Just like the New York Jets as a team only had a brief time to reflect on the Tampa Bay game before moving on to Patriots Week, we here at TOJ were in the same boat. The week 1 victory was awesome, and allowed Jets fans to rub it in the faces of all the “experts” who predicted 42-0 losses and 0-16 seasons, but now it is time to look ahead to bigger and better things. The Patriots are perhaps more vulnerable than we’ve seen them in the past decade with a ton of injuries, and they could be ripe for an upset. Today I’ll be buying and selling what we saw in the first game of the season and what we can expect tonight against Tom Brady and co.
BUY: Versatility of Defense – Against Tampa, nickel corner Kyle Wilson was in the game for only 33% of the snaps, as Rex decided to stick with his base defense most of the game. Part of this was obviously to load up against Doug Martin and the Tampa Bay run game, but it also had a lot to do with Rex believing in the versatility of his defense to adjust to different formations and looks that Tampa would show them. Players like Demario Davis, Antonio Allen, Sheldon Richardson, and Mo Wilkerson can play multiple positions and Rex has a ton of trust in them. That will be very important against the Patriots and their hurry-up style offense. The key will be to stop Stevan Ridley first and foremost like it was against Tampa and Martin, and then adjust from there.
BUY: The Defensive Line – A staple of this article has been to buy the defensive line and just remind everyone how awesome they were in fact going to be. Well, in week one all that buying paid off, as the Jets defensive line looked downright dominant against the Bucs. Mo Willkerson is a star, Sheldon Richardson looks like a future star, Kenrick Ellis and Damon Harrison were extremely stout in the middle of the line against the run, and my man Antwan Barnes was dynamite off the edge. I didn’t think any Jets would crack double digit sacks this year, but Barnes could prove me wrong. WIth Wilkerson, Richardson, and the soon-to-be-returning Quinton Coples pushing the pocket, Barnes is going to clean up around the edge and pick up plenty of sacks.
You know Bill Belichick is fully aware of what the Jets are capable of up front, and he will have his team ready. Look for the Jets to try and load up against Ridley and for the Pats to respond by spreading the field. Should be interesting to see how well that works out with their limited offensive weapons this week.
SELL: Shutting Down #1 Receivers – As good as Antonio Cromartie is, and how great he was last year, week 1 was a stark reminder that the Jets days of completely eliminating elite receivers from the game are over. If the Jets defense is going to be a truly elite unit capable of carrying the team, Cromartie and rookie Dee Milliner need to step it up after a subpar outing last week, and it starts this week against the Patriots. They need to play well.
SELL: The Run Game – This isn’t exactly news, but the running game was downright bad against Tampa last week, and it may continue to be like that for a while until defenses start to respect Geno Smith and the passing game a little more. Vlad Ducasse was manhandled by the Bucs linemen, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson wasn’t much better. If Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are going to get going against the Pats tonight, then the line needs to be much better as a unit, because you better believe they’re going to be stacking the box and forcing Geno to beat them down the field.
BUY: The Geno To Kellen Connection – One of the best things to come out of week 1 was the emergence of Kellen Winslow as Geno’s clear-cut favorite target. Kellen had an excellent preseason that flew under the radar and he carried that over into the regular season, hauling in 7 catches and a touchdown. The Patriots linebackers can be exploited in coverage, and I would expect Winslow to be heavily targeted. Who knows how long his knees will hold up, but for now, Winslow is looking like a great pickup for the Jets.
SELL: Media Talking Points – Speaking of which, you don’t seem to hear a lot of the media folks ripping John Idzik for his offseason after week 1 anymore, huh? All we heard for weeks was what a poor job Idzik did adding free agents to this team because David Garrard retired and Stephen Peterman got cut. As we said here at TOJ numerous times, Idzik took fliers on players with minimum-type contracts, which was what he had to do. Yes, some of them didn’t work out, but what about all the ones that did? Willie Colon started and played well. Antwan Barnes was a monster off the edge and in the Bucs backfield all game. Dawan Landry played well. Kellen Winslow was great. Idzik did a very solid job putting this roster together, and he should be credited for that.
BUY: Damon Harrison – I mentioned him in the Defensive Line section, but Harrison should be singled out for his play week 1. There may be no better example on the Jets of what great coaches Rex Ryan and Karl Dunbar are than Damon Harrison. Harrison made the team as an undrafted free agent last year and showed some ability and the desire to work hard. Rex and Dunbar molded him for the past year, coaching him up, and he looked like an absolute force in the middle of the defensive line. Not many teams have a 1-2 punch of nose tackles like the Jets do with Harrison and Ellis, and that will be a major boost for the defense.
BUY: Marty’s Handling of Geno – I thought Marty did a very nice job handling Geno last week, and this will be key toward determining the outcome tonight. Belichick has a great history against rookie quarterbacks, and this won’t be easy. No, the Patriots defense is not great, but it’s also not as terrible as we like to pretend it is. Going up to Foxboro, on a short week, will not be easy for Geno, and it will be up to Marty to get him going and put him in a position to succeed.
BUY: Rex Ryan – Everyone was ready to pour dirt on Rex Ryan’s Jets career and move on, but Rex didn’t get the memo. Just because he isn’t being “Rex” in front of the media doesn’t mean he isn’t doing it behind closed doors with his team, and he has this group believing in themselves. It’s not the most talented team in the league, but they’re going to play great defense and be in just about every game they play this year. I said this before, but on Hard Knocks Rex was wrong when he said the best place to be is up high when expectations are large. For a Rex Ryan team, things are best when nobody believes in them and Rex can motivate all 53 men to overachieve. I think there may end up being a lot of that going on this season.
BUY: Jets cover 12.5 – I don’t think the Jets will win the game outright, but I do think they’ll be right in it until the very end, before falling 24-20.