The New York Jets (1-0) continue their season tonight at 8:30pm EST against their divisional rivals, the New England Patriots, (1-0) at Gillette Stadium.
Thursday night’s game will be the 106th meeting between the two teams. The Patriots currently hold a slight edge on the series 53-51-1. The Patriots have won the previous four meetings, including both games in 2012 by scores of 29-26, and 49-19.
Since Tom Brady took over as the Patriots quarterback he has faced five different Jets’ starting quarterbacks — Vinny Testerverde, Chad Pennington, Brooks Bollinger, Kellen Clemons and Mark Sanchez. On Thursday, he’ll see another new face in rookie Geno Smith.
In his first regular season game Smith played better than expected, but he did turn the ball over twice — both of which were his fault. If the Jets are going to have any chance of upsetting the balance in the AFC East and beating the Patriots, Smith will have to play a smart, mistake free game. If the Jets lose the turnover battle, Tom Brady will punish them.
The saving grace for the Jets is that there might have been no better time in recent history to face the Patriots. They are without the majority of their major weapons from 2012 — Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Welker — and are now missing starting running back Shane Vereen and wide receiver Danny Amendola, due to injury. The one constant is future Hall of Famer, Tom Brady, but without any real weapons the Patriots look a lot more beatable than previous years.
In terms of stopping the Patriots offense, the Jets will likely key on WR Julian Edelmen; he is the only receiver that Brady is really familiar with, and he caught two touchdowns in the Patriots win over Buffalo last week. The Patriots next best option, Rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, looked out of sync with Tom Brady last weekend, and caught only 4 of his 13 targets. Due to the short week, the Patriots haven’t held a full practice so it’s optimistic to think that any of their struggling receivers will vastly improve from last week.
Defensively, a key match-up is the battle between the Jets defensive line and the Patriots offensive line. This match-up features strength against strength. The Patriots offensive line is one of the best in the league, and the Jets defensive line is forming into a formidable bunch. The Jets contained the Buccaneers’ running back Doug Martin last week, and will look to do the same against New England, especially with the Patriots missing starting running back Shane Vereen.
This game will once again come down to the performance of the Jets defense. If they can contain Brady, and limit him to just a few scores, they have a chance to stay in the game and perhaps sneak out with a win. Although with a rookie quarterback at the helm, the odds are stacked against the Jets.
They might need Rex Ryan to punch Bill Belichick after all.
Prediction: Patriots 27 – Jets 20