New-look New England, old Master Belichick get edge over Jets

By Os Davis  |   Thursday, November 13, 2008  |  Comments( 0 )

New England Patriots
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Here’s a game New England Patriots season ticket holders have been awaiting droolingly since approximately Aug. 7, when Brett Favre became a New York Jet. This year’s game, went the gloating reasoning back in those days an epoch ago when Tom Brady had two fully functioning knees, was one the Pats would be easily able to tick off in the win column as Master Belichick destroyed acolyte Eric Mangini once again.

Commentary: Despite the comedown at QB in New England, fans still have to be salivating about this Thursday night opportunity to take a commanding lead of the AFC East.

And why not? With the 6-3 Patriots wounded as they are, New England has been living and dying by the mental game, getting by with guile as it's had to when times get lean for this team. (Remember 2006 and the days of endless three-TE sets?)

Many, including Bill Simmons, have complained that the Patriots’ current style of play is “boring.” This observer calls it “adaptation.” Also, “genius.” The most compelling numbers turned in by New England in the last two games – those when Belichick & Co. have been forced to go with BenJarvus Green-Ellis in lieu of a now-shredded running attack while simultaneously attempting to find a way to keep lethal weapon Randy Moss involved? Game time. Not time of possession, mind you (though New England is fourth in the league in TOP at just under 33 minutes), but game time.

Here’s a stat no other Web site will bring you: broadcast running time. Not counting commercials, the run time of the broadcast on last Sunday's Buffalo Bills game incredibly came in at under an hour and 45 minutes. The Indianapolis Colts game prior to that came in at an hour and 56 minutes, as Al Michaels remarked between “Heroes” promos.

This is the new New England game plan: Keep the clock running on the offense. The rhythm of the combination of a minimum six curls and screens to Wes Welker defines the offense. Once the pass defense is lulled into a sense of complacency, Moss is there on the long route; sometimes Moss gets involved early in short routes as against the Colts, while other times he’s nothing but a decoy for an entire half as essentially was his role versus Buffalo, but he’ll be there.

Meanwhile, favorite Green-Ellis is being successfully reaped for his seemingly inexhaustible energy, carrying the ball 26 times against the Bills and doing some sweetly hellacious blocking when not. Believe it or not, the man’s also averaging 3.86 yards per carry this season; that’s one medium-long dash away from 4.0-plus.

Finally, as is the key to all winning teams, the avoidance of penalties has been admirable. Whether Jim Haslett likes it or not, the record says the Pats have been assessed just 25 yards on four penalties in the last three games; indeed, New England is far ahead of the NFL competition in the category statistically.

Keep up the pace, play fast, play smart: It’s a philosophy that has served the 2008 Patriots well with its suddenly underestimated quarterback and decimated ‘D’, ever keeping them in the ball game despite adversity.

Philosophy? Yes, the word is accurate. For since Brady (and an ER’s worth of others) went down, the best way to beat the Patriots has been to outcoach them. This week’s contest would appear to be no contest.

Unlike, say, Tony Dungy, who has turned the personal career wrestling match between Belichick and himself around – for those of you keeping score at home, the Patriots have now gone 1-4 against the Colts after winning the first four head-to-head matchups; the lifetime record is now Belichick 5, Dungy 5 – Mangini’s New York Jets have, until now, continued to take beatings from Belichick’s Patriots. The numbers say Mangini is currently 1-5 as a head coach against his former boss, including a September loss at home to New England.

“But wait,” runs the counterargument, “surely there’s still that little thing called the game to actually be played out on the field, right?”

Well, yes. And the Patriots are better than ever as the bad news continues to hail on New England: Adalius Thomas is toast, sent to the IR thanks to a broken forearm; the patchwork Patriot ‘D’ just got a little more threadbare, and you’ve got to reckon the pressure on Favre will decrease and the coverage will be softer. On the other hand, Jerod Mayo’s bid for defensive rookie of the year honors potentially gets a serious boost.

New England’s has the home-field advantage. New York has the healthier roster. Both teams are 6-3; neither has overwhelmed the competition in 2008. It’s all fairly even Steven on the surface, but if this one comes down to a head game, consider the Jets and Mr. Mangini done on Thursday.

Just ask Dick Jauron.

Fantasy Football Impact: Two words for you (or maybe three. Or four): BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Defenses still haven’t figured him out, he’s capable of carrying the rock 20 times a game, and he has a TD in each of the last four contests; snap up Green-Ellis if he’s still free in your league.

Otherwise, it’s the usual suspects; if you drafted Moss, you’ve been starting him with chagrin weekly anyway: Nice that he’s started to pay off in the fantasy game, eh? Ditto Welker, except for that payoff in the fantasy game thing.

For the Jets, automatic fantasy starter Favre figures to get some yards and perhaps a touchdown strike or two, but the QB has been averaging one pick and 1.5 sacks taken per game, so figure those in if you’re toying with the idea of playing the Patriot ‘DST’. Thomas Jones has been wildly inconsistent each game in terms of workload and yards per carry, but he has scored (twice on multiple occasions) in the past four games. Against Jones is a New England ‘D’ that, excepting the Miami debacle in Week 3, has yet to allow an entire team more than 106 yards on the ground in a game; Jones managed 70 yards on 16 carries and zero touchdowns in Week 2 against the Patriots.

Fan Pulse: Unsurprisingly, most Pats fans at fan forum have New England winning in a low-scoring squeaker. ColtsFan09 (how’d he get on there?) reckons it at Jets 28, Patriots 20, reasoning that “didn’t the Jets crush the Rams 48-3??? You guys only beat them by 3 points...” Not sure here, but they may have zinged y’all: Did he really just compare your Pats to the Rams?

Meanwhile, user Joker applied the “brevity is the soul of wit” and “a picture is worth 1,000 words” principles with his post that declared “I predict...PAIN” and relevant accompanying shot of Clubber Lang’s devastating right.

And naturally, the official “I hate the Jets thread” is getting quite a workout this week.

Official RF365 prediction: Who are we to buck the Pats fans? New England Patriots 17, New York Jets 14.
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About Os Davis

Os Davis has taken a twisted route to get to in his nearly 17 years in professional writing, working in any number of capacities in the sportswriting, news reporting and film criticism worlds. In print media, Os has served as editor at a few publications, including Albuquerque's...
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