New England Patriots vs. New York Jets: How Jim Leonhard's Injury Changes Game

James Brown@@chasingballgameSenior Analyst IDecember 4, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 25:  Jim Leonhard #36 of the New York Jets runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals at New Meadowlands Stadium on November 25, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Bengal 26-10.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The New England Patriots welcome the New York Jets to Foxboro this week for Monday Night Football. The latest NFL sports betting odds posted by BetMania have the Patriots listed as 3.5-point favorites, but that may change with the latest injury news.

In a rivalry that has such famous names as Tom Brady, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick and Mark Sanchez, the most important player might be a name you have never heard of.

That name is Jim Leonhard.

It was recently announced that the Jets lost safety Leonhard to a broken leg that will sideline him for the rest of the season. Unless you’re a Jets fan or an NFL fanatic, the name might not be familiar to you, but this injury could change the game this Monday.

There is already a lot on the line, as both teams are 9-2 and the winner would be the favorite to win the AFC East. If the pressure wasn’t mounting for the Jets already, it may have just gotten worse.

Leonhard is more than just a defensive player for the Jets: He is a leader on the field. Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine emphasized just how tough it is for the team to lose Leonhard.

"I just think we were all crushed, because I think we knew pretty quickly that he was injured, and then he was down," Pettine said. "He’s such a tough guy, normally he bounces right back up from stuff. So I think everybody was just a little stunned. [We] wanted to get immediate help to him, and then you know, again, it’s just it was really stunning."

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Leonhard is more than just a good all-around guy—he is also the quarterback of the defense. The hard-nosed safety called the plays on the field for the defense and made adjustments when necessary. He made sure the defense was lined up correctly on every play and in position to make stops.

In the secondary, safety Eric Smith will be the one called upon to make the play calls, now starting alongside Brodney Pool. This change could not have come at a worse time, as the Jets now have only a few days to adjust to the loss and prepare for the pass-happy Patriots.

The transition at the safety position and how well the team adjusts could be the difference in winning or losing this game and the AFC East.

Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews and predictions. Feel free to contact Matt at mregaw@gmail.com.

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