The New England Patriots square off against the New York Jets in week six. In their last meeting, the Patriots handed the Jets a 41-3 drubbing in Foxborough in week 16. The Jets have surprised the NFL so far this year after jettisoning several veteran players in the off-season in what many identified as an attempt to tank. The Patriots and the Jets currently share a third of first place in the division, as both teams are tied with the Buffalo Bills at 3-2. Here are three keys to victory if the Pats want to pull ahead in the AFC East.

Week Six New England Patriots Keys to Victory

Protect the Quarterback

Everyone is keeping an eye on Tom Brady’s health. The New England offensive line has given up 16 sacks so far this year, the second most in the league. Brady is still performing at an incredible level—he leads the NFL in passing yards—but being sacked an average of more than three times per game will take its toll. Brady missed practice on Tuesday with a shoulder injury and is expected to play through the injury on Sunday. The injury was identified by Ian Rapoport as an AC joint sprain in the quarterback’s left shoulder, indicative of the kind of beating he has taken this year.

Although Bill Belichick has commended the 40-year-old quarterback’s toughness, keeping him upright and healthy is going to ensure that the Patriots maintain the offensive dominance that has been paramount in their three wins thus far.

Fire Up the Cannons

The Jets defense is allowing an average of three 20+ yard passing plays per game. The Patriots offense has no shortage of pass catchers that can stretch the field. In Brandin Cooks’ 18 targets this season, he has six plays of 20 yards or more. It is clear that Cooks is able to live up to the big-play ability for which he was signed. The team also regains Rob Gronkowski, out last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose big play potential has been demonstrated again and again over his career. In fact, the only pass catchers without four or more plays of 20+ yards this season are the only pass catchers with fewer than ten targets. Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, and James White have four apiece.

Run Up the Score Early

Josh McCown has been a big surprise for Jets fans this season. No one expected great things out of the veteran journeyman, but the success in New York has been shocking. McCown has been outstanding this season when leading or down by one possession. Overall, he has posted a 71.4 percent completion rate this season. On passes when the Jets are leading by nine or more points, McCown is perfect. He has missed only five passes when leading this season. However, his completion percentage drops to 60 percent when trailing by nine or more. In addition, two of McCown’s four interceptions this season have come while the Jets were down by at least two possessions. By capitalizing on explosive offensive weapons early in the game, the Patriots can force McCown into a game situation where he has been at his worst this year. This should make things easier for a struggling secondary that has notched only three interceptions over five games.

 

It has become clear to the fans in New England that games will be won on the backs of the offense. The defense looked better in last week’s contest, but hopefully, Matt Patricia took the long week to work with the defense to try and stop the hemorrhaging. Regardless, keeping the Patriots perfect on the road will lie in the hands of the Patriots scoring units. With the Bills on bye this week, this is the perfect opportunity for the Patriots to reclaim their place atop the AFC East.

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