New York Jets at New England Patriots
WHEN: 8:25 pm ET, Thursday September 12
TV: NFL Network (Brad Nessler , Mike Mayock)
FORECAST: Temperatures in the low 70s with about a 40% chance of rain, and 10 mph winds; humidity reaching about 90%
LINE: Patriots opened as 10 point favorites and that went as high as 13 points; it has now dropped back down to between 11 and 12 points depending on where you shop; total is 43½ points.
The Patriots and Jets both play on a short week coming off last second come from behind victories on field goals. Thursday night New York travels to Foxboro seeking to upset a depleted Pats that suffered yet more injuries to important offensive weapons last Sunday. TE Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm) is still out while last week’s starting TE, Zach Sudfield deals with a hamstring injury. Wes Welker’s replacement, Danny Amendola (10 receptions for 104 yards in week one), is unlikely to play due to groin injury; that will place an even larger burden on Julian Edelman. If that’s not enough there’s also RB Shane Vereen (159 yards from scrimmage at Buffalo) now on in-season IR. That means Stevan Ridley, who was benched for fumbling, gets another chance; don’t be surprised if LaGarrette Blount (and Brandon Bolden if he is good to go with his knee injury) split time with Ridley while Leon Washington will get some of the 3rd down reps that would normally go to Vereen.
The Jets may be inept offensively, but they are still very good on defense. The Bills were able to disrupt the Pats offensive line with the zone blitz; Mo Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis and first round rookie Sheldon Richardson are very capable of disrupting the flow of the New England offense. With all the new pieces I wonder how effective the hurry up offense can be? Time for Kenbrell Thompkins to shake off what was a so-so performance (4 receptions on 14 targets) against the Bills, and be the effective receiver we saw in August. The Jets may opt to put CB Antonio Cromartie, who is better on the outside than in the slot, on Edelman; that would leave rookie CB Dee Milliner (who did not have a good game against Tampa Bay) on Thompkins and David Wilson on Aaron Dobson (hamstring) or Josh Boyce. If Cromartie stays outside then either Milliner or Wilson will cover Edelman. Whatever the Jets do in coverage, there should be an opportunity for the Patriots to exploit an advantage – if they execute properly.
Geno Smith doesn’t have much in the way of weapons to throw to, but you know that Stephen Hill would love to atone for his critical drop against the Patriots last year. The Patriots have at times struggled with opposing tight ends, and Kellen Winslow – who was a Patriot for all of one game last year – has by default become the top receiving threat for Gang Green. I will be very curious to see how the Patriots game plan on defense: lots of pressure up the middle on stunts and blitzes to try and confuse Smith, or patient edge setting designed to maintain gap control and leave Smith with no running lanes?
The Patriots have covered the spread just twice in the last seven games when listed as double-digit favorites, which leads me to believe that much of the betting public overvalues the Pats.
So why in the world are the Patriots listed as double digit favorites for this game? The only possible explanation I can think of is that the image of the ButtFumble being indelibly etched into the collective consciousness of NFL fans.
I think the Patriots will win tonight, thanks in part to a turnover or two in the second half – but for the second straight game the outcome will be much closer than what many Patriot fans will deem to be acceptable. I’m putting four units on the Jets and all those points, and one more on the under – with another unit on Boston sports talk radio blasting Bill Belichick for not being perfect all day Friday. While Rex Ryan would nothing better than to respond to the ButtFumble embarrassment with a victory – just like the Jets did in the first meeting between these two following a 45-3 blowout win by the Patriots – I think the Pats hold on this time; it is highly doubtful that this squad will commit a dumb penalty to gift Rex with another win. While much has been made of the New England losses, New York has 21 players on their injury report too.
Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 16
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