It may have taken an act of god to will the Jets to victory over the Buccaneers last Sunday (seriously, with 15 seconds to, New York had a 0.2 percent chance of winning -- and then Lavonte David happened), but this is a team long overdue for some good fortune. And as the old saying goes, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
And rookie quarterback Geno Smith seized that opportunity in his debut, completing 24 of 38 for 256 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Did that performance save Rex Ryan's job? Probably not, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. In a league where "one game at a time" is the mantra, the Jets are only concerned about the Patriots, whom they'll face Thursday night.
Modesty has replaced bluster for Ryan, who conceded that the Pats "are the ones you clearly have to beat" in the division. And this comes after New England struggled against Buffalo in the opener, a game in which Brady completed just 56 percent of his throws and the Pats needed a last-second field goal to win.
The Jets, meanwhile, held Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman to 48 percent passing, and running back Doug Martin managed just 2.7 yards per carry. On Thursday, New England will be without its top back, Shane Vereen (101 rushing yards vs. the Bills), who underwent wrist surgery earlier this week.
But if New York is going to have a chance, they'll need to slow Brady, something Ryan had success doing early in his career. He won three of his first five matchups against Bill Belichick, but in the four games since, the Jets are 0-4, losing by an average of 16 points. It helps to have Muhammed Wilkerson up front and Antonio Cromartie on the back end, but Ryan will need to out-scheme Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“I don't think this system requires (a lot of star) players,” Jets linebacker Demario Davis said of Ryan's defense (via the New York Daily News). “I think this defense is going to be great if people just go out and execute their job. We've got more than enough guys at each position to go out and execute their jobs. If we can do that, I think we're going to be okay.”
And it will be the defense -- not Geno Smith or Bilal Powell or Santonio Holmes -- that determines if the Jets will leave Foxborough 2-0 and atop the AFC East. We think the Jets will keep the score close (they'll cover +13.5), but ultimately, Brady will be too much down the stretch.
Other Week 2 games
Dallas over KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith and Andy Reid had the Chiefs looking like a playoff team in the opener, except that blowing out a hapless Jaguars outfit doesn't really tell us much other than Kansas City got a fifth preseason game. We'll know more this week, when the Chiefs host the Cowboys, who are fresh off a victory over the Giants. Tony Romo was sharp in the win, although he and wideout Dez Bryant enter this game nursing injuries. But an early season win on the road could give the Cowboys the confidence to consistently beat better teams, something that will come in handy if this group hopes to finally make it back to the playoffs.
PHILADELPHIA over San Diego: We have seen the future and it is Chip Kelly's high-powered college offense. We're still skeptical it can work over an entire NFL season (Michael Vick's health and LeSean McCoy's durability are chief concerns), but the debut performance against the Redskins was pretty impressive. The Chargers may not be as awful as we thought, but their knack for losing eminently winnable games has carried over from previous seasons, and we don't expect that to suddenly change on Sunday.
GREEN BAY over Washington: Expect to hear a lot this week about "These are must-win games!", never mind that the season has four months to go. Still, if the Redskins fall to the Packers (and we think they will) and Robert Griffin III struggles in the process, brace yourselves because we're going to be bombarded with calls for Kirk Cousins to replace him. Welcome to football in the nation's capital! We have a feeling things are going to get worse in DC before they get better.
NEW YORK GIANTS over Denver: Yep, it's another Manning Bowl, the biggest game of the season until ... next week. The Broncos are slight favorites on the road (-3.5), but Vegas is figuring bettors will remember Peyton Manning's jaw-dropping second-half effort against the Ravens while conveniently forgetting that he was average over the first 30 minutes. It'll be important for the Giants' front four to pressure Manning in much the same way they got after Tom Brady in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, and we expect Eli Manning to have success against a Von Miller-less defense and a banged-up Broncos secondary.