass and second against the run. Opponents are averaging only 3.0 yards per rush against the Jets. But thanks in part to some untimely turnovers by the Jets offense, the unit is only 15th in the league in scoring defense.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, with five sacks and two forced fumbles, has been the unit’s biggest playmaker. However, a single pick by safety Dawan Landry is the team’s lone interception.
New England’s dramatic 30-27 comeback over the New Orleans Saints last week should do wonders for the confidence of the Patriots offense. The addition of veteran receiver Austin Collie ought to give Brady a reliable target as rookie pass catchers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson continue to develop. Because New York is so tough against the run, expect New England to run just enough to keep the Jets from stacking the line of scrimmage.
If cornerback Aqib Talib does not return from a hip injury he suffered against New Orleans, that will be a severe blow to the Patriots defense, but Smith may not be experienced enough to take much advantage of it. Sunday’s game may be another defensive struggle, but the Pats should win this game by at least a touchdown.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.