Before we return to my prediction, which I admit seems to contradict my call in last week's column for realistic expectations, let's dabble in some realism regarding the Jets Week 1 victory.
The Texans were playing without two starters in their secondary, safety Eugene Wilson and cornerback Jacques Reeves. Top cornerback Dunta Robinson had only reported the previous week after holding out. Those factors helped QB Mark Sanchez victimize the Texans on third down.
The Jets third down success was eye-popping. As Rich Cimini pointed out in the Daily News, Sanchez went 9-for-10 when it was third-and-7 or longer, not counting the kneel down at the end. For the game, Brian Schottenheimer's offense converted 10 of 18 third down attempts on the way to rolling up 462 yards!
Don't expect it this Sunday. The Jets must run the ball more effectively on first and second downs than what we saw through the first three quarters in Houston. You don't have to be reminded Bill Belichick knows a confusing coverage scheme or two. Sanchez and company will not survive walking the third-and-long tightrope.
But Bill Belichick won't have tackling machine Jarod Mayo Sunday. The second-year linebacker is out with a knee injury, to be replaced by Gary Guyton. Richard Seymour is in Oakland, one of several veterans no longer with the team. The Jets will be able to create match up problems with RB Leon Washington and TE Dustin Keller against a Patriots defense that has to prove it can dominate. That's not a given anymore.
The match up to watch, in my view, will be the Jets blitzing schemes against the Patriots spread offense. Against the Bills Monday night Tom Brady's pass protection was shaky. Brady, by Brady standards, didn't look comfortable. ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski pointed out the Patriots signal caller wasn't stepping into his throws and seemed a little out of sync.
Okay, Brady did throw for 378 yards and rallied his club to a last-minute victory with two brilliants TD passes to TE Benjamin Watson. So he's not over the hill yet. But the Patriots looked like they could be jarred and rattled—and that's unusual. It took Brady a whopping 53 attempts to amass those yards. While the Patriots aren't afraid to run the ball on third down (they run the draw play as well as any team in the AFC), their offense looks pass happy.
The Jets are going to blitz. Question is can the Patriots protect? And where was the Patriots deep passing game Monday night? The Bills play a two-deep zone which by design takes away an opponent's deep passing game. The weakness of the two-deep is the middle, where Brady struck twice to Watson in the final moments. If Brady gets pass protection he will throw it deep against the Jets secondary.
Assuming the Jets will be able to run the ball against a defense that still has monsters named Adalius Thomas and Vince Wilfork, the pressure to dazzle will be off Mark Sanchez. Rex Ryan's team is soaring with confidence. And for the first time I can remember a Jets ‘D' has swagger and nastiness. Thank you, Bart Scott.
I realize I may be falling into a trap, blinded by the Jets Week 1 domination. Success one week doesn't guarantee success the following week, not in this wacky league. Sanchez may be ready for his first rough game. After all, the Patriots don't play defense like the Lions.
But the 2009 Patriots aren't the 2007 Patriots. Right now they look beatable. Prediction: Jets 24 Patriots 20. So much for keeping expectations low.