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If you asked me to preview this game a week ago, I would have chuckled while predicting a laughable score in the Patriots favor. Today, there is no way I can do that. The NFL is a crazy league. The change of feeling has more to do with what I saw from the Pats than what I saw from the Jets.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jumping on the Jets bandwagon just because they won week 1. Every time I go to take the Jets seriously when I think of possible results in this game, I remember that this happened last time these two teams met: Mark Sanchez Butt Fumble
Unfortunately, Mark Sanchez is no longer under center for the Jets. The athletic and confident rookie Geno Smith has now taken over and oh yeah, he found a way to win his first game. Let’s not over exaggerate the significance of that win though. It came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Tampa has some big names, they also have Josh Freeman as their quarterback. My guess is that he loses his job about half way through the season and the Bucs will win no more than six games.
Tampa basically handed New York the game with the late hit penalty in the final seconds. Dumbest play I’ve seen in years. Nonetheless, I’ll give credit where it’s due. Geno did what he had to do to stay in the game and the defense played pretty well. I think Smith can keep the Jets from picking top five in the 2014 NFL draft, but anyone who thinks they’re going to be a contender after a win against Tampa is out of their mind.
As for our beloved Patriots, I have been preaching “In Bill we trust” for as long as I can remember. But I must admit that I’m starting to get a bit ticked off at how much he is putting on Tom Brady’s shoulders. I agree that you don’t need star receivers to make Brady click, but you can’t assume four rookies will step in and not have any growing pains either. The team barely did enough to beat the Buffalo Bills, I’d argue due to the poor performance of those rookies.
However, the close score doesn’t overly concern me because that game was Buffalo’s super bowl. They knew the Pats weren’t at full strength and gave every last bit they had. It was an honorable effort. What does concern me is the additional injuries to the Patriots skill players. The Pats would have lost to Buffalo if it weren’t for the clutch efforts of Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen. They could be without both of them Thursday night. Vereen is definitely out with a broken wrist and Amendola has been unable to practice and is doubtful. Rob Gronkowski is also at least a week away. Running back was thought to be the strength, now we don’t even know if Stevan Ridley’s slippery fingers will allow him to get carries and Vereen is shelved. We could be looking at a backfield combination of Brandon Bolden and Legarette Blount paired with a receiver combination of Julian Edleman and the rookies. Scary thought.
If you like offense, you’re going to hate this game. I’m see an ugly defensive battle here. One aspect I do like about the Patriots this year is the defense. Their front seven stops the run well. The secondary is actually improved. Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard are a good pair at corner and Kyle Arrington had a great week 1 as the third option. Steve Gregory is a decent safety and Devin McCourty is a natural corner but I’m starting to like him at safety more and more. I can see Geno getting forced to throw too much and turning the ball over a bit.
Don’t sleep on New York’s defense either. Antonio Cromartie leads an above average secondary and they have a star defensive tackle in Muhammed Wilkerson. The Patriots’ receivers need to show they can be trusted early so that New York can’t focus on stopping the run. If they can keep the Jets d-line honest, Bolden could have a big day or Ridley if Belichick actually trusts him with the ball.
Bottom line is that I don’t think Brady’s connection with the rookies will be much better coming off the short week. They won’t blow up the scoreboard. However, I think the Pats will get bailed out by playing a team that has a weak offense and will beat themselves. My prediction is a game with minimal offense that will be decided by a crucial mistake by Geno Smith. 20-17 Patriots.
Tags: alfonzo dennard, Antonio Cromartie, Aqib Talib, Bill Belichick, Brandon Bolden, Danny Amendola, Geno Smith, Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Steve Gregory, Tom Brady