Will the coaching geniuses shake hands, or hug? Will Bill be cold and distant to his former protégé? Just how much does Mangini really weigh?
Both teams have shook up their rosters in recent weeks—The Patriots by necessity, and the Jets by design. While the off-field drama creates good stories, these are the changes that will affect the outcome of this pivotal game:
(Check out my post-game review for how my predictions played out)
This week the Patriots deal with another huge vacancy on the defense with the loss of Adalius Thomas to a broken left forearm. Watch for both Gary Guyton and Pierre Woods to fill in the hole.
Belichick will most likely scheme to try and cover up the loss. A player of Thomas’ athleticism is one that shapes game plans, and his replacements are not the same types of players.
Expect Jerod Mayo, the Patriots’ standout rookie linebacker, to shoulder some of that weight. Although Mayo will not move to another LB spot a la Mike Vrabel, he will have added responsibility in the adjusted scheme.
Speaking of Vrabel, he is the likely candidate to control the defensive huddle, now that Thomas, who had one of the two defensive communication helmets, is out.
Most likely, we will see some more 4-3 variations than usual, and less of the speed-focused defensive back formations, as these utilized Thomas’ unique blend of size and speed to make up for the lack of larger linemen/linebackers on the field.
Yes, everyone knows that Brett Favre is on the Jets. The attention this week, however, is on the signing of former Patriot (and Jet) Ty Law.
Some may view this as bad for the Patriots. It’s not—in fact, it will most likely play out to their advantage.
Expect the Jets to try and use Law both in a safety role and in the slot. When playing corner, he will not go against Randy Moss (that is Darrelle Revis’ territory), but will likely face up against Wes Welker and Jabar Gaffney.
Against Welker, he will get some help from either zone coverage or double man. Welker is too quick for the aged Law, especially as this is Ty’s first week back in the NFL.
Mangini can’t afford to double-cover Gaffney, however, and this is what I see as the biggest mismatch of the game.
Gaffney is in game shape. He is a very talented receiver who will become more involved as Cassel develops mentally every week.
Tom Brady knew to take advantage of number ten, and expect Cassel to do the same when Jabar is lined up against an out-of-game-shape Ty Law.
I know I’m a biased Patriots fan, but the Jets won’t win this match-up. Belichick has been coaching potentially the greatest football of his career, and he’ll be up for the new challenges.
Be ready for the Patriots to eat up the clock on offense with double-digit plays per drive, and move efficiently down the filed with their league-leading yards after catch. The short passing game will kill the Jets—once they adjust, Cassel may finally hit Randy Moss perfectly on that long bomb that he’s barely missed in recent weeks.
Prediction: 24-13, Patriots.