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Week 1 is finally here. More than seven months have passed since the Patriots fell to the Colts in the AFC Championship game. Lots has changed for the Patriots and they now – on paper – will be fielding the most talented team in the Bill Belichick era.
Today’s opener against the Jets will not come without its obstacles. Absent from the starting lineup are defensive end Richard Seymour (knee) and safety Rodney Harrison (suspension). New WR sensation Randy Moss hasn’t played a competitive down this preseason (hamstring) and shut down corner Asante Samuel has been ruled eligible to play but he also has yet to see any game action (contract dispute).
The Patriots face the rival Jets coached by Eric Mangini. The gamesmanship has been prevalent in the last week, with both teams bringing in cut players from their counterpart to, perhaps, try to get a sense of what their opponent is planning.
The game will come down to defense. It will be interesting to see how Tom Brady gels with his new wideouts and how Laurence Maroney will deal with being the No. 1 running back. But chances are that the Pats will put up points, it’s just a matter of how the defense will hold up against Chad Pennington and new tailback Thomas Jones.
The front three – even without Seymour – is as formidable as any in the league. Ty Warren had a breakout year in 2006 and Vince Wilfork has slimmed down and looks poised to become one of the best nose tackles in the NFL (Seymour’s replacement Jarvis Green is no slouch either). The linebacking corps complete with the return of Junior Seau and free agent signing Adalius Thomas will wreack havoc in both the middle and the edges.
Though missing Harrision, I think Samuel will play and play well. The Jets receivers (Laveranues Coles and Jericho Cotchery) are not unstoppable, and the Pats will stack the line with LBs and will force Pennington – who had a less than solid preseason – to beat them.
The Pats are heading into an always hostile environment at the Meadowlands, but this team is just too talented to get snuck up on by the Jets. Brady will show how deadly his new receiving corps will be and Maroney – who looked very solid in Week 3 of the preseason – should pick up where he left off before his injury last season.
It’s opening day baby!
Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 20
What’s YOUR prediction?