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JETS AT PATS

11/13/08

Key Release

One word comes to mind when looking at this Thursday Night AFC East clash.......HUGE. These two sit at 6-3 on the year in one of the most tightly contested divisions in the NFL this year as both the Dolphins and Bills sit at 5-4. Obviously, a win here and a 7-3 record puts some space between the winner here and the rest of the pack. For the Pats, that would also give them one up on the Jets as they would have beaten them twice.

Remember when you were in grade school and the teacher would toss your lowest test score of the marking period before averaging your grade? Seems fair, right?  Everyone has off days. Well, we can do the same thing when handicapping football games. Also fair. Hey, all teams have off days. In the case of he Pats and Jets you can toss two games each that don't seem to if with the rest of the results. For the Jets were going to toss the Charger game and actually a win over the Cards. Why the win? Because the game was uncharacteristic of the way the Jets have played defensively this year at least as far as total points given up in a game and will distort the point we are getting at. But keep in mind that in that game, the Jets SHUT OUT the high powered Cardinals offense in the first half taking a 34-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. You can discount the entire 2nd half really. For the Pats we will toss the  Charger game, a 30-10 loss and the Dolphin game early in the year, a 38-13 loss. Again, both uncharacteristic when compared to the season as a whole. Especially when considering, in the Pats case, they had just lost their franchise QB with Brady going down.

When we toss the two games for each team, we are left with two very similar teams with very similar results. For the Jets we have a team averaging 24 points per game on offense while giving up just 15. They gave up 24 to the Chiefs. Other than that they have held everyone to 19 points or less. For the Pats, we see a team averaging 23.5 points per game while giving up just 13 on average. Very good numbers for both teams. Numbers which would put them both among the NFL's elite when just taking those numbers into consideration. The numbers ring true as far as the difference between these two teams because both have played a similar schedule. The Pats have had it a bit tougher only because they have faced the Colts already (who, by the way, are down a notch in case no one has noticed). Otherwise, you have games against the Chiefs, 49ers, Broncos, Rams and Bills. Likewise for the Jets. Bengals, Chiefs, Bills, Rams and the worst of all, a loss to the Raiders.

So, very similar results against very similar teams. Safe to say the Jets have performed a little better than the Pats offensively, and why not with Brett Favre having a little more time to learn the Jets schemes. The Pats have performed a little better then the Jets defensively, giving up 21 to the 49ers but holding the rest to 18 or less. Again, we are excluding those two games mentioned above. Brady going down is the difference in the Pats season to this point. The Pats are still the Pats at all other positions. They are still the Pats of a year ago defensively. Insert Brady and who knows what we'd be looking at offensively for the Pats thus far but you know it would be better than what Cassel has been able to do. That's not a knock on Cassel. He's done a fine job in an extremely tough spot. But it's impossible to follow a hall of famer.

When these two played in New York back in September, it was Cassel's first start, and Favre was still getting his feet wet with the Jets. Both offenses were at similar disadvantages and were limited. The game was fairly even statistically. Both teams had about 260 total yards which were evenly distributed among the pass and run. 60 yards in penalties for the Jets compared to 10  for the Pats hurt the Jets. Favre also had one key interception which the Pats converted to 7 points.

Big games like the one between these two Thursday Night always come down to one of two key mistakes in the end and in this case is likely to come down to the two men behind center, Favre and Cassel. Favre is one of the few guys in the sport that can win or lose games all by himself regardless of the supporting cast. We have seen that for close to two decades and the guy hasn't lost much. Remember, he's only 8 months removed from the NFC title game. He can hurt you as much as he can help you at times. He led the league in interceptions after week 10 which is not a category you want to top. But when push comes to shove, with everything on the line, who would you rather have on your side, Favre or Cassel?

The presence of Favres arm keeps defenses honest. With that long ball always a threat you can't cheat to stop the run. Cassel is much less of a threat. He's put in a position not to lose games with a ball control dink and dunk attack. The Jets defense ranks 5th in the NFL against the run allowing just 76 yards per game and are #2 in the NFL in sacks behind only the Steelers. With the Pats not likely to get the ball moving on the ground, it's going to fall on Cassel's arm.

The Jets on the other hand managed to average 5 yards per rush last time out against the Pats. Thomas Jones leads the AFC in rushing and again, with Favres arm strength keeping the defense honest, that is likely to continue Thursday Night. If the Jets are able to move the ball on the ground it will open up the passing game for Favre and once again, under those conditions, who would you rather have behind center, Favre or Cassel?

With the Jets ability to run the ball and stop the run, and with Favres ability to make big plays both down field and when he takes off and leaves the pocket the Jets would seem to have all the edges they need to spring the upset and take control of the AFC East in what amounts to the biggest game for this franchise in quite some time. Note that the Patriots have dominated this series in recent years having won 13 of 15. But there was one common denominator in those games......Tom Brady. The tide turns Thursday Night. We'll take the Jets. We are going to play half of our wager on the money line and half our wager at +3.5 -130.

So the Play is a 3* play which breaks down like this

1.5* Jets +140

1.5* Jets +3.5 -130

 

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