Dissecting Most Crucial Matchups in Jets' Week 7 Contest with the Patriots

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IOctober 17, 2013

Sep 12, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill (84) is tackled by New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (31) who forced a fumble on the play during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a dispiriting loss to the previously winless Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the New York Jets look to upend their archrival New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium this week. 

The Patriots are fresh off a dramatic last-second win against the previously unbeaten New Orleans Saints. New England's confidence level could not be higher. 

While the Pats are heavy favorites in the contest, New York still has a shot to pull of an upset. The Jets played New England tough back in Week 2, losing by just three points despite three interceptions from Geno Smith. 

For the Jets to get the win, they need to win a variety of key individual matchups on both sides of the ball. 


Antonio Cromartie vs. Kenbrell Thompkins 

Kenbrell Thompkins may only be catching 42 percent of the targets that come his way, but he is still one of the Patriots' most dangerous offensive weapons. 

Thompkins possesses both solid size and speed, and he is forming a terrific chemistry with Tom Brady. Thompkins has 21 catches for 318 yards and four touchdowns through six games, including the game-winning score with five seconds remaining last week against the Saints. 

Antonio Cromartie has struggled this season after emerging as one of the elite cover corners in the league last year. Cromartie allowed a huge 55-yard touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders on Sunday, and he has been bothered by a knee injury the last week. 

With the way the Patriots spread things out on offense, Cromartie will likely be left alone with Thompkins on the outside for the majority of the afternoon. 

Whoever emerges superior in the matchup of the rookie vs. veteran may ultimately determine how successful New England's passing attack is on Sunday. 


Stephen Hill vs. Aqib Talib

If the Patriots do manage to have their way with the Jets' secondary, New York's offense may be forced to air it out throughout the game. 

That would make the matchup between Stephen Hill and Aqib Talib perhaps the most significant one-on-one battle of the afternoon. 

With Santonio Holmes sidelined, Hill has emerged as New York's No. 1 receiving threat. He currently leads the team with 18 catches for 300 yards and a touchdown. 

However, Hill will have a difficult time getting open on Sunday if Talib suits up. Talib is currently questionable to play with a hip injury. 

Talib is currently tied for the league lead in interceptions with four. Two of those picks came in the Week 2 contest against New York. He can also be credited for shutting down football's most dangerous receiver last week. The 27-year-old corner did not allow All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to record a single catch throughout the game. 

Talib is the heart and soul of the Patriots' secondary. If he can suit up, the Jets will have a difficult time moving the ball through the air. 


Chandler Jones vs. Austin Howard

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Quarterback Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets looks to pass as defensive end Chandler Jones #95 of the New England Patriots rushes in during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on September 12, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusett
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

New York's offensive line has done little to help Geno Smith through the season's first six weeks. 

Smith has been sacked 21 times already, which ranks 28th in the league. Smith does hold onto the ball too long, but his mobility has also prevented a half-dozen more sacks. 

The Patriots don't have an elite pass rush, but they can still find ways to get to the quarterback.

New England's most dangerous pass-rusher is second-year man Chandler Jones. After a six-sack rookie year, Jones currently leads the team with 4.5 sacks.

The young defensive end will be lined up across from right tackle Austin Howard on Sunday. Howard has struggled with pass protection thus far, so Jones could be in for a huge day.

If the Syracuse product has his way with Howard, it could be an ugly day for Smith and the Jets' offense.


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