For The Optimists
1) Matt Cassel isn't that bad.
Yes, it needed to be said. The Patriots have a fourth year quarterback who hasn't started since high school, but he's not exactly a neophyte. Cassel has run the Patriots second unit against members of the first team defense for years. He's practiced with the first team, and he has four preseason games with significant playing t. He's seen what other 3-4 systems look like in Miami, Buffalo and New York as he studies film.
Cassel's performance in Week One, backed-up on his own two yard line and directing a 98 yard TD drive was exactly what he needed to do to show he can play against one of the best minds in the game - Gunther Cunningham. Cassel directed three drives of 10 plays or more, scoring on each drive.
2) Brett Favre is a legend in Green Bay, but in New York he's still a newbie
Favre was fortunate to get a touchdown on his Hail Mary pass to Chansi Stuckey against the Dolphins. The 22-yard pitch and catch was possible because Favre's other targets were completely covered and when he threw the ball, it fell underneath the coverage into Stuckey's hands. Had it been anything other than the Dolphins, the story could have been different. Favre's game hinged on two big plays; A one-play 56-yard bomb to Jerricho Cotchery and the throw to Stuckey. The Jets had two drives of at least 8 plays, while the Dolphins had 4. That favors the Patriots because of the improved talent level in New England.
There's been a lot of talk about how the Jets defense will be much better in 2008 with the additions of Calvin Pace, Kris Jenkins and Vernon Gholston among others. While the front Seven may be improved, the Jets still have new faces that have to learn the system. Jenkins didn't come from the same defense when he was in Carolina. Gholston has yet to make the transition from defensive end to linebacker and Pace has limited experience in the 3-4 scheme after moving east from Arizona. Pace led the trio with 5 tackles against the Dolphins while Jenkins turned in a pair of his own and Gholston was shut out.
4) Thomas Jones had a 100-yard game and won't do it again
The Dolphins were dead last against the run in 2007 (32nd overall). If the Jets didn't have a 100-yard rusher after running the ball nearly 60% of the time against the Jets (31/52 plays) then Jets fans should be concerned.
Though Thomas managed 101 yards on 22 carries, the Patriots have a better rush defense from last season (10th overall), limiting opponents to less than 100 yards per game. Though the Patriots allowed the Chiefs to gain 102 yards on the ground, the primary running back - Larry Johnson - was held to just 74 yards on 22 carries. More importantly Johnson, considered a better back, had a lower gain per carry (under 4 yards).
5) Brett Favre isn't on the same page with his receivers yet
This may be a reach, but the general impression of Favre's play is that he is running just about 40% of the playbook. That's never a good situation to be in when facing a Patriots defense that has faced nearly every other playmaker on the roster before and beaten them. Belichick has known about Favre's tendency to improvise plays after playing him when he was with the Packers. But Favre's receivers haven't had a lot of time to adjust to number 4's tendencies yet. Arguably the Jets biggest weapon in the passing game --Laveranues Coles - had one catch for 5 yards and missed on an under thrown deep ball. Jets coach Eric Mangini tried to shrug the timing issue off.
"We've had other guys open and miss them. I think you'd like to say that you definitely would hit it if you practiced more, but I think these are two good players there. Laveranues will get open again and I'm sure Brett will get him the ball."
Coles however may still be stewing that Favre was brought in over his old friend Chad Pennington.
"I don't have a feel for him and he doesn't have a feel for me. That is one of the things I am going to have to deal with," Coles said. "In the past I always knew when the ball was coming, now you don't really know. It is totally different for me as a player. It is what it is. He is getting adjusted and I am trying to do what I am supposed to do."
See the 5 Reasons they Pats will lose (for pessimists)
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