How quickly things can change.
A week ago, I would have predicted a blow out in a game that wouldn’t have big ramifications. However, now, week 2 looks to be a very pivotal game.
If I look up and down the depth chart for both teams, it goes without saying that the Patriots match up well with the Jets. They are both similar teams. However, the Patriots still have a better defensive line, linebacking group, and pair of safeties on defense. Both teams have a solid offensive line, but the Patriots get the nod at receiver, as well as running back. With Watson likely out, the Jets get the nod at tight end.
However, the big position that the Jets have the advantage in is quarterback, with the recently acquired Brett Favre under center. Favre will change the rivalry for this year. But there is one thing I will tell you; don’t sleep on Matt Cassel.
So, if you are like me, and you think the Patriots are a better team than the Jets, why is this game so important? Because the Jets can beat the Patriots, and if that happens, the momentum in the division will dramatically shift. So this game is crucial on all levels. Give Matt Cassel confidence. Set the tone. Prove the doubters wrong.
Keys to the Game
1. Get the running game going early – Getting the running game going early may end up being a key for the Patriots to win this game. Setting up the run game will take a lot of pressure off Matt Cassel, as he won’t have to win the game solely on his arm.
2. Build up Cassel’s Confidence – Another key will be building Cassel’s confidence early. This is his first start, so I assume he will have some jitters. What does that mean? A short controlled passing game. Maybe a screen to start things off. If we get moving on the run, maybe a deep post to Randy Moss. If Cassel can get some completions early, I firmly believe that he will be able to relax, which will help the offense tremendously.
3. Make Favre Force Throws – If there has been one major critique on Favre’s game, it has been that he occassionally forces a throw, or throws up an errant pass. Hypothetically, that is something the Patriots want to happen; it will create turnovers. So the question becomes; how do we make this happen? We blitz, and have some of our faster guys in the defensive backfield (Wheatley?). Look for Vrabel to put his hand down, rushing the quarterback a lot. Get to Favre. Make him force throws.
Players to Watch – Jets
1. Darrelle Revis – The second year cornerback is quickly becoming a star at the position. He combines a tremendous amount of athleticism, physical play, and ball-hawking, and can shut down just about any receiver. It will be interesting to see how he does against Moss.
2. Calvin Pace, OLB #97 – Pace actually reminds me a little bit of Adalius Thomas, at 6’4, 275 lbs. He is the perfect fit as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, and has performed well thusfar.
3. Brett Favre, QB, #4 – How could I not put Favre on this list? If the Patriots are watching him, we’re watching him.
4. Dwight Lowery, CB, #34 – The rookie cornerback is starting with Justin Miller hurt, and he looked tremendous in the first game. We’ll see if he can match up against Welker/Gaffney.
5. Leon Washington, HB, #29 – I suppose I should give another offensive player a little credit. Leon Washington is the Jets version of Kevin Faulk. He can catch, run, and return kicks, making him quite the versatile weapon.
Players to Watch – Patriots
1. Matt Cassel, QB, #16 – There’s no question, all eyes will be on Matt Cassel this weekend. How will he perform as starter? Will he choke? Will he thrive? If can just play some good, mistake free football, then I don’t think anyone can blame him.
2. Randy Moss, WR, #81 – If Moss plays well, it will take a lot of pressure off of Cassel. However, he has this “back injury,” so we’ll see what happens there. This is now Moss’ team, and there are going to be a lot of players looking up to him.
3. Mike Vrabel, OLB, #50 – Mike Vrrrabel!!! Mike Vrabel had a big game last week, registering two sacks. There Patriots may have him put his hand down and doing a lot of stunting, so he should be a player to watch.
4. Deltha O’Neal, CB, #21 – O’Neal played some great football in the KC game last week. With a full week of practice with the Patriots, I think he may be able to come out and perform even better than last week. He should see a lot of playing time with the Jets starting two big receivers in Coles and Cotchery.
5. Rodney Harrison, SS, #37 – 14 tackles last week. 14! Harrison may have to step up his pass coverage this week, as far can certainly air the ball out. You should keep your eye on Harrison, he looks like a kid out there.
Greg’s Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 16
A close, low scoring game. This one might come down to the last drive. However, in the end, I think Cassel makes the ultimate impression.