Who Shines on Thursday Night Football Between Jets & Patriots?



Rivalry in the Elements

With rain and wind in the forecast, this rivalry should pick up where last week left off. The Colts beat the Texans in the first competitive game on Thursday night this season. Who am I kidding? With these elements and the pattern for games on a short week, you just never know what could happen. Either team can win this game big, I just happen to think these teams are close in their level of play despite the records.

Jets DL Muhammed Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson

Rex Ryan is the defensive guru that brings an A-game plan against the NFL’s top quarterbacks. Last week is another example, as the Jets remained in the game and held Peyton Manning under 300 yards. The secondary is undermanned, nothing has really changed since last week, and their D-line should be able to push New England’s hogs up front around. Muhammed Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are flat out studs, and the Patriots have a mediocre O-line. Let me say those names again because you will hear them all night, Muhammed Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson.The Jets also have some good inside linebackers in David Harris and Demario Davis, they and the monster lineman form a stout front-7.The battle will be won in the trenches by the Jets, on both sides of the ball. Sure, the Pats have some playmakers in Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, but even they got pushed around by the Kansas City Chefs a few weeks ago. New York’s offensive woes doesn’t come from the blocking.

Jets TE Jace Amaro and RB Chris Ivory

Woes that could see an immediate turnaround with the insertion of rookie tight end, Jace Amaro. He finally got extensive playing time last week, including some mistakes, but he is someone that should be leaned on besides Eric Decker. Decker might be tough and all, and he is good, but you need more than one banged up option to win games. Also, Darrelle Revis could very well shadow their best passing target. We could see some new wrinkles with Brandon Browner making his debt on the other side, but even he will take some time to get acclimated to the speed and physicality. Decker should be able to get his fair share of numbers with Amaro a new key on third downs and in the red zone. Of course, they’re going to pound the rock with Ivory and should give him the bulk of the carries, with Johnson now sprinkled in. Ivory rushed once for triple digits, I do believe he goes over that mark tonight.

No Jerrod Mayo for the Patriots

New York is desperate to snap their 5-game skid in search of their second W in a mediocre division. Chris Ivory has been chipping away at Chris Johnson’s workload since week 1. Ivory and Amaro should be featured tonight, as they should be able to take advantage without Jerrod Mayo at inside linebacker.

Also, No Stevan Ridley for the Patriots

Tom Brady has yet to find a groove in back to back games, whether it derives from his play or the supporting cast, so I do not buy their one-dimensional offense. Stevan Ridley wasn’t necessarily standing out, but he fit the offense and produced. The first crack will go to Brandon Bolden to fill the void, however rookie James White is a guy I see taking on a bigger load as the season progresses. The stature and injury history of Shane Vereen will likely keep him in his Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead role. It would be smart to keep that strength in tact.

Patriots lean on Julian Edelman, take a shot deep with Brian Tyms

So, this makes it another Julian Edelman game. The rain, wind, lack of a reliable run game, and the fact that Rob Gronkowski will be double-teamed, Edleman is the man that Brady trusts and isn’t afraid to throw to a dozen times. Gronkowski is considered matchup proof, but that may be difficult if he has to do some extra blocking or chipping in the trenches. When Brady has been stubborn to get Gronk involved when defenses take him out of the game, it usually results in multiple interceptions. If the line can give Brady time early, he will take shots downfield to Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms. Tyms made his debut last week and caught a 43-yard bomb over the middle for a touchdown. Tyms is getting rave reviews in practices and is expected to get more playing time, with Dobson and Danny Amedola progressively getting phased out.

Tim Wright Should Get Looks, Brandon LaFell the X-factor

That all sounds great if Brady actually has time, which means I expect to see Tim Wright in two-tight end formations. That gives Brady and a wounded rushing attack a pair of extra blockers and gaps. When tight ends release after chipping a defensive end or linebacker, it gives the defense problems when they find the seams on the second level. Again, the playaction may be nullified if the Pats can’t get anything going on the ground. Wright has played very little but has made some positive plays, he has to assert himself if Gronk has been taken out of the game. Brady I trust, Edelman he trusts, and Gronk should get extra attention, but Brandon LaFell is still an unknown in how the Patrots want to utilize him. So far he has three score, and nearly two 100-yard games (119 and 97). LaFell is the X-factor in this offense.

Vereen Will Get Chances

Bolden has been an average back in his limited playing time, he contributes on special teams and I don’t see him running away with this starting opportunity. Even though he is the biggest back on the team now, he plays like more of a passing down back. Vereen will get a couple chances to make an intermediate catch along the sidelines, he’s been able to get open but hasn’t made those grabs. He might even get the second crack, ahead of White, at a bigger role on the ground. I think we have a big enough sample size on Vereen, but you never know, best-case scenario he proves to be an every down back like Branden Oliver of the San Diego Chargers.