The AFC East race is not over yet, and a showdown between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets will have a serious impact on whether or not the Pats will run away with another division title.
Both teams will be looking for a pleasant end to their Thanksgiving by beating their rival.
The Patriots have had significantly more success this season and are 7-3, but the Jets are coming off of an impressive victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Here is what each team must do to earn a victory.
New England Patriots
Use Stevan Ridley
The Patriots will have to adjust to playing without Rob Gronkowski after the star tight end broke his arm against the Indianapolis Colts.
Gronkowski is tied for the NFL lead with 10 touchdown receptions, and the New England passing game will not be the same without him in the lineup.
In order to compensate for his absence, the team must use Stevan Ridley early and often. The second-year running back is averaging 4.6 yards per carry this season, and he is more than capable of handling an increased workload.
Running the ball effectively will be vital to the Pats' game plan in this contest.
Pressure Mark Sanchez
The Jets offensive line has not played well this season, and neither has the quarterback it has attempted to protect.
New England spent high draft picks on players like Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower in order to improve its pass rush. These two players have eight sacks between them this season, and they will be key to the team’s success against New York.
If Sanchez is under pressure throughout the game, he will force throws and turn the ball over.
This will give Tom Brady the ball with excellent field position, and that will lead to a comfortable victory.
New York Jets
The Jets have significantly less talent than the Patriots and will need to play mistake-free football in order to earn a victory in this contest.
Sanchez has thrown nine interceptions this season, and if he tosses any more, the Patriots will run away with this game. Even without Gronkowski, the New England offense is capable of striking quickly and putting up plenty of points.
However, the Jets defense has plenty of experience against the Patriots. In the last meeting between the two teams, Gronkowski was the only New England player to score an offensive touchdown.
The New York defense can slow down the New England offense as long as turnovers do not give Brady extra help.
Take Shots Down the Field
New England’s secondary is allowing the third-most yards per game this season—something the Jets must try to take advantage of.
New York has been terrible through the air this season, ranking 29th in pass yards per game. However, its running game is just average and checks in at 15th in rushing yardage.
Without big plays in this game, the Jets have no chance.
The coaching staff will need to pick its play calls wisely while Sanchez and the offense execute. Any wasted opportunities will lead to another loss.