Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Playoffs Jets vs Patriots: The Magical Number Is 129

Everyone knows that the Jets are a running team that occasionally throws the ball to keep opposing defenses from stacking the box. I propose something simple, that will not only guarantee the Patriots stay in the game, but almost certainly result in a victory.

Hold the Jets to under 129 yards rushing.

Simple, right? The Patriots defense have been allowing under 100 yards/game for the last half of the season, so they should be able to do it again? Well, the Patriots have been unable to keep the Jets under 129 yards on the ground this season and now they'll be trying to achieve the feet feat without Ron Brace.

Why 129? Well, the Patriots have won every game (eleven in total) in which they held opposing teams to fewer than 129 yards on the ground. Excluding games against elite quarterbacks (Chargers, Colts, Ravens [?]), the Patriots won handily. What teams gained over 129 yards? Browns, Jets x2, Packers and Round 1 Bills- games that either resulted in losses or went down to the wire (other than Jets Round 2, but that's why it's important to stop them!). Fortunately for the Patriots, the Jets do not have an elite quarterback, which means they'll have to run the ball in order to win the game.

The Jets, on the other hand, struggle when held to under 129 yards. Their record is 4-4 in such games, but the victories all go down to the wire. The managed to beat the Broncos on a last minute touchdown, the Detroit Lions in overtime, the Houston Texans on a last second touchdown, and the Pittsburgh Steelers on a last second Red Zone stand. In the eight games the Jets have rushed for 129 or fewer yards, they've struggled mightily. Why?

Mark Sanchez gets the ball. In six out of the eight games, Sanchez turned the ball over. In three of the games, Sanchez turned the ball over multiple times (and in another game, he fumbled 3 times, but the opposing team didn't recover). When Sanchez is asked to throw, he'll stand in the pocket and get dinged for a potential fumble. Or he'll throw an errant pass that gets intercepted. It's no coincidence that the Jets are better when Sanchez throws for under 200 yards (they're 8-3, including the playoffs, with the three losses coming against the Ravens in Week 1 [score of 10-9], Patriots in Week 13 [ouch], and the Dolphins in Week 14 [10-6]). They're in a position to win almost every game where they rush for over 129 and Sanchez throws for under 200.

Of course, holding the Jets to under 129 yards on the ground is no easy task- they haven't been able to do it thus far. If the Patriots can, though, then they should be in solid position to win the game.

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