Saturday, December 24, 2016

Talking Floyd, Lewis, Jets In Advance Of Christmas Eve Tilt

The New York Jets have absolutely nothing to play for, which make them a very dangerous team for the New England Patriots.

This coming Saturday, the Patriots host the Jets in a game that means nothing to New York but has serious seeding implications that a loss would factor harshly. Look closely at that last sentence. The Patriots have won AFC East division titles in 14 of their last 16 seasons, including an NFL record eight straight, while the Jets have won division crown in that span - in 2002, while the Miami Dolphins took the 2008 title - and haven't seen the playoffs since 2010.
Flowers with one of this seven sacks

That's a long period of protracted losing, and it's important to observe that teams who have nothing to play for, a matchup with the hated Patriots provides a whole new level of motivation to a group of football players otherwise playing out the string.

You hear it all the time, that for an opposing team, playing the Patriots is their own personal Super Bowl, and to beat them, especially in Foxborough, is a launching pad to get a team's offseason rebuild off to a positive note. At least, that's the standpoint of the fans and management, but to the players it's a bit more personal than that.

Consider the Jets' middle-of-the-pack defense that was supposed to be an elite unit of speedy sack masters and dominating run pluggers - not to mention a shut-down secondary - but have been merely average and have given up the sixth-most points in the league. Their offense is even worse.

None of that ever seems to matter when the Jets and Patriots hook up, as New England's narrow victory over the Jets in November will attest.

It's good to be a Patriots' fan, and it has been that way for a long, long time. We are used to winning and sometimes hold our team to impossible standards. The Patriots make the Playoffs annually, the Jets and their fans were so confident coming into this season after their 10-6 showing last year, which makes this season even more of a disappointment.

But the Jets have heart and will give New England everything they have. Most likely will not be enough.

This week's questions:

Q - When week 17 comes, do you think that Bill looks against potential playoff matchups and "tanks" the game against Miami to get the Dolphins in?

A - I don't think Belichick wants any part of a divisional opponent in the post season, and will do everything in his power to eliminate the Dolphins. In fact, I think he'd rather set his nose on fire than see the Dolphins in the playoffs.

It's been a while since the Patriots have met another AFC East team in the playoffs, but in 2010 the Patriots got ambushed by the Jets in the divisional round, so it's not about trends nor about quality of opponent - it's about letting the other teams worry about themselves and the Patriots playing their game in a place where they haven't done all that well in the past couple of seasons.

It's never a good idea to face a division rival in the post season. I expect Belichick will do everything he can to make sure the Dolphins don't make the tournament.

Q - How vanilla will the Patriots' play calling be against the Jets, especially considering that Petty will be their quarterback?

A - I don't think they're going to be opening up the playbook any, if that's what you mean, but I think you're going to be seeing a regular offensive and defensive game plan, try to build a three-score lead, then call off the dogs in the fourth quarter - so I think you are going to see quick counts, maybe even some no-huddle, and lots of running right up the gut.

So if fundamental football is vanilla, then get ready for vanilla!

Q - Do you think Michael Floyd will have an impact through the remainder of the season?

A - I don't understand why he is even in Foxborough, but that's beside the point. Not because of his legal problems, and not because of his injury history and not because the intermountain west media is telling us that he checked out as soon as the season began, but because the Patriots were already all set at receiver.

As far as his legal troubles, many people throughout history have done some stupid things or are just bad people, yet still were very good at what they chose as a vocation - and football is no different. To a certain limit, I don't care what a person does with their spare time, but when it's time to get down to work, all of that gets put aside and we do the job - that's my question in regard to Floyd, when it comes time to do the work, can he put aside his individuality and do his job?

In reading the articles about him in the Arizona media, they seem to think that Floyd checked out while coach Bruce Arians is quick to defend Floyd by citing various maladies, such as a lingering hamstring, a bout of the grippe against the Vikings, and a bunch of physiological noise coming from "pressing" in his contract year.  That said, if Floyd is finally healthy and if Floyd is as focused in practice as quarterback Tom Brady says he is, then I can see him having a significant impact.

The one thing I worry about with him, is that if he was pressing because he's in a contract year, what is his psyche going to do with all of the negative stuff he's gone through in the past few weeks? Is he mentally tough enough to be a New England Patriot?

Q - Dion Lewis had the featured back role versus Denver, will that continue to be the case against the Jets?

A - LeGarrette Blount had an almost identical number of carries, but mostly in the four-minute offense when the Patriots were interested in first downs and chewing clock - they had different roles in the game plan, which is something that I addressed many moons ago...

In that article, we toyed with the idea that Lewis would be the lead back when he returned to full health, but that is going to be dictated by the game plan and in-game adjustments.  the one thing that that puts the situation in perspective is when weighing real-game snaps for Lewis to get him into football shape - that is, taking hits and getting used to the speed of the game - against sparing his legs for the post-season, where he could very well be a dangerous game changer.

So the answer is that Lewis may well indeed become the lead back, relegating Blount to an atypical closer role, where he has just as many carries, but in a different role and in more jumbo alignments. Lewis will be seen on early downs early in the game and in Pony Groupings with James White, who is poised to have the most prolific receiving season in franchise history.

Q - Do the Patriots need to win out for Brady to be seriously considered for MVP?

A- Probably so.

You see, the people that make that decision don't understand that the reason why Brady had what many are calling a "Pedestrian" effort against the Broncos is due to game planning, and not so much being limited by the Broncos' secondary, throwing just 32 times and turning to hand the ball off 39 times - it's called balance, and the voters don't want to hear that.

Currently, it is assumed that Brady is in a three dog race for the award with Matt Ryan and Ezekiel Elliott, while names like LeVeon Bell and Kalil Mack may surface when the voting takes place.  Make no mistake, Brady deserves the MVP award, but one thing that could work against him is how well the team performed while he was suspended, going 3-1...

...and while the definition of being the most valuable player is being the player is most valuable to their individual team, there is something to be said for the work that Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett did in the first four games of the season.

Q - Is this the rare occasion that New England will be able to beat a bad Jets' squad easily, or will this game end up a low-scoring, defensive battle as recent trends suggest?

A - Well, if you look at how the Jets' coaching staff is in disarray with Todd Bowles being hospitalized with an undisclosed illness - most likely that nasty flu going around - and the fact that Miami absolutely annihilated them last week despite having Matt Moore at quarterback, one could make a case for the Patriots blowing out the disappointing Jets.

But we all know that things don't work like that, one game doesn't translate to another - as there are different matchups in areas where the Jets are better able to exploit, or were, due to the state of the Patriots' offensive line - a line that all too often has been pushed around by the Jets' front seven - but this time, the line has a different feel to it.

But so does the Jets' pass rush.

New York is dead last in the NFL in sacks, dropping nearly a full sack a game from 2015, and their secondary is surrendering seven full completion percentage points over last season.  Their precipitous fall is due mostly to injury, but it really doesn't matter why it's bad, it just is.  The offense is in shambles and the Patriots come into the game with the Top 10 defense we've heard rumors about...

...complete with a newly discovered pass rush that is averaging three sacks per game since the bye, a stout run defense ranked fourth in the NFL and a secondary that is more a supporting cast for the work of the front seven, keeping coverage on the receivers long enough to let names like Flowers, Long and Ninkovich close in on the passer.

In the end, as long as the Patriots don't hand the ball over to them, they should easily overcome whatever the Jets throw at them.

No comments:

Post a Comment