They undoubtedly came into the season as the favorites to win their division. However, in week 1, a scrappy Bills team nearly stole a victory away from them. The forever dynasty building Patriots did not look so invincible against a very young Buffalo squad.
Under Belichick, the Patriots have always looked crisp and prepared for every contest. Going up against the Bills, they appeared surprised when Buffalo did not roll over and allow them a free pass to a victory.
On the other side, the Jets were able to rally from behind in the final seconds to beat the Buccaneers. A costly defensive penalty gave them great field position for a chip-in field goal. Rex Ryan insisted before the season that his team was better than what they were given credit for. That these offseason charades would not affect his team’s performance. After seeing the Jets defense on Sunday afternoon, I believe why he said it. It is for these reasons, that the Thursday night game is so intriguing.
Keys to the Game
Geno Smith was extremely comfortable leading his team last Sunday and at times showed great potential. For the Jets to win, Smith will be asked to manage their time of possession and limit costly turnovers. The best way to beat Tom Brady is to keep him off the field. If Geno Smith can keep drives alive and win the possession category then the Jets will be in this game at the end. Running backs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory need to step up as well and open up the field for Smith. Last week the Patriots defense held Spiller and Jackson in check so the Jets will have their hands full trying to move the ball on the ground. Whoever wins that battle on the offense line, will surely own the possession clock.
The Patriots need to get their young receivers and play makers the ball. Amendola and Vareen have been ruled out for Thursday’s game, so getting their young stars comfortable on the field will be key. Kenbrell Thompkins only caught 4 of his 14 targets and Zach Sudfeld added zero catches in week 1. Part of it may have been rookie nerves, but if that lasts into week 2, the Patriots will be looking elsewhere for contributions. Julian Edelman was an excellent replacement for Danny Amendola and will take on a similar load against the Jets. If Tom Brady can spread the ball out and is able to trust his young receivers, the Jets will have a tough time keeping up with this quick paced offense.
Players to Watch
Winslow was an excellent security blanket for Geno Smith and was a surprising key part of their offense. He showed flashes of the player he once was and if healthy, will have an excellent game.
Sudfeld, Thompkins, Dobson, and Brandon Boldin (2 year player out of Mississippi) all have potential for huge breakout games. With all of the hype during preseason, it will be fun to watch who breaks out first. Look for at least one young star to have a huge game on Thursday night.
History shows that the Jets play the Patriots hard and come ready to play. The Patriots did blow them out last season with a 49-19 victory, but it is hard to see that happening this time around. I am still picking the Patriots to win in a close one.
Patriots 24 – Jets 21
Jets Photo (Image courtesy of Mike Garafolo)