The biggest rivalry in the AFC East will renew today as the New England Patriots welcome the New York Jets to Foxboro. The Patriots will be hoping to avenge the playoff loss from last season that must have haunted the team throughout the off-season.
That game was decided by a big showing from the Jets' defense, this game will likely suffer a similar fate as whichever defense can perform should win the game.
Relying on defense hasn't been a good idea for the Patriots this year as they have struggled in every game that they have played. The Jets' offense has similarly struggled for the most part however, as Shonn Greene is yet to get going and Mark Sanchez is still making too many mistakes.
The Jets have somewhat of a dysfunctional offense to go along with the Patriots' somewhat dysfunctional defense.
Both units could be missing key players as Nick Mangold's status is still uncertain while Jerod Mayo won't see the field for the Patriots. Fortunately for the Jets, their injury worries start and finish with Mangold. The Patriots don't have such luck.
Albert Haynesworth is once again listed as questionable while so are Ras-I Dowling, Leigh Bodden, Kyle Love, Mike Wright and Josh Barrett. On a defense that hasn't stopped anyone all season, losing key players such as Haynesworth and Bodden is difficult to overcome.
Even with a fully healthy roster, the Jets would be approaching this game as a pass first team. With a further depleted secondary, they are likely to put the ball in Mark Sanchez' hands even more often.
This is in spite of the team's horrific showing in Baltimore last week.
Expect Dustin Keller to see a lot of targets as the Jets look to take advantage of Mayo's absence. Keller had only two receptions last week against the Ravens despite having 16 receptions in the previous three games.
While Keller should be able to consistently move the chains, it will be Santonio Holmes who will make or break this game for the Jets on offense. Devin McCourty has made a terrible start to the season and repeatedly been exposed. If McCourty gives Holmes any sort of opportunity, he will consistently put points on the board and make big plays.
Tight ends will be the focal point of both offenses this week as the Patriots will be hoping for Aaron Hernandez' health to pull through. There has been some talk that Darrelle Revis could come inside to cover one of the Patriots' tight ends. That is definitely a possibility as Kyle Wilson appears to be best suited to covering Wes Welker.
Wilson is a short and shifty cornerback who shares similarities with Welker. Welker should see a lot of double teams and crowds in this game as the Jets will trust their coverage on the outside to take away Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco.
This will be a stern test for the Patriots passing attack as teams are better suited to run on the Jets' defense as it stands right now. Bryan Thomas, one of the team's best run-stuffers, is done for the season while Darren McFadden has already put up a record number on the ground before he went out.
Tom Brady should have a lot of time in the pocket to pick apart the Jets' defense. Last year the Jets relied on Shaun Ellis to get pressure on Brady, Ellis is now a teammate of Brady's, while Mohammed Wilkerson and co are yet to competently replace him.
Brady should be the difference in this game as the New York Jets team looks to be a shadow of the one that won in Foxboro last season.