Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 9:04 AM
The New England Patriots and New York Jets met four games ago in Foxboro. A lot has changed heading into tonight's return engagement at the new Meadowlands that will be nationally televised on NBC. The Patriots are floundering, and some pundits are wondering if the team can even survive the playoff chase atop the crowed AFC East. The Jets are on fire, possibly establishing themselves as the class of the division.
The quickest way of making this point is that New England was -7.5 on the Vegas board at home in that first meeting, and covered the spread with a 9-point victory. Sunday Night, the Jets are favored by 1.5 points (an 8-point turnaround from the Vegas spread instead of the traditional six…and a 10.5 point differential from the actual final score) and are getting a lot of support in smart money circles. Respected bettors who liked New England at -7.5 now like the Jets despite the additional line adjustment.
The long way of making the point:
*New England is 0-3 ATS since that Jets game, and 1-2 straight up. It's come against a tough schedule. But, the Patriots were favored by -7, -3, and -9 vs. the Cowboys, Steelers, and Giants, then outscored by a composite eight points on the scoreboard.
*New York is 3-0 straight up and ATS since the Patriots game. It's come against a softer but respectable schedule that included a home game against San Diego (who knows what that means any more?) and a road trip to face fired up Buffalo. The Jets CRUSHED Buffalo in the game that was supposed to be where the Bills showed what they were made of. It was the Jets instead who did that.
*New England has turned the ball over 10 times since the Jets game, even though they only lost it once vs. the aggressive New York defense in that first meeting. Remember when Brady was Mr. Perfect? The Patriots have suffered four turnovers in two of the last three games! It used to take a month for this team to lose the ball that often.
*New York has won rushing yardage in their last two games. Everyone was lamenting the demise of the Jets running attack when they were outrushed in each of their first six games (even 152-97 by the Patriots in a stunner). If that problem has been fixed, the Jets truly are for real as a championship threat (let's not forget they've played in the last two AFC Championship games).
*There's a general malaise in New England because offseason personnel experiments didn't work out…and because this team just doesn't intimidate any more. The Patriots name is still in the hat, as playing close games with Dallas, Pittsburgh, and the NY Giants still means that you're playoff caliber. The swagger is all but gone.
*The Big Apple (and parts of New Jersey) is abuzz once again because the swagger is back! This team has a recent history of starting slowly and ending strong anyway. The locals are confident that the best football of 2011 for the J-E-T-S- JETS-JETS-JETS is still to come.
Jeez, it's starting to sound like the Sunday Night spread should be Jets by 7.5! Let's crunch our traditional preview numbers and see what they show.
DRIVE POINTS PER GAME (scored and allowed on 60 yards or more)
New England: 22.6 on offense, 17.3 on defense
N.Y. Jets: 12.5 on offense, 11.3 on defense
You regulars know this, but we want to let newcomers be aware that this is our single favorite indicator stat in all of sports. Not just football…in ALL of sports…no single stat does more heavy lifting in terms of telling you what you need to know about team quality.
New England's offense is still elite. But, continuing with the them for today…they've fallen apart even in this stat over the last three games. After popping 24 or more in their first five games, New England posted 17, 7, and 14 Drive Points in their last three outings. That's still better than the Jets full season average on offense…but below what they have to score to make up for t heir own weak defense.
The Jets are a little better on defense during their recent hot streak. This really isn't where the Jets are picking up their form. We'll get to that in a minute.
If you're looking at the full season, then New England's differential of +5.3 grades out very well compared to the +1.2 of the Jets. That matches up exactly with the pointspread in Foxboro…and would have the Pats a very slight road favorite if nothing important showed up in other categories.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS
New England: 48% on offense, 44% on defense
N.Y. Jets: 40% on offense, 31% on defense
This is where the Jets have really picked up the pace lately. Their lack of running game and erratic quarterback play had them struggling badly in this category in the first half of the season. Then…vs. playoff contenders the past two games:
8 of 13 vs. San Diego for 61%
6 of 11 at Buffalo for 54%
Look out world! If the Jets are doing this on offense, then their strong defense is sitting on the sideline getting a rest break. You don't want to face the Jets defense when they're fresh. Let's remember also that a bye week came after the San Diego game. This Jets defense is going to be REALLY fresh Sunday Night against Brady.
Note that New York's defense ranked 2nd in the NFL behind Detroit in this stat entering the weekend. New England was fifth from the bottom of the NFL ladder defensively. The league midpoint is right around 39% this year. Let's emphasize this again…if the Jets offensive performances of the last two weeks are an indicator of things to come…this is VERY bad news for the rest of the league because the Jets defense isn't going anywhere.
New England: even (14 takeaways, 14 giveaways)
N.Y. Jets: +4 (19 takeaways, 15 giveaways)
New England could always live with a soft defense because the offense was putting so many points on the board. What would show up here was a low number of giveaways…but a high number of takeaways because opponents were frantically playing catch up (which you'll see in dramatic fashion with the Packers in our Monday preview of Minnesota-Green Bay). The risk-reward category has equalized. Brady's offense is much more sluggish, particularly when opponents take away his first option and make him force something somewhere else. The defense isn't a disaster because 14 steals through eight games is okay. It's much less scary than it used to be when playing with a lead though.
The Jets still have some work to do with Sanchez in the takeaway department. He's been a distressingly slow learner in that regard, throwing a horrible pick in the end zone at Buffalo last week that ended up not mattering. This defense is still forcing mistakes…which will always give the team a puncher's chance in the playoffs.
How you pick this game is going to come down to how much you value recent form (Jets by at least a touchdown given the current pace), or 'regression to the mean' strategies that have everyone returning to normal after extremes (which means New England ends a two-game losing streak with an outright victory). JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will have something for you in this game amidst the full day card. Please check on-site ads and the purchase page for the very latest on what's available.
Maybe the Jets are one of the reasons we're calling this 'Revenge Weekend' in our TOTAL NOVEMBER TAKEDOWN program. Or, maybe that's a red herring and today's big play is elsewhere on the ticket. The only way to find out is to get on board! You can do that with your credit card right here at the website. Or, call the NETWORK office at 1-800-323-4453.
Oh, be sure to ask about college basketball when you call. There's a pretty big hoops slate today for an NFL Sunday. And, big TV games will start popping up all over the place in the coming days…like Michigan State-Duke, Florida-Ohio State, and Kansas-Kentucky on Tuesday Night!
BIG GAMES…BIG MONEY…from THE BIGGEST NAME IN HANDICAPPING…JIM HURLEY!