The New England Patriots travel to MetLife Stadium on Thursday night to take on the New York Jets. What better way to cap off the NFL’s 2012 Thanksgiving Day slate by watching one of the league’s most well-run organizations battle it out with one of the league’s worst-run franchises?
The Patriots enter Thursday’s matchup winners of four straight, a streak that began in Week 7 with a 29-26 overtime victory at home over these same Jets. Another win over Rex Ryan and Co. keeps New England in stride with the other teams clawing for position atop the AFC.
A loss, however, could open the door for the Jets to make a run at the AFC East title. Though improbable, New England doesn’t want to leave anything to chance against their rival.
After Week 12, the Patriots’ remaining opponents have a combined 25 victories (including two with the Miami Dolphins), while the Jets face teams that have combined for only 17 victories.
New England is certainly better-equipped to handle the tougher slate and should still close out the season as favorites in every game, with matchups against the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers both played at home.
The fact that this game was played so closely in New England the first time around makes calling this one that much more difficult. However, it all depends on which Jets team shows up on Thursday night.
Will we get the Mark Sanchez, who completed 75 percent of his passes with a touchdown pass, along with a rushing attack and defense that controlled last week’s road win over the St. Louis Rams; or will we see the team that got trounced 28-7 by the Seattle Seahawks just the week before.
Though it may be somewhere in between, the Jets will need to find a way to keep the Patriots’ high-powered offense off the field to pick up the win on Thanksgiving.
Here is one bold prediction for each team, along with fantasy football "beast or bust" candidates in Thursday’s matchup.
Tom Brady Scores a Rushing Touchdown
Though he has rushed for two scores on the season, predicting that a quarterback as slow and flat-footed as Tom Brady tallying a rushing touchdown is rather futile. But this matchup with the Jets lends itself to him possibly doing just that.
The Patriots all of a sudden have a vaunted running game, and we all know what Brady is capable of through the air—even with tight end Rob Gronkowski out with a broken forearm. With a balanced offense, the Jets will not have the luxury of keying on any one area.
This has nothing to do with New York’s 30th-ranked run defense (141.9 yards per game), but has everything to do with the fact that no one would expect Brady himself taking one to the house.
Though it certainly won’t be on a 30-yard gallop, watch for the bootleg inside the 5-yard line on Thursday night.
Tim Tebow Finally Finds the End Zone
It is still a mystery as to why the Jets acquired Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos this past offseason. He has been given little chance to do anything on the field, even with his versatility as a runner from the quarterback position.
But maybe, just maybe, Ryan was saving Tebow’s coming out party for the Patriots on Thanksgiving night.
The amount of touches Tebow receives during a game honestly doesn’t matter. If he isn’t going to be the full-time starter, it is how the Jets decide to use him that is the key. Short yardage and the goal line are his bread and butter.
It may be just a hunch, but Tebow scores this week.
Fantasy Beast: Stevan Ridley
There is absolutely no way Ryan let’s Brady and Co. beat his Jets through the air; at least that’s the plan anyway. But this year, the Patriots have found new ways to light up the score board.
Coming into Week 12, New England ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing at 142.9 yards per game and has a league-leading 16 touchdowns on the ground.
Led by second-year running back Stevan Ridley, the Patriots now feature the league’s best and most balanced offensive attack—not good for a Jets team that is vulnerable against the run.
If New England is able to play with a lead for most of the game—which is expected—look for Ridley to see plenty of touches and possibly have his best game as a pro.
Fantasy Bust: Anyone on Jets Offensive
The Patriots' defense is pretty simple: solid against the run because teams are forced to play catch up, which causes an inflated number against the pass. However, the Jets' offense does not play into that well at all.
The Jets enter Thursday night with the league’s 29th-ranked passing offense. Though he has little weapons to throw to, Sanchez is having his worst season since his rookie campaign back in 2009.
The Patriots are well aware of New York’s offensive limitations and will more than likely focus its defense on keeping the ball in the first level; meaning we will see tons of pressure on Sanchez and lots of negative runs from Jets’ running backs.
If the Jets are able to muster anything on offense, it is anyone’s guess what the source will be.
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