For the Pessimists
1) The Patriots will not be able to run the ball.
Many people are under the opinion the Patriots will run the ball against the Jets to take the pressure off of Matt Cassel and control the clock. Although the Patriots have a quartet of talented running backs in Laurence Maroney, Sammie Morris, Kevin Faulk and Lamont Jordan, Miami has a pair of running backs who are on pare with the Patriots quartet in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Last week against the New York Jets, the Miami Dolphins only ran for 49 yards the entire game. Williams ran for 24 yards for a 2.4 yards per carry average and Brown ran for 23 yards and a 3.8 yard per carry average. The Jets designed their defense to take away the run and let Chad Pennington beat them. (which he almost did). Keep in mind Chad was facing the team he had spent his entire career with so he had familiarity with them and is a veteran QB.
2) The timing will not be there.
When receivers like Randy Moss and Wes Welker run their routes they know the ball will be delivered on time from Tom Brady. Matt Cassel has not taken enough snaps to develop the timing and chemistry with his wide receivers and tight ends. Starting tight end Benjamin Watson did not even play last week due to injury. Cassel looked to Moss a number of times last week and was locked in on him. That wil come back to haunt Cassel against an aggressive secondary. Locking onto one receiver gives the defense the opportunity to read his eyes and will lead to interceptions or incompletions that will kill drives. It also means the offensive line, which has had trouble protecting the quarterback, will have to block for an extra second. More chances for them to get holding penalties and more chances for Cassel to be sacked.
To continue drives Cassel must read and process the play quicker and go to his check downs. If nothing is available he must throw the ball away. Last week Cassel tried to force the ball to Moss when other receivers were free. The Chiefs have a young defense didn't get put enough pressure on Cassel. He had time to find Moss (6 receptions 116 yards, 1 touchdown and a 19.3 yards per catch average) and Welker (6 receptions 51 yards, 8.5 yards per catch average.) That timing will not be there when he faces a team that will get pressure on him. Moss had most of his yards and catches in the first half. The Chiefs paid a little more attention to him in the second half.
3) Jets game plan will take away the run and make Cassel beat them.
26 of 43 for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns. Is that the prediction for Matt Cassel? No.
Those are Chad Pennington's stats against the Jet's defense last week. Pennington is regarded as one of the smartest quarterbacks out there. Those are modest stats. 50% completions with receivers that are not as good as the Patriots. Pennington knows how to read defenses, through his check downs and hit his secondary or third option at receiver. Cassel has shown through the Ravens game in the pre-season as well as the Eagles game that if you pressure him he doesn't have a high rate of completions. Look back at the pre-season game against Tampa Bay. A hostile crowd and a team that put some pressure on Cassel. The results: high snap for a TB touchdown. Cassel scored no points and turned the ball over twice, if you count his interception on his very first drive in the fourth quarter along with the botched snap. Kevin O'Connell turned the ball over once with an INT of his own, and the two of them finished with a combined 118 yards. As a whole, the team netted 174 yards. That was with pressure.
Look at the Miami game last year when Cassel came into the game. A little pressure and a athletic DE in Jason Taylor lead to a poor read, poor throw and an interception by Taylor into a touchdown.
Look back at the preseason game against the Ravens: The defense limited the Patriots to less than 100 yards of total offense in the first half. Cassel was confused and rattled by the Ravens constant pressure. That is what teams will bring. They have not seen Cassel in his limited playing time handle the pressure well. The Patriots offensive line lacks consistentcy in their pass blocking, and has been fighting injuries. With teams loading the box to stop the run, the Jets will make Cassel beat them. Combined with scaled back play calling, the offense will go back to its anemic preseason state because Matt Cassel is no Tom Brady.
It's also a road game, where it is harder to win. A young quarterback such as Cassel who may have trouble with his reads may have trouble hearing or having his team hear plays which he may audible under loud boisterous conditions.
4) No help from Offensive Coodinator Josh McDaniels.
Look at last year's Super bowl loss to the Giants. Last year's near losses to the Eagles and Ravens. This year's preseason losses to those teams as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When McDaniels goes against a decent defensive coordinator who puts pressure on the Patriots quarterbacks, he has yet to show he can alter his game plan and adjust to put the opposing defense on it heels. This happens no matter who the Patriot quarterback is. If reigning MVP Tom Brady had a hard time against those defenses, logic tells us that Cassel -- who has a lot less snaps and less experience -- will get flustered easily and confused leading to short drives and plenty of punts. Without a less predictable gameplan to keep the Jets defense guessing, Cassel will struggle against a Jets defense which is built to stop the Patriots -- unlike Kansas City's defense which Cassel found holes to exploit.
5) New England defense will not help out the offense.
Everyone knows that in order for the Patriots to be successful their defense needs to step up. They need this more than ever to help out Cassel and the offense. You don't want to force Cassel to try to bring the Patriots back from behind. In preseason the Patriots were dead last in third down conversion at 46%.
This problem carried over to the regular season where the Patriots have a 50% third down conversion rate on defense. The Patriots are near the bottom of the league in third down conversion (tied for 7th overall) as Kansas City went 8 for 16 on third downs. To give you an idea of how bad that is: the teams tied or below New England for third down conversion (Washington, St. Louis, Oakland, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Houston, Indianapolis and Cleveland) all lost in week one and most of those teams were blown out. The Patriots were double digit favorites in week one, but now they're the underdog. They needed a game-saving tackle and game-saving defensive play by Deltha O'Neal to secure the win.
After week one, the Patriots defense is ranked 12th against the run and 18th against the pass. The Jet's are a much better team than Kansas City. Favre as a quarterback has forgotten more about football than Cassel or the Patriots young secondary knows. If the Patriots cannot get the Jets off of the field especially on third down, the defense will get tired and worn down. They are going to be leaning on Matt Cassel to win the game for them instead of manage it. When you consider the points above and the history of Cassel's performance under pressure, you have a prime recipe for defeat. If the defense cannot perform and get off the field and stop the Jets, Cassel will be asked to do more than he is capable of.
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