GAME PLANS IN ACTION
Jets: The Jets can't expect Chad Pennington to throw for 319 yards every week, especially without the semblance of a running game to keep defenses honest. The Jets need to average more than the 2.7 yards per carry they garnered against Tennessee or else the Patriots will be able to tee off on Pennington with their array of confusing defensive fronts. The Jets are minus-10 in turnovers during their six-game slide against New England.
On defense, the Jets must stop the two-headed rushing monster of Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon, who totaled 159 yards on 33 rushes during the Patriots' win over Buffalo. The Jets only had two sacks of immobile Kerry Collins last week, and now will face Tom Brady, who is looking to atone for a lackluster game against Buffalo. His current group of wideouts isn't as good as in past years, so the Jets' secondary has a good chance to shut them down.
Patriots: It's hard to imagine the Patriots going away from their rushing attack against the Jets. As they showed against Buffalo, the passing game just isn't clicking right now. Tom Brady and company will probably be more productive this week than they were against the Bills but the Patriots will rely heavily on the ground game against a New York defense still getting used to a new scheme. Also, this could be the game where Laurence Maroney starts getting more carries. The rookie ran the ball 17 times to Dillon's 16 times against the Bills and while both backs looked good, Maroney is showing that he may be one of those special kinds of players. If Dillon struggles running the ball early, expect to see a lot more of Maroney and less of the veteran as the game goes on.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Jets LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson vs. Patriots RDE Richard Seymour. Ferguson allowed no sacks in his NFL debut last week, but now must go against Seymour, who had one sack and three quarterback pressures in New England's opening-day win over Buffalo.
--Jets ILB Jonathan Vilma vs. Patriots RBs Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon. Maroney and Dillon totaled 159 yards rushing against Buffalo. If Vilma, the Jets' leading tackler last season, can help prevent them from getting a lot of yards after contact, that will help the Jets force QB Tom Brady into unfavorable situations.
This may be the best matchup of the game. Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon shredded the Bills defense and now they go up against one of the top linebacking units in the league. Jonathan Vilma, Victor Hobson and Eric Barton are all fast, aggressive linebackers who play the run well. If the Jets defense can shut down Maroney and Dillon and force the Patriots to depend on their questionable receivers, New York could be 2-0 at the end of the day.
--Patriots CB Ellis Hobbs vs. Jets WR Laveranues Coles -- Hobbs is a good young corner but he likes to gamble. If he guesses wrong against a receiver with Coles' speed, the ending result is usually a touchdown. Coles had a huge game in Week 1, hauling in eight passes for 153 yards against the Titans. Hobbs did a good job shutting down the Bills Lee Evans and will need a similar performance against the Jets, or Coles could have a big game against the Patriots secondary.
--Bill Belichick vs. Eric Mangini -- Let's not kid ourselves; the most intriguing matchup in this game is the teacher (Belichick) going up against the student (Mangini). There's no question Mangini has some insight to what the Patriots like to run on defense but Belichick still holds the advantage because he's the one who created that defense. No one knows how to attack Belichick's defense better than Belichick himself, so you can expect a few wrinkles thrown into Sunday's game plan by the Patriots head coach. It's unlikely that Mangini will outsmart his mentor in their first meeting but if he does and the Jets come away with the win, it will be a huge boost for both the young coach personally, and the organization as a whole.
WR-PR Tim Dwight (thigh) didn't play in the opener, and Jerricho Cotchery and Leon Washington took over on punt returns. It appears as if that will be the case again this week. Pete Kendall (thigh) is questionable, and while Norm Katnik did a nice job filling in for him against Tennessee, the Patriots likely will try to advantage of him if he is pushed into a starting role. CB David Barrett (hip) is questionable, and his potential absence would hurt the Jets in nickel and dime packages.
Chad Jackson and Doug Gabriel are still nursing hamstring injuries. Hopefully for the Patriots, they'll be back on the field sooner than later. Hamstring injuries can linger -- like we've already seen with Jackson -- but New England needs at least one of these receivers back in the lineup as soon as possible to give Tom Brady another target in the passing game. If neither can play on Sunday, the Patriots will be forced to go with only three receivers for the second week in a row.
The only other serious injury the Patriots are monitoring right now is Tedy Bruschi's wrist. Bruschi was inactive for the season opener. Even in his absence, the team was still able to hold the Bills to 99 yards rushing on 24 carries. Junior Seau and Mike Vrabel started at inside linebacker, each registering eight tackles. If Seau can hold down the fort until Bruschi returns and Tully Banta-Cain continues to step up his play on the outside, the Patriots should be fine in the short-term. On the other hand, if Bruschi is out for an extended period of time, things could get dicey for the Patriots' defense.