The New England Patriots are heading to New Jersey to take on their division rival the New York Jets on Sunday.
The Jets are coming off a horrible loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers where they saw their starting QB throw 2 interceptions and get sacked 3xs against the winless Steelers, 19 – 6.
The Patriots are coming off a huge victory over the undefeated Saints, 30 – 27. Tom Brady showed late heroics when he drove the field with no timeouts and threw a strike to the back of the endzone for the game winning touchdown with 5 seconds left.
The Patriots lost LB Jerod Mayo for the season in the 4th quarter and Aqib Talib went out with a hip injury, but it is less serious than Mayo’s injury. Right now nobody knows if Talib will play or not. The Patriots also lost WR Danny Amendola to a concussion along with OL Dan Connolly . I wouldn’t expect either of them to play.
Not including any of those players here are 3 key players to watch for New England.
LB Dont’a Hightower
– Hightower will take over the defensive huddle for Mayo, leading the defense and making the calls, and getting everybody in their right place. Hightower did this at Alabama, he was their heart and soul leader on defense, made the play calls, and got everybody lined up correctly so this isn’t new to him. That was one of the reasons the Patriots traded back up in the 2012 draft to get him.
Hightower is very talented, he is good at stopping the run, great pass rusher, and pretty good in coverage. Much better in coverage than Mayo and Spikes. Hightower is also versatile and can play ILB, OLB, MLB, and DE on occasion.
Against the Jets we will see how well he fills the void left by Mayo and what kind of impact he will have on the game and I expect him to have a big one.
WR Austin Collie
– Austin Collie came in on the Patriots final drive after Amendola went down and made a huge impact. He caught two passes, and one was for a first down on a 4th down play. Collie has always shown good hands, and if Amendola misses we will see plenty of Collie in the game. I expect Brady to look his way and Edelman’s way in the game a lot.
This game means a lot to Collie who wants more playing time and if he does good then expect him to get more and more playing time along with Amendola and Edelman. And if the Patriots want to win then Collie needs to make an impact for his QB so Brady will have someone reliable to throw too.
OL Marcus Cannon
– Cannon will fill in for Dan Connolly if Connolly does indeed miss Sunday’s game against the Jets.
The whole offensive line has to improve upon their play from the last time they faced the Jets and from the last two games. Brady was hit a lot against the Jets and the running game couldn’t breath. Against the Bengals Brady was hit the entire game and sacked a few times, and against the Saints the offensive line allowed 5 sacks. At least 2 of them were coverage sacks though. But, the offensive line hasn’t been playing well this year. The key to beating the Patriots is hitting Brady and the key to losing to them is allowing Brady time.
If Cannon can do a good job and help keep pressure off of Tom Brady then New England offensively should be fine.
The game will be won or lost at the line on both sides of the ball and these 3 players will have a big part in this game whether it be good or not.