New York Jets: Analyzing the Patriots’ Week 7 Opponent

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Oct 18, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (87) celebrates with wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) during his game against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won, 34-20. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Quarterback

If there was ever a strange case that proved the Wonderlic Test given to football players is nonsense, but in the most backwards way possible, Ryan Fitzpatrick is it. A Harvard grad who danced with perfection on the test – his score is disputed, but the consensus is either a 48 or 49 out of a possible 50 – Fitzpatrick’s been passed around the league like a vodka bottle at a house party.

He’s played for the St. Louis Rams, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Buffalo Bills, the Tennessee Titans, and most recently, the Houston Texans decided they were totally cool with Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer slinging the rock and sent Fitzy to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick.

All he’s done since being named the starter is throw 9 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, almost 1,200 yards, and achieve a 76.6 QBR rating that’s the best he’s done since 2006 wearing St. Louis blue and gold.  For what it’s worth, Tom Brady, Destroyer of Worlds, is currently at 73.2, and the best in the NFL at the moment is somehow Andy Dalton at 84.2.

And while this surely says more about the sorry state of recent Jets quarterbacks, according to ESPN, this type of performance is on pace for Fitzpatrick to log the best QBR for a Jets quarterback in the last ten seasons.

With the Jets defense looming as arguably more intimidating than Seattle’s and the Jets running game firing like a straight-piped Camaro, Ryan Fitzpatrick has had the relative luxury of being able to game-manage his way to a 4-1 record relatively painlessly.  No, literally – he’s only been sacked twice all yearBlake Bortles asks Santa every year for protection half as good as that.

Who Can Stop Him?

As I mentioned earlier, in between making fun of the Jets and making fun of the Jets, New York’s offensive line is the best in football this season when it comes to pass protection.  Run blocking is another story, but just look at what Tony Romo was able to accomplish last year with great blocking up front.

So this responsibility falls on the Patriots front seven, specifically the defensive line and whichever linebackers get the call on blitz plays.  Every quarterback’s performance suffers under pressure.  And having seen Ryan Fitzpatrick play over a dozen times in person, a pocket collapsing turns Fitzy into one of three things:

A check down machine.

A turnover machine.

A check down turnover machine.

New England’s secondary is going to have their hands full (more on that later), but if they can buy the pass rush enough time to get home, Ryan Fitzpatrick has already thrown 7 interceptions while only being sacked twice all year-long.  It’s not a stretch to wonder whether he’d be in the double-digit interception category if rushers could just get in his face more often.

Where Belichick could really have a lot of fun with this is employing a smorgasbord of different rushing combinations to keep Fitzpatrick and the o-line off-balance. 

We’ve seen the Patriots utilize everything from a three-man rush with a combined weight of half a ton (Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown) to lighter four-man rushes like Chandler Jones, Jabaal Sheard, Dominique Easley, and Rob Ninkovich.  Throw some carefully timed blitzes on top of that, and watch the world burn.

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