Week 1: New England Patriots at New York Jets

It’s that time of year.  Kids are back in school, the leaves are beginning to change, and oh yeah, it’s football season.  Right now, I have that feeling in the gut of my stomach, I just can’t believe it, it’s football season already.  It’s time to go into your closet, pull out your Bruschi, Brady, and Antowain Smith 🙂 jerseys.  And with that said, lets get straight to the preview.

The Patriots will open up their 2007 season against the New York Jets.  Although its not an easy win, I’m really looking forwards to this game, as there’s nothing better than to open a season against your division rival.  Last season, the Jets improved tremendously, going from 4-12 to 10-6.  Although I’m not sure if they can repeat their 2006 results, I think they will be right in the thick of things.  With a revamped running game, a some nice additions to the defense (Darrelle Revis, David Harris), the Jets are looking more formidable than last year.

Keys to the Game – Patriots

1. Get the running game going early – Laurence Maroney showed that he may be able to carry the load during the Patriots third preseason game, against the Panthers.  Maroney just kept grinding it out, picking up 44 yards on eleven carries.  I think that is the kind of game Maroney needs to start out with on Sunday.  If Maroney can wear down the Jet’s front seven in the first few drives, it can open up the passing game for Brady, and lighten Maroney’s workload in the 3rd quarter.

2. Keep Jets secondary honest – Tom Brady will need to work the Jets with quick underneath routes.  Look for Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney to pick up a lot of catches early.  If Brady can keep the secondary honest, he can look deep on flies and posts to Moss and Stallworth.

3. Apply Pressure to Pennington – If there is one quarterback that resembles Drew Bledsoe’s ability to escape out of the pocket and throw, it’s Chad Pennington.  If Belichick uses Colvin and Vrabel on stunts, and Jarvis Green can get up field quickly, it will be a long night for Pennington, and a great night for the Patriots secondary.

4. Defense Must Flow Despite Losses – The defense must find a way to gel, despite the losses of Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour.  I believe James Sanders and Jarvis Green can really succeed.  The real area of concern is Sanders.  I think Mangini will attack Sanders using deep posts and slants in his zone.  Sanders is one of my favorite players, and I feel confident he can step up and fill the void.

5. Protecting Brady’s Right Side – Nick Kaczur won the starting right tackle job, but how will he perform?  I am sure that Mangini will load up the right side, and Kaczur’s composure will be critical Sunday, and for the Patriots’ future.

Players to Watch – Jets

1. Jerricho Cotchery, WR – most underrated wide receiver in the NFL (next to Welker)

2. Shaun Ellis, DE – May be aging, but still has talent.  Will go up against Kazcur

3. Eric Barton, LB – Underrated run stuffing linebacker who will give LoMo a handful.

4. Brad Smith, WR/RB/QB – Must be spied on every play he is in the game

5. Leon Washington, RB – Backup running back, but huge special teams threat

Players to Watch – Patriots

1. Wes Welker, WR – This is his debut.  Will he live up to the hype (I’ve given him)?

2. James Sanders, S – Can he fill the void left by Harrison?  I say yes!

3. Jarvis Green, DE – For now, he is the starter.  Can he play at Seymour’s level?

4. Randy Moss, WR – He will make his long awaited debut after being hurt in the preseason.

5. Mike Vrabel- He can finally move back to the outside where he plays best.  Now what will he do?

Greg’s Prediction: Patriots 34 Jets 10.  I hate to predict a blowout, especially against a good team.  But it’s the season opener, and the red, white, and blue Kool-Aid is running through my veins.

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