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1. Why New England will cover the spread: The Patriots will cover the spread as long as their offense functions without TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronk broke his forearm in last week’s win over the Indianapolis Colts, and now he’s on the shelf for the rest of the regular season in all likelihood. With TE Aaron Hernandez still hurting, the possibility is there that there won’t be any tight ends on the roster that were with the team at the outset of the campaign. That means more for WR Wes Welker and WR Julian Edelman.
2. Why New York will cover the spread: The Jets will cover the spread if they figure out how to score some points. It seems like a bit of a duh statement, but New York has had four games this year in which it has failed to score more than 10 points. In games scoring more than 10, the Jets are 4-2 SU and 6-0 ATS. Obviously, regardless of all of those offensive stats, any team is going to have to get into the scoring column time and time again to beat New England, and this won’t be the exception.
NE - TE Aaron Hernandez expects to pick up slack
Source: ESPNBoston.com - Field Yates
New England Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle) said he expects to pick up the slack after TE Rob Gronkowski (forearm) suffered a broken arm in Week 11. 'Whatever the change is, we've just got to make plays and fill that void that we're going to be missing,' Hernandez said. Hernandez is still bothered by an ankle sprain, though, and hasn't played since Oct. 21.
No official word on Hernandez's playing status, but we'll get one later in the week. Without Gronkowski on the field the team could sure use Hernandez out there, but we could see WR Julian Edelman see a bump in targets over the middle.
NYJ - More on three-back approach
Source: ESPNNewYork.com - Matt Ehalt
The New York Jets were able to incorporate RBs Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight into the game against the St. Louis Rams in Week 11. Green had 26 snaps, Powell had 28 and McKnight was in on seven snaps. Greene had 18 carries, Powell had 11 and McKnight had four. Powell also caught two passes and ran for two touchdowns. Head coach Rex Ryan plans to use all three backs more evenly moving forward.
Greene should still get most of the carries, but Powell may be the best option at the goalline.
The Gronkowski loss is huge. He just can't be replaced. The offense is going to be different and I don't think they are going to be as effective. He was huge in the first matchup versus the Jets. Every week, he's the red zone threat. It doesn't matter what personnel group is on the field, you can't really lock in on that as a defense because Gronkowski can also play a wide receiver role. But what's so special about him is that you can also put him in-line and he can block. So if you're in the nickel defense, the Patriots are in position to jam it down your throat. That's a big part of why they're so successful. This is the biggest loss they can have, minus Tom Brady. We already saw what it did when he wasn't 100 percent against the Giants in the Super Bowl. This is where offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels earns his money. How different will the Patriots' offense be, how creative can he be, and how can they attack the Jets' defense without Gronkowski?
Jets watered down Sanchez's game plan a week ago---will they do it again this week?
The call was emblematic of a shift in the play calling last week. The game plan was straight out of 2009, Mark Sanchez's rookie season: quick throws, conservative plays in the red zone and rollout passes to accentuate his ability to throw on the run.
Obviously, the strategy worked. It served as a road map for Sanchez, who needed to find a safe, comfortable place after three straight games in which he threw a killer interception in scoring territory.
They need more than a game manager to beat the Patriots; they need a game changer. The Jets can't play scared, as they did in the final two minutes of regulation in the first meeting. They have to play the way they did in the first 58 minutes, trusting Sanchez enough to let him attack the Patriots' porous secondary.
At 4-6, the Jets need Sanchez to save the season.
"I think they'll make a conscious effort to protect the quarterback and try to get after the back four," said an opposing personnel executive, who has scouted the Jets and Patriots. "I thought they kind of did that last time."