The Patriots and Jets don't share much love for one another, and the two will square off for the first time this season during a Week 7 matchup at Gillette Stadium. Perhaps to the surprise of some, both teams enter the game with an even 3-3 record, part of a four-way scrap atop the AFC East. These two have grown particularly familiar with each other in recent seasons (specifically since Rex Ryan took over as Jets head coach), and here is a brief introduction to the current makeup of the Jets.
Record: 3-3 (tied for first in AFC East)
Head coach: Rex Ryan (fourth season, 31-23)
Offensive coordinator: Tony Sparano
Defensive coordinator: Mike Pettine
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
1. QB Mark Sanchez. Sanchez's hold on the starting job in New York remains intact after Week 6, despite some previous discussion that the Jets needed to insert Tim Tebow into the top spot on the depth chart. Sanchez has been substandard throughout the year, completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes, throwing six interceptions and recording four games with a passer rating of 66.6 or lower. Some of that may be due to shaky protection along the offensive line, as well as a lack of weapons in the passing game, as Sanchez has been without tight end Dustin Keller for all but two games, and top receiver Santonio Holmes is out for the balance of the season. Sanchez seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders every time he takes the field, but his head coach has stood behind him throughout the early parts of 2012.
2. C Nick Mangold. Few interior lineman can stand up to Vince Wilfork, but Mangold is one of them. The All-Pro center is a load on the inside, with tremendous strength, size, toughness and smarts to be a protection-caller for Sanchez. Mangold helps to build the integrity of the pocket, while also serving as a tone-setter as a run blocker. He's been elected to the Pro Bowl in each of the past four seasons, and watching the 6-foot-4, 300-plus pounder square off with Wilfork will be a treat on Sunday.
3. RB Shonn Greene. Until Week 6, Greene endured major woes on the ground, totaling just 123 yards in his previous four games. But the creases broke open and Greene made good on his opportunity this past Sunday, rushing for 161 yards on 32 carries and marching into the end zone three times. He's not much of a dancer and doesn't possess breakaway speed; the strength of Greene's game rests in his ability to absorb a heavy load. He also hasn't lost a fumble since the 2010 season. With backup running back Bilal Powell suffering an injury in Week 6 and a question mark to play in Week 7, Greene could likely see a large workload again this Sunday.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
1. CB Antonio Cromartie. With star cornerback Darrelle Revis officially out for the year after recently being placed on injured reserve due to a torn ACL, Cromartie is the front man in the Jets' secondary. The rangy, hyper-athletic cornerback with excellent ball skills has three interceptions already this season, including one in each of the past two weeks. Cromartie has been vocal in his disdain for Tom Brady and the Patriots in previous years and likely has this game circled on his calendar. One question that will probably be discussed this week is how much of a load Cromartie can absorb in a thin Jets secondary against New England's high-octane passing attack.
2. LB David Harris. Probably the quarterback of the defense, Harris is a do-it-all linebacker who mans the middle for New York. He's battled a hamstring issue in recent weeks, but has been active in all six games for the Jets and paces them with 49 tackles. The 28-year-old has yet to register a sack, forced fumble or interception in 2012, but was a playmaker in those categories in 2011, finishing with 5.0 sacks and four caused turnovers. He has good range, is smart, can play against the run and is also a capable pass defender. He doesn't have very many holes in his game.
3. DE Quinton Coples. In terms of established pass rushers, the Jets are limited, but they have a high-upside prospect in Coples, their 2012 first-round pick. From a measurables stand point, Coples has it all, checking in at 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, and with sensational athleticism. He was once considered a candidate to be the top player selected in the draft, before sliding to the Jets in the 16th slot. He funneled that athleticism for his best day as a pro in Week 6, collecting 1.5 sacks and a career-best four tackles. That could be the kind of outing that he needs to kickstart his play going forward, and the Patriots will need to locate him prior to the snap when he is out on the field.
2012 RECAP THROUGH SIX GAMES
There may be no words to better describe the Jets' 2012 season than a roller-coaster ride, as the team exploded out of the gates with a 48-28 thrashing of the Bills to kick off the season. They went on to lose three of their next four games, including a low-point in a 34-0 home defeat to the San Francisco 49ers. It was believed that the Jets would be strong again on defense in 2012, but they are currently 18th in yards allowed per game and 19th in points allowed per game. The loss of Revis is devastating, and the Jets have struggled to both defend the run and rush the passer. Offensively, the Jets are a major work in progress, with depth issues at the receiver spot. Beyond Holmes' absence, rookie Stephen Hill has missed time with hamstring issues, and he's been up and down in his performance, going without a catch in two games and scoring in two others. But beyond those struggles, the Jets have captured three wins in six games, the same number as the Patriots, and perhaps none was more impressive than their latest. And of course when these two AFC East foes go head-to-head, statistics, previous performances and records deserve to be thrown out the window.