Tom Brady versus Rex Ryan to kickoff Week 2 of the 2013 NFL season. For as typical as that will be, Bill Belichick gets to face a rookie quarterback for the second consecutive week in Geno Smith.
Given the Week 1 outcomes, this AFC East showdown won’t be a blowout either way as New England underachieved and New York upset Darrelle Revis’ new squad Tampa Bay. So, how will this clash unfold?
Let’s get to it right away and break down the Jets and Pats.
Patriots Offense vs. Jets Defense
Tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola have been listed by the Patriots as doubtful to play in Thursday night’s home opener against the Jets.
They are two of 14 players on the injury report, but only one of the 14 has been ruled out: running back Shane Vereen, who broke a bone in his wrist during the season opener against the Bills and was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return.
In Week 1, Amendola led New England in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. On the ground Vereen stepped in nicely for Stevan Ridley by gaining 101 yards on 14 carries. Factor in what Gronkowski has proven he can do when healthy and the Jets have the edge right now.
Expect Gang Green to play plenty of Cover 1 and Cover 3 press with an abundance of blitzes coming from the front seven. Tom Brady still has the ability to pick a part any defense, so getting physical in coverage and blitzing relentlessly must occur for the Jets to get off the field.
In turn, expect Brady to give Julian Edelman an increase in targets. Plus, should Amendola not suit up, the combination of rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce and Matt Slater have to make an impact.
Jets Offense vs. Patriots Defense
Rejoice Jets fans, because the Mark Sanchez era appears to be over. And although Geno Smith has much to prove, he’s certainly a step up from the atrocity that took place the past few seasons in New York’s offense. Smith did throw an interception on Sunday, but he also spread the field rather well as four different players caught three or more passes.
New England must also account for Smith’s mobility. After all, he did lead the Jets in rushing against Tampa Bay. And speaking of Bill Belichick’s defense, the Pats have to find a way to generate more interceptions.
After the Patriots failed to snag a pick off Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel (who also threw for two scores), Smith can enter with more confidence. As a more proven passer throughout his college career, Smith’s quick release, accuracy and strong arm are capable of beating Belichick’s coverage.
The Jets released their injury report Wednesday for Thursday night’s short-week game at New England. As expected, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley has been ruled out with a concussion sustained on a penalized, helmet-to-helmet hit by strong safety Mark Barron in Sunday’s season-opening win over Tampa Bay.
Much like the Jets defense in this contest, though, anticipate New England getting aggressive in coverage and attacking the line of scrimmage often. The best way to fluster a rookie signal-caller is with pressure and New England does offer that courtesy of Rob Ninkovich, Vince Wilfork and Chandler Jones.
With Kerley out, the Jets have to get a big step up from kick and punt returning. If anything, expect that from Kyle Wilson who has spent time on both kicks and punts.
This is where New England also gets another advantage, because Edelman and Leon Washington have far more experience to break open games and change the field position.
This is quite an intriguing matchup for Week 2. Each team squeaked out a win in Week 1, but the Pats don’t look like the Pats of old. On the flip side, the Jets appear to have something in Smith under center, and the defense played above its potential against Tampa Bay.
But without a running back that has established yearly consistency for each offense to create balance, this one will come down to the passing game. Yes, Ridley did well for New England in 2012, but that’s just one season and he coughed up the rock in Week 1.
Therefore, this game will come down to the pass rush and quarterback play. The Pats didn’t record a sack against Buffalo, and the Jets did get better pressure on Josh Freeman of Tampa Bay. However, Tom Brady remains one of pro football’s best pre-snap readers and his offensive line is reliable.
Geno Smith was sacked five times versus Tampa Bay, plus Jets’ running backs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory combined to average fewer than two yards per carry in Week 1. And with New England keeping C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson of Buffalo in check, the Pats are clearly capable of controling the immediate point of attack.
Line courtesy of FootballLocks.com: Patriots -11.5
PICK: Straight up Pats, Jets & the points
Patriots 23, Jets 16
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