NFL Wire News

Week 16 Preview: Patriots at Jets

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New England Patriots (11-3) at New York Jets (3-11)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Otis Livingston

*Keys to the game: Fighting to the wire for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, the Patriots fully expect a dogfight from the Jets. New York rolled up 218 rushing yards in a narrow 27-25 loss at Gillette Stadium in Week 7, led by 107 physical yards by RB Chris Ivory. New England has allowed 100 yards just twice in the ensuing seven games as the run defense has vaulted from No. 25 in the league to No. 10.

But the Jets aren’t going to be competitive by letting QB Geno Smith drop back and test Darrelle Revis & Co. They enter with the league’s second-ranked rushing attack, which is all the more impressive considering the constant eight-man fronts the Jets face. Patriots coach Bill Belichick called it “a very extensive and diverse running game” that will come at New England in volumes.

The Patriots will counter with their pass-first attack as it will be difficult to control the game against the Jets’ fourth-ranked run defense. Pressure on QB Tom Brady has been an issue in recent weeks, so protection will dictate how well he is able to dissect New York’s overmatched secondary.

*Matchup to watch – Patriots DT Vince Wilfork vs. Jets C Nick Mangold/RG Willie Colon: Wilfork is the key in tying up the interior, forcing Ivory and Chris Johnson to search for daylight while ILBs Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins make plays close to the line of scrimmage.

*Player spotlight – Jets S Calvin Pryor: The rookie will figure into coverage against TE Rob Gronkowski. Pryor, known for his physical play, must be solid in his assignments and in his open-field tackling to limit the Patriots’ trademark yards after the catch.

*Fast facts: The Patriots have not allowed a second-half touchdown in four consecutive games. … The Jets have 150-plus rushing yards in five of their past eight games.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Patriots will spread the field early and attempt to hammer the Jets’ secondary in the quick passing game and yards after the catch. If New York’s ground game can control the clock and keep the game within reach, it’s another surprisingly tough out for the Patriots vs. their downtrodden rivals.

*Our pick: Patriots 23-19


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