— Only seven games remain in this NFL season (the Pro Bowl doesn't count), and four of them are played this weekend. Let's take a look at one of the biggest ones as we narrow the teams down to the final four.
New York Jets at New England Patriots
The Patriots blew out the Jets in New England, but the Jets also won at home. Tom Brady, who will be this year's MVP, is much better than Mark Sanchez, but this game is not the lock some people believe it to be.
The Jets' running game is better than New England's, which means New York could keep it close by controlling the ball. As the Colts discovered, when that big offensive line of the Jets gets rolling it is tough to stop LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene.
If I only get to watch one matchup in this game, I would watch Jets center Nick Mangold against Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Both may be the best in the NFL at their respective positions. Wilfork generally eliminates all runs between the guards, but if Mangold could neutralize Wilfork in a way most teams cannot.
The Jets also have two outstanding cover cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Unfortunately for the Jets, the Patriots' strength are their inside receivers, not the guys Revis and Cromartie generally cover.
To beat the Patriots you have to shut down rookie tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez — in addition to Wes Welker. That means the burden will be on guys such as Eric Smith, Brodney Pool, Dwight Lowery, Drew Coleman and rookie Kyle Wilson to cover the short, quick passes.
The Patriots' defense is not very experienced. Gone are the days with Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison. Rookies such as Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes and second-year players Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are now wearing the favorites label. This defense has been pretty average all year, but has improved as the season progressed.
Are they ready to be Super Bowl champions? Who knows? The Patriots' defense doesn't have to be great with Tom Brady running up the score on offense, but it cannot let the Jets do what they did against the Colts — control the ball with the running game.
Rex Ryan last week told me that he thought his gameplan before their Week 13 matchup was his best of the season. The final score was Patriots 45, Jets 3.
So what happened? Jim Leonard, the safety and quarterback of the Jets defense, broke his leg during final preparations for the Patriots game and forced others into the role of matching wits with Brady.
Obviously, that didn't work out so well. This time, the Jets will be ready and will have seen how the Patriots planned to attack that scheme.
I think the Jets will limit their blitzes on Brady and try to make them go on long drives in the cold without making mistakes. Blitzing Brady is a bad idea. The Patriots' offense is meant to create one-on-one matchups inside and let Brady pick you apart.
If you blitz, you create one-on-one matchups all over the field. If you rush fewer guys, you can help more in coverage. That worked against Manning, and I would expect to see it again against Brady.
I think these two teams are evenly matched everywhere except one position.
And it's tough to pick against the MVP. Patriots 28, Jets 17.