8 a.m. ET: The Patriots did not have long to review the win they squeaked out over the Bills.
Just four days later, the New England will battle their bitter rivals under the lights of Gillette Stadium. Some familiar faces will be gone from the rivalry. The Jets are without Mark Sanchez, Darrelle Revis, Bart Scott and Dustin Keller. The Patriots have lost Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead (and likely Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, as well).
But the head coaches are still in place. And that’s where much of the bitterness resides in this feud.
Muhammad Wilkerson already guaranteed a victory for New York. And if the Jets are going to start the season 2-0, Wilkerson’s going to have to be a major factor.
The Jets defensive end is one of the best players in the league who many have not heard of. He’s a dangerous interior pass rusher and can cause havoc in the run game. Geno Smith will have to play even better than he did against Tampa Bay. Smith impressed with his arm and legs against the Buccaneers.
For the Patriots to win, players who had rough games in Week 1, like Kenbrell Thompkins and Stevan Ridley, will have to step up. Thompkins’ NFL debut wasn’t as brutal as some have made it out to be, but he did have his fair share of issues. Fortunately for the Patriots, all of the problems he displayed are fixable.
Thompkins has to have better field awareness and he has to stop being so quick to hit the turf. Thompkins has impressive agility, but it doesn’t do him any good if he’s heading toward the ground as soon as the ball hits his fingers.
Julian Edelman and Thompkins are expected to start, as is Ridley, who will look to cure his fumbling issues, but it’s unclear who the No. 4 and 5 skill-position starters will be.
The Patriots could open in 21 personnel and start James Develin and Michael Hoomanawanui. They could open in 12 personnel and start Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan. Or they could open in 11 personnel and start Hoomanawanui and either Josh Boyce or Aaron Dobson.
Vereen was placed on short-term injured reserve, so he’s gone until Week 11. Gronkowski (forearm/back) and Amendola (groin) are doubtful, so they’re, well, doubtful to play against Rex Ryan’s Jets. Brandon Bolden (knee), Dobson (hamstring), Nate Ebner (ankle), Duron Harmon (hamstring), Matthew Slater (knee), Zach Sudfeld (hamstring), Will Svitek (knee) and Leon Washington (thigh) are all questionable. Marquice Cole (hamstring), Alfonzo Dennard (ankle) and Ridley (shoulder) are probable.
For New York, it may be easier to list the players who aren’t probable in this game. Quinton Copes, Jeremy Kerley and Mark Sachez are out, while 18 players are probable. Some of the highlights in that list are Santonio Holmes, Nick Mangold, Sheldon Richardson, Kellen Winslow, Antonio Cromartie, Clyde Gates, Stephen Hill, Chris Ivory, Dee Milliner, Bilal Powell and Geno Smith.
Here are five trends I noticed while reviewing Buccaneers-Jets and Patriots-Bills to watch for in Week 2:
1. Geno Smith loves throwing to Kellen Winslow. The Patriots have struggled to cover tight ends in the past, but the linebackers and safeties performed well against Scott Chandler (for the most part) on Sunday. Winslow is a bit more of a threat with his athleticism. It will be a test for Steve Gregory, Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes and possibly Logan Ryan.
2. The Patriots’ secondary had their best game in years. That trend should likely continue at Gillette Stadium tonight. The Jets’ have an even weaker receiving corps than the Bills. Stephen Hill shouldn’t fool anyone with his rounded off routes and Santonio Holmes seems to have taken more than a few steps back since his best days with the Steelers. Aqib Talib and Dennard are an imposing pair on the edge, Kyle Arrington proved to be a playmaker and Devin McCourty is one of the best deep safeties in the league. Gregory had an impressive game in Week 1 that he must continue all season for this defensive backfield to carry forth. Expect a few turnovers from the Jets.
3. Wilkerson and Richardson have to stay out of the backfield. That burden will rest on the entire offensive line. Both players line up all over the line and you can’t double team both players. The Patriots’ offensive line had a down game against the Bills, but they should never be too much of a concern. Nate Solder, Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer are all Pro Bowl level players and Ryan Wendell had a solid season last year. Dan Connolly was good, but he’s not on quite the same level as the rest of that line. He’s still recovering from injury and didn’t have the best Week 1. Connolly (or Marcus Cannon) will have to boost that position.
4. The Patriots rarely blitzed EJ Manuel. That’s why you didn’t see much of a pass rush on Sunday afternoon. The Patriots likely won’t attack Smith too much with rushers, but they should blitz more than they did against Buffalo. New England has great pass-rushing linebackers, expect to see them more, despite Smith’s quicks.
5. The Jets are still utilizing a wildcat. Yeah, you read that right. While every other team has turned to the read-option, Ryan still thinks it’s a good idea to direct snap to a player who is in no way a passing threat. The wildcat was awful on Sunday against the Bucs. Expect it to remain awful if they run it in Foxboro. That is, unless they run up the middle when the Patriots are giving Vince Wilfork or Tommy Kelly a rest. Joe Vellano really strugged in his debut, winding up on the ground way too much. New England just acquired Chris Jones off waivers, and he may need to be thrown into the fire. At least the Patriots know he has studied the Jets.
Don’t forget, if you’re going to Thursday night’s game. There’s a new NFL-wide bag policy. Review the new rules.
We’ll keep you updated on the news from Gillette Stadium all day. Stay here for the latest happenings. Send any questions you have to @DougKyedNESN on Twitter and I’ll answer them pregame.
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