Andy Hart: Matchups to look for in Pats-Jets

Andy Hart: Matchups to look for in Pats-Jets
September 11, 2013, 9:45 pm
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Tommy Kelly's ability to push around Jets center Nick Mangold may prove pivotal in Thursday's battle between AFC East rivals.

(USA Today Sports Images)

Football is inherently a game of match-ups, and the key to winning is to figuring out which match-ups are the ones to best exploit.

To do that in four days will be the Patriots challenge as they play host to the New York Jets on Thursday night in Foxboro. 

So, what are the Jets' biggest weaknesses?

Well, the AFC east opponent certainly is lacking in the skills position department but that does not prove the entire offense to be inept.

In spite of Mark Sanchez's struggles (OK, colossal failure) in recent years, the Jets have actually employed quite a formidable offensive line. The protective wall starts at left tackle and center, meaning penetration on the defensive line will be key for the Patriots in this contest.

"One place I'd like to see the Patriots improve is in the pass rush, and that means Chandler Jones and Tommy Kelly," said Andy Hart, an assistant editor and reporter at "Patriots Football Weekly." "Both guys were beasts in the preseason, tough matchup this week for Jones with D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets' left tackle, and for Kelly it's Nick Mangold, maybe the best center in football."

"It's a rookie quarterback, it's an athletic quarterback. I know you need a controlled rush but that doesn't mean you can't get some pressure. It's up to Kelly and Jones this week in tough battles."

The other side of the trenches may also be quite the battle. The Patriots actually have possessed a better offensive line than the Jets in recent times, as the team has put together a massive and successful effort to protect the one and only Tom Brady. 

Yet, New York may contain the most disruptive force on either defensive line, and that could smell trouble for New England.

"For the Jets, the biggest name is Muhammad Wilkerson, the young defensive tackle. If you're a Patriots fan, think of Richard Seymour 2.0, he plays that 3-4 end spot, he's big, he's athletic, he's disruptive," Hart said. "Ninety tackles last year, he had 3 forced fumbles, he had 5 sacks, fumble recoveries, he has all of the big play type numbers. He is the best player on that defense now that Darrelle Revis is gone…the Patriots need to make sure Wilkerson doesn't ruin a football game."

If the Patriots can control the trenches, the Jets have virtually no chance of winning this contest. As has been noted though, that should be quite the task, and it is yet to be seen if the Patriots are up to it.