The New England Patriots came out on fire in their opening week victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now they have a chance to send a statement to the rest of the AFC East, being that the division runs through them and to be the champions you have to beat the champions.
There was a lot of hype surrounding the New York Jets this offseason, with all their roster additions, their appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” television show, and their bold claims of winning the Super Bowl.
Some anointed them champions, but after their offense’s futile performance in Week 1 against the Ravens, the panic button may have already been hit.
The Patriots need to jump on the Jets while they are down, asserting their dominance. There are some key things that the team needs to do in order to make sure that happens.
Last year in the regular season, the Patriots were unbeatable at home going 8-0, but they were a pathetic 2-6 on the road.
The Jets did a poor job defending their new turf last weekend, and they have to be up for the Patriots game or else a fan mutiny may take place.
Bottom line for the Patriots though is that they need to win away from home. They don’t have to go undefeated, but they cannot afford to have such an awful road record. They need to take advantage of the Jets' uninspiring play as of late, and escape with a win.
The running backs, namely Fred Taylor, need to prove that the Patriots were justified in trading away former first-round draft pick Laurence Maroney.
He was an inconsistent player, but so were the rest of the guys at that position, mostly because of injury. The Patriots made a statement that they are confident in the guys they do have, and that Maroney was essentially a mistake.
The remaining crew needs to reward that confidence, and they should get a boost from the Jets missing monstrous nose tackle Kris Jenkins.
Last year, Darrelle Revis shut down Randy Moss. In two games against the Jets, Moss had nine catches for 58 yards, and one touchdown. Certainly not numbers up to the star receiver’s standards.
This offseason Revis called Moss out, calling him a “slouch." Moss took the comments in stride, but he wants to prove the corner wrong.
Revis held out all of training camp, and returned just in time for Week 1, but he wasn’t in top game shape, and has been nagged by a hamstring injury this week.
Moss needs to show up and burn Revis, making him look silly for deciding to hold out for more money instead of getting ready to face him.
Welker’s 64 yards receiving and two touchdowns last week were surprising, given that at the end of last year no one thought he would be available to play until, at the earliest, Week 6. His comeback from an ACL tear has been impressive, but he needs to continue to perform at a high level.
With Revis and Moss squaring off, Welker will get a good amount of attention from the rest of the Jets secondary. If he is playing well, he will open up the Jets defense for the rest of the offense.
The Bengals were down last week and needed to pass. The Patriots knew this, but they still couldn’t stop what was coming.
Carson Palmer threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns, and Chad Ochocinco had 159 yards receiving. The Bengals have a large stable of receiving options, and Palmer is more experienced and confident than Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is, but Palmer was gunning the ball at will.
The Patriots secondary needs to improve. New York won’t have Santonio Holmes, but Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, and Dustin Keller can still be dangerous if the defense lets up.
The Patriots sacked Palmer only once in Week 1. That is not the way they wanted to start the season.
The Patriots need to attack the offensive line, specifically the left guard spot, where Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse have been disastrous.
If they can get past whoever is starting there, collapse the pocket, and make Sanchez run for his life, it will be a very long, difficult, and frustrating day for the Jets.
Gary Guyton had a nice interception and return for a touchdown last week, and more of that can come with constant pressure, forcing Sanchez to make bad plays. And Sanchez will force the ball.
The career 84 percent kicker missed two field goals last week, going 1-for-3 on the day.
The Jets defense did hold the Ravens offense to only 10 points on the day, so it could very well come down to a field goal battle, and more Gostkowski misses could cost New England precious games in the standings.
Gostkowski had a bad game, but kick returner Brandon Tate more than made up for it. He had four kick returns for 184 yards—an average of 46 yards per return—and a touchdown.
The Patriots weren’t very solid last year, so Tate’s contributions were huge.
Again, in a game that could be a defensive struggle, field position, and special teams touchdowns would have a huge impact.
Last weekend, the Jets saw a heavy dose of Todd Heap, who caught six balls for 72 yards. His longest catch was for 35 yards, his longest since 2007, and he averaged 12 yards a catch (the last time Heap averaged 12 yards a catch—for the season—was in 2003). He also helped moved the chains, achieving five first downs.
The Jets made Heap look like a viable receiver once again, not something he has done the past few years.
The Patriots targeted rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez twice last week, making one catch for 45 yards. He has good hands and is smooth in the open field, looking more like a wide receiver.
New England has never been afraid to look at all its options on offense, so it might be beneficial to go to Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski more often.
The Jets are frustrated. They also have a lot of guys more than willing to run their mouths. With such a big rivalry, the game could get very physical and chippy.
The Jets won’t be disciplined. Last week they committed 14 penalties for 125 yards. That’s more yards than the running game or the passing game accumulated.
New England needs to play Patriot football. Don’t let the Jets players, or head coach Rex Ryan, get in their heads. Stay disciplined and don’t get into a battle of words. Let your game and the scoreboard do the talking.
Even then, it may not shut up Bart Scott.