The New England Patriots were smooth-sailing with a 51-24 lead over the Indianapolis Colts Sunday. That was until the final extra point.
Down went Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots’ star tight end broke his forearm, and with it, the Patriots future game plan and thousands of fantasy aspirations.
They’ll try to weld off the storm in four days, as they travel to the Big Apple for their biannual clash with a familiar foe: Rex Ryan and the New York Jets.
The Jets showed some life in a 27-13 win at St. Louis. Mark Sanchez got back on track with a confident three-quarter stretch, and the Jets offense dialed up some red-zone running schemes to get Bilal Powell in the end zone twice.
New York’s playoff hopes are not dead yet. A win over the Patriots would do some good and show the NFL they’re not going away just yet.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
When: Thursday, Nov. 22, at 8:20 p.m. ET
Listen: WBZ 98.5 FM (New England) or WEPN 98.7 FM (New York)
Live Stream: NBCSports.com
Betting Line: Patriots (-6.5), Over/Under: 48 (Vegas Insider)
This number was certainly over a touchdown before Gronkowski’s injury, but now a short week to game-plan without him gives the Jets a perceived advantage at home.
Vegas has adjusted accordingly.
But if the absence of Gronkowski is going to be taken into account, what should we make of the Jets’ resurgence in St. Louis?
I’m not going to overreact to this one. The Rams have underwhelmed against other ground-and-pound teams, while the Patriots are a giant step-up with their offensive capabilities.
I think there’s slight value on the Pats for less than a touchdown.
Key Injuries (via CBS Sports as of Nov. 20)
Patriots: Rob Gronkowski (out, forearm), Aaron Hernandez (questionable, ankle), Wes Welker (questionable, ankle), Chandler Jones (questionable, ankle) and Jerod Mayo (probable, elbow)
Jets: Bart Scott (questionable, toe), Calvin Pace (questionable, shoulder), Jeremy Kerley (questionable, heel), Mark Sanchez (probable, back) and Stephen Hill (probable, illness)
Patriots: Aaron Hernandez, TE
With Gronkowski lined up alongside him, Hernandez has averaged about five receptions for 60 yards against the Jets. The Pats will need to utilize their do-it-all tight end to open up the field for the rest of the offense.
In previous weeks, Gronkowski was used to make sure opposing defenses had to account for the middle of the field. The Pats will use Hernandez in similar fashion, and also in the running and screen game to keep the Jets off balance.
He’s a must-start in all fantasy leagues and should make his owners feel elated after their Thanksgiving food coma.
Jets: Jeremy Kerley, WR
Kerley gave the New England defense fits in their game four weeks ago with seven catches and 120 yards.
Nothing has changed much since then. The Jets offense still has peaks and valleys, while the Patriots pass defense can look ghastly if the quarterback can make the throws.
While Mark Sanchez will need to be accurate, Kerley will certainly get a boatload of targets before this game's over. The Jets will need to pass to contend against a high-powered Patriots offense. In addition, from a fantasy standpoint, if New York gets behind, that means more opportunities from a fantasy standpoint from Kerley to replicate his Week 7 success.
Key Matchup: Jets Passing Game vs. Patriots Secondary
The one weakness in the Patriots’ game plan is their spotty pass defense. One week they can make Andrew Luck look like a backup, and another game allow Russell Wilson to wreak havoc.
Surprisingly, Bill Belichick and Co. has chosen not to reform their defensive strategy. Instead, he’s decided his team has a better chance to outscore their opponent rather than keep them in check on offense. The strategy worked to perfection in Indianapolis for a 59-24 home win, but with Gronkowski out, can that approach sustain?
Sanchez holds the answer key to this dilemma. If he puts on a performance like last week in St. Louis, the Jets could hang around long enough to outlast their division rival.
The Patriots will feel the pain from the Gronkowski injury, but this season they have a running game to rely on as well. There may be a few more three-and-outs on the horizon, but Tom Brady will lead the still-productive Patriots to more than few touchdown drives.
Granted the Jets always seem to play the Pats tough, but this is the worst offense Rex Ryan has put on the field in his four years as coach.
Frankly, New York isn’t built to get into a shootout. The Patriots can play multiple styles, and running up the scoreboard will work just fine.
Patriots 31, New York Jets 23
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. He enjoys giving fantasy advice and the NFL Red Zone. Follow him on Twitter @TheRealShiek