By Erik Frenz (Twitter: @ErikFrenz)
Cold, Hard Football Facts Patriots beat writer

Tom Brady vs. Rex Ryan. Quick reads vs. overload blitzes. Patriots pass attack vs. Jets pass defense. However you want to say it, it's the battle everyone looks forward to when these two teams meet. But what about the other side of the coin?

Whenever the Patriots and the Jets lock horns, the focus is on New England's pass attack against Gang Green's pass defense. The writers write about it, the analysts analyze it, the pundits punditize it. But there's another battle that's just as important, and the advantage in that one is much more decided.  

Patriots pass attack vs. Jets pass defense

Through eight games, each team is near the top of the league in those indicators. Let's take a look, with a league-wide context in paranthesis for each stat.

  Comp % Passing yards YPA TD INT Passer rating
Patriots offense 66.04% (3) 2,605 (1) 7.7 (2) 20 (2) 10 (25) 99.99 (3)
Jets defense 53.41% (4) 1,568 (6) 5.9 (10) 5 (1) 13 (3) 59.43 (1)

From an overall perspective, this matchup is exactly what we usually expect -- a great pass attack and a potent pass defense.

A closer look at the numbers, though, is very revealing.

Patriots opponent Tom Brady's passer rating Jets opponent Jets defensive passer rating
Miami Dolphins 121.6 Dallas Cowboys 101.8
San Diego Chargers 135.7 Jacksonville Jaguars 17.6
Buffalo Bills 86.1 Oakland Raiders 81.7
Oakland Raiders 100.1 Baltimore Ravens 37.4
New York Jets 100.7 New England Patriots 100.7
Dallas Cowboys 86.3 Miami Dolphins 41.8
Pittsburgh Steelers 101.8 San Diego Chargers 87.1
New York Giants 75.4 Buffalo Bills 51.9

Both units feed off lesser competition. Likewise, Brady started off red hot but has cooled off faster than scrambled eggs, and no one likes feeding on cold eggs.

As stifling as the Jets defense has been at times, they've been exposed at others. That being said, Brady hasn't been reading defenses like he usually does. Brady will return to form at some point, but will it be against a Jets defense that has a tendency to confuse Brady? Against one of the best pass defenses in the league? If he can just complete a high percentage of passes against this Jets defense, that could be the case.

If only the Jets weren't the league's fourth-best defense at forcing incompletions, a huge contributing factor behind their league-leading DPR. Beyond the overload blitzes and the forced throws, the Jets have a chance to slow down Brady by doing what they've done successfully against him in the past -- a four-man rush with solid interior pressure, press man coverage on the outsides, and extra bodies muddying the middle of the field. The perfect recipe to force incompletions and keep Brady out of rhythm -- and most importantly, off the field.

Patriots pass defense vs. Jets pass attack

  Comp % Passing yards YPA TD INT Passer rating
Patriots defense 64.81% (29) 2,512 (32) 7.4 (28) 14 (21) 10 (6) 91.14 (26)
Jets offense 57.52% (27) 1,676 (24) 6.1 (15) 13 (10) 7 (13) 84.05 (15)

You probably didn't need us to point out that the Patriots have the worst total pass defense in the league, or that the Jets offense is just as turbulent through the air as the Patriots defense.

There's a lot to be said for both teams in that they are able to win games despite being near the bottom of the league in several of these categories. The Jets are able to win in spite of their quarterback, while the Patriots usually win because of theirs.

Patriots opponent Patriots DPR Jets opponent Mark Sanchez's passer rating
Miami Dolphins 93.6 Dallas Cowboys 88.7
San Diego Chargers 97.7 Jacksonville Jaguars 85.8
Buffalo Bills 92.6 Oakland Raiders 93.8
Oakland Raiders 79.4 Baltimore Ravens 30.5
New York Jets 105.6 New England Patriots 105.6
Dallas Cowboys 82.2 Miami Dolphins 95.6
Pittsburgh Steelers 97.5 San Diego Chargers 87.1
New York Giants 77.9 Buffalo Bills 92.9

As bad as it's been, the Patriots pass defense has gotten better -- even if not progressively so -- over the past five games. Poor performances against the Jets and Steelers were offset by sound performances against Jason Campbell and Tony Romo.

But it's that bad performance against the Jets that's the tough one to get by. Nonetheless, Sanchez outdueled Brady in passer rating last time and the Jets still lost because they couldn't move the chains on third down four consecutive times, including seven total three-and-outs and eight failed conversions overall.

Sanchez has done what he always does -- play to the level of his competition. He eats bad defenses for lunch, but can't put it together against the better defenses. He has played well since that beatdown against the Ravens, and his ability to not lose ball games has helped the Jets win three in a row.

But recent history shows, even if he plays well, that may not mean four in a row.


Brady has looked his most human in recent weeks against tougher defenses. The Jets' worst defensive performances have come against the best quarterbacks in the league.

Likewise, Sanchez's tendency to break out against weaker opponents will be met with a fierce challenge by a Patriots defense that's been improving over the past five weeks.

Regardless, as it usually does, look for the battle of the skies to determine the war on Sunday night.