NFL Week 2 Preview: Jets @ Patriots
It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win. Last week’s 23-21 victory over Buffalo exposed some glaring weaknesses for The Patriots, both literally and figuratively. Early fumbles forced Ridley out of the game and propelled Vereen to shred the Bills defense on the ground (14 carries, 101 yards) and air (7 receptions, 58 yards). Little did we know that Shane broke a small bone in his wrist on the first play from scrimmage. Vereen now finds himself on Injured Reserve, eligible to return in Week 11 – stabbing the hearts of fantasy owners all over the country.
If he wasn’t the player of the game, the nod should be given to off-season acquisition WR Danny Amendola. Not only did he nag 10 balls for 104 yards, third down after third down Amendola did his best (and even better at times) Wes Welker impression. Sacrificing his body over the middle, Danny made some huge catches on our comeback drive to victory. It’s no surprise he reactivated his groin injury and is listed as doubtful for tonight’s game. With Gronk also doubtful to suit up, the Patriots are forced to find additional production from their young bloods with Julian Edelman leading the way. The past two regular season matchups against the Jets in Gillette Stadium have been close affairs (30-21 and 29-26) in favor of the Patriots and this one should not disappoint.
Check out these five keys to victory for New England tonight at 8:25 on NFL Network:
1) Win the turnover battle: Although the Patriots committed three giveaways and forced two, they found a way to win the game. TB12 said it in his postgame presser; “We made just enough plays to earn a victory today”. Unfortunately in 2013, it may come down to that simple statement week in and week out. Will New England be able to piece together a cohesive sixty minutes on both sides of the ball? Luckily for the offense, the defense has not been stacked with this much talent in years. New faces and old, it is clear that we have some serious playmakers making noise. It shouldn’t be too difficult to disguise packages and force rookie QB Geno Smith into some amateur moves, bro. Expect Belichick to let Smith beat us with his arm. Then again, we all saw how that ended up last week with rookie QB E.J. Manuel. If the Patriots win the turnover battle they will prove victorious tonight, it’s that simple.
2) Execute on Special Teams: K Stephen Gostowski nailed a 35 yarder with five seconds to spare and secured week one’s narrow escape. It was comforting to see our kicker go three for three in attempts after having a shaky 2012 campaign. It’s no secret Gostowski is a streaky guy and with no elite red zone target we need Stephen to keep it up this year. On the other side of the ball, cutting P Zoltan Mesko has paved the way for rookie Ryan Allen to take over the punting duties. Out of his six punts on the day, three were downed inside the 20, one was absolutely horrendous and the other was mediocre (39.3 yard average, 36 yard net). Allen will settle in and lose the early season jitters; however, it is imperative that our kickoff/coverage units do not let the Jets start their drives with momentum. Pinning Geno and crew deep will test their ability to orchestra elaborate double-digit play drives, giving the Patriots ball-hawks more opportunities against the rookie.
3) Keep it simple: This next key to victory is certainly not for the defensive unit; you can expect Belichick to give Rex Ryan and the Jets scheming headaches all night long. Although OC Josh McDaniels runs a complex offense, toning it down and executing a balanced attack will be the perfect formula for this Week Two matchup against our familiar foe. Despite fumbling his role away in Buffalo, I expect Stevan Ridley to clap back at home with a vengeance under more of a smashmouth gameplan. Remember those no huddle drives with continuous runs and quick slants that eat up the clock? I sure do. The Patriots straight dominated teams last year with that exact uptempo play-calling. Expect less intricate and more effective/efficient drives while inexperienced players continue to start at the offensive skill positions. New England owned the time of possession last week – 37:43 to 22:17, we need to maintain that ratio throughout the season if we can’t hit on big plays. Watch out for big boy LeGarrett Blount, he got seven touches last week and will get a handful of opportunities with Vereen out for the next ten weeks.
4) Attack Geno: It’s not easy being a quarterback in the NFL, heck; it’s hell being the New York Jets QB. Set the edge, pressure Smith in the pocket and make him beat the Patriots through the air. New England finds itself in hot water too many times against mobile quarterbacks. Coverage breakdowns are inevitable but homerun plays occur far too often against the Patriots. Belichick’s squadron did not record a sack last week, logging four QB hits and three pass deflections. That needs to change in Week 2 if we want any chance of having some nails left to bite the rest of the season.
5) Do your job: Ever since Belichick arrived, less was more. Less information shared with the media, less losses and less importance put on the regular season. The arrival of trailblazers Gronk and A-Hern pioneered a new era for the Patriots. Larger than life characters off-the-field, their antics were accepted (in some senses) despite their Pro Bowl caliber skillsets. Each had controversial off-seasons and both negatively impacted the New England Patriots’ franchise. This key to victory illuminates the theory that each player is a cog to the machine. We saw multiple coverage breakdowns leading to touchdowns that were caused by a lack of chemistry in the defensive backfield. It’s early but the Patriots defense will be scary all season, intimidating to opposing offenses with their playmaking ability, but inconsistent and unproven.
I love the Patriots at home tonight in front of a national audience. The season is so early and while New England appears weak offensively, there is no doubt Belichick and McDaniels have something up their sleeve. I predict Tom Brady and company bring home the victory tonight in the form of a 27-17 beat down.