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10 things you have to know about Jets-Patriots

10.15.14 at 7:32 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski appears to be back to full strength. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski appears to be back to full strength. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Here’€™s everything you need to know about Thursday’€™s contest between the Patriots and Jets:

Our three favorite matchups on the evening:

1. The Patriots offensive line against the Jets defensive front: For both teams, this is the absolute key matchup on the night. The strength of the New York team is the front seven — when the Jets have been able to be competitive, it’€™s been because of their front, a grouping that includes big defensive ends Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson and nose tackle Damon ‘€œBig Snacks’€ Harrison. They are a stout and dependable combination, and have forced teams to try and get creative to find a way around them. They do a good job getting after the quarterback, as their 19 sacks are tied for second-best in the league, and their 235 passing yards allowed is a middle-of-the-pack 15th overall. But their strength is against the run, having allowed an average of 92.2 yards per game on the ground (ninth-best in the NFL) and 3.5 yards per carry (sixth-best in the league). From the Patriots perspective, there are a few ways to try and minimize their overall impact of the Jets defensive linemen, including lots of heavy sets that feature two tights ends, as well as fullback James Develin and another back (Shane Vereen?) kept in for protection, or at the very least, a chip on a blocker before running a route. If New England can find a way to neutralize their presence, it’€™ll go a long way toward a Patriots win.

2. Quarterback Tom Brady against the Jets secondary: This summer, the New York defensive backs were seemingly dropping at the rate of one a day, and as a result, the Jets are left with an alarming lack of depth in their secondary. Meanwhile, after some talk early in the season that Brady was zeroing in solely on one or two receivers, the quarterback has spread the ball around masterfully over the course of the last two games: eight Patriots had at least one reception in the victory against Cincinnati, and 10 players made at least one catch last week against the Bills. With tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell having emerged as the three go-to targets over the course of the last two weeks (not to mention the work of Vereen, who is on pace for almost 50 catches this season), it’€™s debatable as to whether or not the Jets have the depth to keep up with New England’€™s suddenly surging passing attack.

3. Tight end Rob Gronkowski against safety Calvin Pryor: With Gronkowski returning to fully functional Gronk status last week against the Bills — seven catches on nine targets for 94 yards in the win over Buffalo — he figures to again be a colossal part of the New England passing game on a weekly basis. (The big tight end has always tortured the Jets, with 28 catches for 362 yards and four touchdowns in six career games against New York.) The Jets have yielded six touchdowns to tight ends over the first six games of the season, including four the last two weeks to a pair of oversized pass catchers in Denver’€™s Julius Thomas and San Diego’€™s Antonio Gates. The Jets will likely counter Gronkowski with a few different defenders, including Pryor, a rookie out of Louisville who made some waves this offseason with some statements about the Patriots. Should be an interesting matchup.

4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’€™ fans need to know: The Jets tight ends, Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland. The two have combined for 32 catches over the first five games — Amaro leads the Jets in receptions with 24 — and have provided some small measure of security for New York in the passing game. Over the years, if there’€™s been an Achilles’€™ heel for New England when it comes to defending the Jets passing game, it’€™s been the tight ends. With Jerod Mayo sidelined for the rest of the year, the Patriots’€™ work against tight ends and backs in the passing game will be tested, and the Amaro/Cumberland combination provides an interesting dynamic for New England to consider.

5. By the numbers: 0 — The number of pass plays of 40 or more yards that have been given up by the Patriots’€™ pass defense this season. New England is the only team in the league not to yield a single pass play of 40-plus yards. For what it’€™s worth, the Patriots are tied for 13th in the league in pass plays of 20 yards or more, having allowed 17. Those good numbers on the deep ball stand in contrast to the last few seasons, where New England was at or near the top of the league in the number of deep balls allowed over the course of the season

2013: 55 20-plus (11th most), 9 40-plus (15th most)
2012: 74 20-plus (most), 8 40-plus (14th most)
2011: 79 20-plus (most), 9 40-plus (17th most)
2010: 55 20-plus (7th most), 4 40-plus (30th most)

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Read More: Darrelle Revis, Rex Ryan, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady

Tom Brady’s latest attempt at selling us slippers

10.15.14 at 7:02 pm ET
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Tom Brady‘s newest UGG commercial.

“Pancakes … Let’s do this!”

Nate Ebner (finger), Cameron Fleming (finger) both ruled out, while Tom Brady (ankle) probable for Patriots

10.15.14 at 4:22 pm ET
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Nate Ebner

Nate Ebner

The Patriots officially ruled offensive lineman Cameron Fleming and defensive back Nate Ebner out on Wednesday for this week’s game against the Jets. Meanwhile, quarterback Tom Brady was listed as probable with an ankle issue, after he was limited in practice Thursday.

Fleming and Ebner join linebacker Jerod Mayo (knee) and running back Stevan Ridley (knee) as out for the contest against New York, set for Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.

DB Nate Ebner (finger) — did not practice
OL Camerton Fleming (finger) — did not practice
LB Jerod Mayo (knee) — did not practice
RB Stevan Ridley (knee) — did not practice

CB Brandon Browner (ankle) — limited participation
LB Jamie Collins (thigh) — limited participation
OL Dan Connolly (concussion) — limited participation
DL Dominique Easley (shoulder/knee) — limited participation
LB Dont’a Hightower (knee) — limited participation
WR/ST Matthew Slater (shoulder) — limited participation
OL Bryan Stork (concussion) — limited participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle) — limited participation
DE Chandler Jones (shoulder) — limited participation
S Devin McCourty (rib) — limited participation

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NY Daily News’ Manish Mehta on D&C: Already poor 2014 Jets season ‘trending downward’

10.15.14 at 9:16 am ET
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New York Daily News Jets beat writer Manish Mehta joined Dennis & Callahan to discuss the state of disarray the Jets are in. To hear to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

After starting off the year with a promising win, New York has come crashing down and lost its last five games. From bad quarterback play from Geno Smith to poor secondary defense, the Jets have very little going right for them. Coach Rex Ryan has come under heavy criticism for the failures of his team.

Rex Ryan is a good coach,” Mehta said. “He’s not Bill Belichick — I don’t think anyone is going to say that. But he’s one of the best defensive coaches, for sure, in the league right now for the last 10 years. There’s only so much you can do when you don’t have much talent. And he doesn’t control who comes into the building via draft or free agency. That’s general manager John Idzik.”

Continued Mehta: “Idzik has never been a general manager before, he has never really had any personnel say of significance in his previous stops in Seattle, Arizona and Tampa Bay. … And now this guy is in charge of giving Rex players, and he hasn’t done a good job his first couple of years.”

Part of the reason the Jets have had trouble in the past few years, and especially this year, is the lack of talent at the skill positions. Without good quarterback play and a solid corps of wide receivers, New York’s offense has been lackluster.

“[Ryan has] never really had a star quarterback. He’s never really had a star player at an offensive skill position,” Mehta said. “If you look his five years, the best you can say is Thomas Jones in the backfield in 2009 and then Santonio Holmes for one season in 2010. … No dynamic players, certainly no dynamic players at the quarterback position. Now he’s really saddled with Geno Smith, who when you look at statistically, is probably the worst quarterback in the NFL right now.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Geno Smith, Manish Mehta, Rex Ryan

Patriots running backs prepared to fill void left in wake of Stevan Ridley’s season-ending injury

10.15.14 at 7:00 am ET
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FOXBORO — With Stevan Ridley reportedly lost for the year with a torn ACL and MCL, the Patriots have their work cut out for them to make up for his loss.

Of the Patriots’€™ 660 yards rushing this season, Ridley has accounted for 52 percent of them — 340 yards.

There is no question Shane Vereen will be a player who will likely step up with the loss of Ridley, but his style is more catching passes out of the backfield and only run on draw plays — not be a No. 1 back. Vereen hasn’€™t had a game this season with more than nine carries, but does have 18 catches for 114 yards.

New England will likely use all of their backs and ride the hot hand each week to make up for the loss of the fourth-year running back. Here is a look at the three other players and how they now view their roles:

Brandon Bolden

Bolden has the most experience of the three as he has 126 career rushing attempts for 570 yards with five touchdowns, now in his third season in the league. While Bolden said he hasn’€™t been notified of a No. 1 back role, he feels he could be one if given the opportunity.

“€œAnybody in the league thinks that, but no, as of now I am here to do whatever the team asks me to do,”€ said Bolden.

Bolden has played a significant role on special teams this season — securing his spot on the game roster each week — but now, because of his experience, he may soon be playing a significant role in the running game rather than on special teams.

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Read More: Brandon Bolden, James White, Jonas Gray, Stevan Ridley

Rob Gronkowski: A ‘positive’ to face Jets on short week because of ‘familiarity’

10.14.14 at 7:05 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There are many challenges playing on Thursday Night Football having only three days to prepare for the upcoming opponent.

But, the Patriots and Jets don’t have that issue this week as the two teams are plenty familiar with one another — having encountered eachother many times over the last few seasons.

“Definitely familiar with them. We play them twice a year,” Rob Gronkowski said. “They haven’€™t really switched it up much — the same coach is there — that is a positive about it, facing a familiar team. You have to keep on studying because they have something new every week.”

Playing in the Thursday game following a Sunday game creates a time-crunch and cramming a week long game plan into a few days, on top of that trying to get your body physically ready in a short period of time. Although it’s difficult, both teams have to go through it.

“Both teams have to deal with it,” Gronkowski said. “You have to get your treatment, hot and cold tubs, the weight room — get a good lift in –€“ and concentrate on the week and the Jets. It’€™s a quick turnaround, just get prepared and it’€™s fair both sides.”

As for the game — it won’t take much for the players to get fired up being between two division rivals.

“It’€™s the Jets. You know how the games are — it’€™s always a competitive games when we play the Jets,” said Gronkowski. “They are one of our rivals so it should be a good game.”

Read More: New Yor Jets, Rob Gronkowski,

Dont’a Hightower ‘hopeful’ he will be able to play Thursday vs. Jets

10.14.14 at 6:31 pm ET
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Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

FOXBORO — After missing the last two games because of a knee injury, Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower stood at his locker already knowing the question would be coming.

Will he be ready to play Thursday night against the Jets?

“The next question is do I think am I going play Thursday? That is day-to-day,” Hightower said. “I am holding up, doing everything they’€™ve asked me to do, so hopefully I will be out there.”

Hightower has missed the last two games after having a strong start to the season — recording 20 tackles in the four games he’s played — as well as coming along in terms of pass coverage, something that was a bit suspect in past years.

In his third season, Hightower only missed two games in his career prior to this year, so standing on the sidelines has been tough — but he’s done what he can to help the defense.

“It definitely sucks,” he said “Definitely these last couple games coming up are definitely games we want to have and seeing those guys out there having fun and playing the way we have been playing and not being able to have a part of — the most I can do is help give those guys checks and alerts from the sideline and doing my part. Hopefully that was the last game of the season I’€™ll have to do that.’€

With fellow inside linebacker Jerod Mayo going down with a season-ending leg injury, the Patriots need Hightower back even more now. While no one person can replace Mayo — a captain — it will take a number players on the defensive side of the ball, including Hightower, who should become more of a leader for the group.

The unit went through the same thing last year when Mayo also went down for the season in Week 6 with a torn pectoral muscle. Going through the same thing last year should help them moving forward this season.

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Read More: Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo,
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