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Five things to watch: Jets-Pats best of season?

by | CBS Sports

Five things to watch for this week:

1. Jets-Patriots: This might be the game of the year. Both teams have had extra days to prepare, so the strategy will be the most fascinating aspect of the game for me to watch. When the Jets have the ball, how will the Patriots defend Santonio Holmes? He did not play in the first game and has been the difference maker in the last few games. Can Mark Sanchez make plays from the pocket when the game is on the line? Can the Pats keep him in the pocket? When the Pats have the ball, how will the Jets take away Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski? Cleveland (remember Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is Rex Ryan's brother) put its best corner on TE Aaron Hernandez, who has been replaced by Rob Gronkowski as the go-to TE, and double-teamed Wes Welker, being physical with him at the line of scrimmage. The Pats tight ends are a mismatch for the Jets safeties. How do the Jets cover them? The other thing Cleveland did was give Brady a number of different looks on third down to try to confuse him. Will the Jets use those same concepts? One point that I took away from the Jets win in September was that they were more physical as the game wore on. Who will be the more physical team this time? Finally who will do the best job of pressuring the opponent's QB? Neither team can get consistent pressure without blitzing. So how much do they blitz and who does the best job of executing the blitz and exploiting it?

2. Steelers-Ravens: In Baltimore's win in October over Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger did not play. Clearly this is a big boost to the Pittsburgh offense. The main thing I am going look for is who will be more aggressive and successful in the passing game. Pittsburgh struggled against New Orleans and New England when they spread them out and had success throwing the ball. Will the Ravens try the same strategy? Last time the Pittsburgh OLBs did not have a big impact on the game; will James Harrison and Lamar Woodley have an impact this time? How will Pittsburgh's offensive line hold up against the Baltimore front? Will Roethlisberger have success against the Ravens secondary? Ed Reed did not play in the first game. What impact will he have? Roethlisberger is wearing a boot this week. Will that restrict his valuable mobility?

3. Falcons-Bucs: Both teams are coming off emotional games last week. Atlanta won a crucial match against Green Bay. Will the Falcons have an emotional letdown? This is a test for a championship team. Tampa Bay is trying to take the next step as a developing young team. The Bucs lost on the road to a playoff-caliber team (Baltimore) last week. Can they rebound and beat a playoff team at home? How will Roddy White match up against Aqib Talib head to head? Talib is a young, developing player the same as Roddy White was a couple of years ago. How will the combo of Josh Freeman and Mike Williams do against an Atlanta secondary that has given up a lot of yards this year?

4. Cowboys-Colts: The Colts have lost three of their last four and -- with Jacksonville favored over Tennessee -- a loss here could knock them out of first place. Dallas has played inspired football under Jason Garrett. The question I have is when the Cots have the ball, who wins between the Dallas pass rush against the Colts passing game? The same is true when Dallas has the ball. How will the Cowboys contain the pass rush of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis? Manning is adept enough to be his own protector with his ability to get rid of the ball before the pass rush gets to him. Jon Kitna is not that adept. The Cowboys will have to help their offensive tackles slow down Freeney and Mathis. How will they do it?

5. Texans-Eagles: This one figures to be a shootout. Both teams have exceptional No. 1 receivers in DeSean Jackson and Andre Johnson. How will each defense try to take away these two receivers? How will the Texans contain Michael Vick? Last week the Bears did a good job of getting pressure from the inside and keeping him contained. You need to get inside pressure against Vick; can the Texans get it? The Eagles have the same objective on defense, needing inside pressure on Matt Schaub; can they get it? The Texans secondary has struggled all year; will this be another game where they struggle? Which defense will play better?


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