Friday, September 12, 2008

Patriots Preview: Plus, Allianz Stadium No More

Maybe the backlash finally got to them.

Sports Illustrated reports that Allianz and the two NFL teams have ended talks that would make the new stadium named after a company that once sponsored Nazi activity during World War 2.

Two days until gameday. The Jets opened as 2.5 point favorites once it was found out Brady was out for sure. It's now down to Jets -1. It's a tough line. If the drop-off from Brady to Cassel is immense, then it could be great value on the Jets. If it isn't, then the Patriots as an underdog against a team that won four games last year looks like a steal.

That being said, it's the Jets' home opener. With Favre at quarterback, the Patriots on the other side of the field, and Brady out of the game, the atmosphere should be ridiculous. The Patriots defense is good, but it's not particularly scary. The offense will rely on a dual running attack with Sammy Morris and Laurence Maroney each receiving 10 carries last week. Kevin Faulk returns from a one-game suspension for New England as well. Former Jet LaMont Jordan also could be in the mix.

Randy Moss and Wes Welker represent the two main passing threats. Moss is a simply dominant receiver; Darrelle Revis will have his hands full covering him, but he's up to the task, and should be able to slow Moss down a little. Welker could be a problem for rookie cornerback Dwight Lowery, but if there's anything we've learned from him since he was drafted in the 4th round from San Jose State, it's not to doubt him. Jabar Gaffney and tight end Ben Watson will also receive looks.

Perhaps the key to the game for New York is to get pressure on Cassel. It was always the plan against Brady, but it rarely worked. Cassel was sacked twice last week, and is more likely to go down than his mentor. The Jets will no doubt use Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and even Vernon Gholston to rush the passer and try to make Cassel sweat. Lowery, Revis, and Kerry Rhodes could reap the benefits with a pick or two.

For the Jets, Brett Favre will try to attack a secondary that allowed Kansas City to throw for over 200 yards last week. Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles lead the passing attack against Lewis Sanders and Ellis Hobbs. Without Asante Samuel, the Patriots secondary doesn't look nearly as good on paper, though with Bill Bellichick as coach, that's never really seemed to matter.

The front seven for New England is as talented as ever. Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, and Richard Seymour are the prototypical front three in a 3-4 defense. The linebackers are aging a little, with Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi on the outside. Adalius Thomas was the big free agent pickup last year, and he played very well for them last season. Rookie Jerod Mayo was drafted to infuse some youth in this defense. He made six tackles in his first game.

They will have to battle the improved Jets rushing offense. Thomas Jones ran for over 100 yards in the first game behind the revamped offensive line. He and Leon Washington will have their work cut out for them. Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles were able to run for 102 yards last week, but it took them 27 carries to get that total. The Jets would be happy if they could get a similar output from their running game, so the Patriots would have to respect it.

This game largely comes down to how Matt Cassel does. If he plays well, the Patriots have a great chance of winning. If the Jets can bring some pressure and protect Favre, they should be the better team. The home crowd should be electric. Can a guy who hasn't started since high school be able to take it? The Patriots have owned the Jets for the most part under Bellichick, but now Chad Pennington is gone. They had Pennington's game down to a tee. Will they be able to stop the Jets with a brand new quarterback who can make all the throws? We'll see.


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