For all the back and forth leading up to this weeks PatriotsJets game and by back and forth, I mean the sound of Rex Ryan talking to himself Sundays result will ultimately come down one question:
Just how bad is the New England secondary?
Now typically, this is a question that Patriots fans dont want to address, and if they do, that answer will consist of some hateful, sarcastic mix aimed at the failures of Bill Belichick or incompetence of Devin McCourty and will somehow find its way back to the core reason that the Pats have gone seven years without winning a Super Bowl. I mean, theres no question that this secondary is bad. Its the single biggest flaw in the Patriots armor. The one thing that opposing coaches look at and say: OK, this is how we can beat them. This is how we will beat them.
But when it comes to Sundays game, it doesnt really matter how the secondary stacks up against most NFL passing games. In this case, it only matters how McCourty and company compare to one of the NFLs worst. Thats what the Jets bring to the table.
Call it a product of having one the leagues most inconsistent quarterbacks Mark Sanchez has thrown for fewer yards per game (188) than all but two starting QBs (granted one of them is Russell Wilson); he has the lowest QB rating (70.9) of any starter other than Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden; he has the lowest completion percentage (49.7) in the NFL.
Call it a product of losing their No. 1 receiver (Santonio Holmes) to a season-ending injury, or the fact that last years No. 2 receiver (Dustin Keller) has made only two catches since returning from his own injury or that last years No. 3 receiver (Plaxico Burress) is currently unemployed.
Whatever it is, just know that the Jets passing game is horrendous (they rank 30th in yards and 29th in net yards per attempt) and that for one game, the Pats only need to be better than them. Forget everything else. Its not about beating the critics. Its about beating Mark Sanchez.
Yeah, Tim Tebow will be there, too. I think we can expect a healthy does of No. 15 at various points on Sunday. The Jets know theyre out-matched; they know that theyll have to take some chances and that despite what Ryan says they have little to lose on Sunday. In a way, that makes them dangerous; I'm sure they'll have plenty of tricks up their sleeve. But when it comes down to it, this game will be decided with Mark Sanchez standing in the pocket. And it won't be enough for him just to hold his own.
Sanchez will have to keep pace with the NFL's No. 1 ranked offense, playing at home, with their backs against the wall, playing against a defense that has been decimated by injury. Sanchez will have to put up real numbers on Sunday. Brady numbers. Especially since the Jets running game is a mess, and the Pats rush defense currently ranks with in the NFL.
So let's get back to the original question: We know the Pats secondary is bad, but are they that bad? Are they turn-Mark-Sanchez-into-Tom-Brady bad?
I don't think so. Which makes this an easy pick:
Pats 35, Jets 13