To quote Terrell Owens, "Get your popcorn ready!" The New York Jets and the New England Patriots will renew their heated rivalry this weekend in the Meadowlands. Both teams come into the game atop of the AFC East, both posting a 1-0 record. New England, in true Bill Belichick form, are treating the game as just another game on the schedule. While the trash talking, Rex Ryan led Jets are treating it like Armageddon. Which as a Jets fan you have to love. He sure does talk a good game.
The Jets are coming off a very dominating performance in Houston last week and are amped up for Sunday. They totally shut down a very good Texans offense. While the Patriots were two minutes away from a loss against the Bills, until Buffalo KR Leodis McKelvin fumbled a kickoff which led to another Tom Brady comeback win. Both teams will be ready to play and play hard on Sunday.
Mark Sanchez is now being called "Sanchise" after his solid performance in his first game last week in Houston. The Jets rookie quarterback picked apart the Texans for 272 yards and a touchdown. 191 of those yards came on 3rd down. But just like the Jets teams of the past, Sanchez will have his hands full with the Patriots defense. Rookie quarterbacks always seem to have a hard time with Belichick's defenses. The offensive line should have a slightly easier time then in the past with the absence of DE Richard Seymour, who was recently traded to the Raiders. Sanchez has a pocket presence about him after watching last weeks game. As long as the offensive line can give him some time, he will be able to find his open receivers.
The Jets receivers did a good job of finding openings in the Texans secondary and they will need to do the same this week. Jets TE Dustin Keller was the teams leading receiver last week with 94 yards. He should be able to find openings across the middle with Patriots LB Jerod Mayo out with an injury. It's not that the Patriots do not have good role players, but the loss of Mayo and Seymour is something the Jets need to take advantage of.
Jets number one receiver Jerricho Cotchery will most likely be matched up with CB Shawn Springs, so don't expect a huge game from him. Chansi Stuckey, who had a good game himself last week, will need to take pressure off Cotchery and make some plays himself. I think the key for the Jets will be to have Brad Smith and David Clowney involved in the passing game this week. Neither one recorded a catch last week. Smith could be a key for Sanchez and the offense this week.
The passing game may be tested in a big way if Gang Green can not get the running game going. Thomas Jones picked up right where he left off last season by posting another 100 yard game last week. He will be leaned on to get the offense started this week behind a strong offensive line. He will be up against a Patriots defensive line that surrendered 90 yards on the ground against the Bills. Since the start of last season Jones has been pretty consistent at putting up 90 yards a game and I don't think that will change this week.
It took two season, but Leon Washington finally got more than 10 touches in a game. He was able to gain 60 yards on 15 carries against the Texans. Throw in 4 catches for 24 yards and I'd say he had a good day. And that does not include what he does on special teams. Any way you slice it, Leon has to get the ball at least 12 times against New England. Even if it's in the "Wildcat" which the Jets ran a few times last week. He is a main key to any success the Jets will have in 2009.
What more can you say about the way New York's defense played last week. They totally dominated the Texans offense and shut out that side of the ball. If that was their "A" game, then they need to bring their "A+" game this week. Unfortunately for Rex Ryan and the Jets defense, Tom Brady is no Matt Schaub. Brady is a master at picking apart a weak spot in a defense, so the Jets better not show any holes in their defense. Just like last week, the defense needs to send a message early. On the Texans first series, Jets LB Bart Scott buried his helmet in Shaub's chest after a pass attempt to set a tone. And it worked. They must send a similar message this week. A good thing for the Jets is the return of DE Shaun Ellis from his one game suspension this week. The defensive line was great last week and now you add Ellis back to it.....scary.
CB Darrelle Revis will be matched up with WR Randy Moss and should be able to keep him in check most of the game. The key for the secondary will be to keep an eye on WR Wes Welker and TE Benjamin Watson. Watson put up 2 touchdowns last week and is always a threat in the red zone. Welker had 12 catches for 93 yards last week, but did have a few key drops on 3rd and 4th down. With a potential neutralized Moss, stopping Welker and Watson is crucial.
The Patriots running game is inconsistent at best. RB's Laurence Maroney and Fred Taylor did not have the best showing against the Bills. Combined they were only able to rush for 55 yards. Kris Jenkins and the Jets "D" line was able to hold Steve Slaton to just 17 yards on 9 carries. They totally dominated the line of scrimmage. With the way they played and the return of Ellis I don't really see the Patriots running game being a huge factor in this game.
Patriots - Jets is always a huge game for both teams. The main reason is the divisional matchup and the standings afterword. It just always seems to be a little bit bigger for the Jets. They are the ones with something to prove, not New England. The Jets need to focus on: 1) controlling the game clock. Let the running game do its thing and eat up that clock. 2) Try to contain the Brady to Welker connection. They wont be able to stop it, but try to limit the damage. 3) Start drives with good field position. This is something the Jets have done pretty well over the past two seasons with Leon Washington. If they can execute these things, then I think they can win this game and stop the 8 game losing streak at the Meadowlands. If they don't execute, then Brady can have a field day and this game could be over by halftime. I say the Jets stick to the game plan from last week and squeak out a 20-17 win on Sunday. They have the talent and the attitude, but they need to execute.