Before the start of the 2012 NFL Season, the New England Patriots were expected to run away with the AFC East. After a trip to the Super Bowl, they started the year as the favorites to win the title.
At the start of Week 7, things haven’t exactly gone as predicted.
The AFC East is the closest division race in the league. Each team is 3-3 through six games, and the Patriots don’t look like they’ll run away with first place anytime soon.
On Sunday afternoon, New England will host one of those .500 teams, as the New York Jets head to Foxboro. It’s the second division game for the Patriots in 2012. They blew out the Bills three weeks ago.
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The Jets are coming off their biggest win of the season. They defeated the Colts 35-9 at home. Indianapolis had upset Green Bay the previous week.
New York’s offensive coordinator Tony Sparano may have to adjust his run-first approach. The Jets dominated their last game, despite rushing for just 99 yards. That game plan, however, might not be as successful against the Patriots.
New England has been dominant against the run, but sports one of the weakest pass defense in the league. Teams are rushing for just 82.7 yards per game against the Patriots, but throwing for 289 yards per contest.
In order to get the ball in the end zone, the Jets may utilize Tim Tebow in the running game. According to head coach Rex Ryan, the quarterback might see time at running back.
"That's a possibility," Ryan said. "The thing about Tim, with him being a football player like we've always talked about, by playing quarterback he knows all the positions and so, can you plug him in at running back? Can you plug him in at tight end, whatever? I think the answer is yes."
The Patriots biggest issues this year has been holding onto leads. They’ve held two-score leads in the fourth quarter in each of their last two losses. A mediocre pass rush and weak secondary have allowed opposing teams to drive down the field in crunch time.
Hopefully for Tom Brady and the Patriots, they won’t have to worry about protecting a close lead. The quarterback leads the league with 1,845 passing yards and can take advantage of a weakened Jets secondary. Without Darrelle Revis, New York’s pass defense isn’t as good as it once was.
According to the betting line at most Las Vegas sportsbooks, the Patriots are 10.5-point favorites. The Jets are underdogs for good reason. Mark Sanchez and the offense have struggled when forced to throw. With a strong rush defense and explosive offense, New England shouldn’t have much trouble in this one.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium. The game will air on TV on CBS, but you can watch a live stream online, by purchasing NFL Sunday Ticket Max.