This weeks Thursday night game has two AFC East rivals face off as the Patriots have their open opener and take on the Jets. There were some concerns for the Patriots after their week one win in Buffalo over the Bills. Tom Brady ended up having a decent day statistically but is not yet completely on the same page with all of his weapons. While he connected with Danny Amendola (who is out this week) early and often, the performance of preseason darling Kenbrell Thompkins was disappointing. Despite being targeted 14 times, Thompkins had only four receptions. With that being said, look for Julian Edelman to build off his strong performance last week. Of all the receivers on the roster, Edelman has played with Brady the longest and another game with eight or nine catches wouldn’t be surprising.
Then there is the concern about the running game. Stevan Ridley was having a nice day running the ball averaging over five yards a carry but was removed from the game after fumbling. Shane Vereen then came in and replaced him and had a big game with over 150 total yards. Unfortunately, Vereen is now on the temporary injured reserve list as he needed wrist surgery. Not only was Vereen effective as a runner, but he was also going to be the Patriots equivalent of Darren Sproles this year with his strong receiving skills. While he won’t have the breakout season many (including myself) were counting on, he should play a big role down the stretch. Ridley should once again see the majority of the carries while Vereen’s go to LeGarrette Blount. The drop off in talent and value is drastic as Blount has little to add in the way of receiving.
Led by rookie Geno Smith, the Jets had a surprising week one victory at home over the Buccaneers. Smith made some nice throws and showed above average mobility in a fairly conservative game plan. This week the Jets are going to have to do a much better job running the ball. Granted, the Buccaneers run defense is one of the best in the league, but Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory combining for 44 yards on 22 carries is just unacceptable. Heck, Smith was the teams leading rusher as he ran for 47 yards on six attempts. This week could be much more difficult for the Jets offense as they are without their top receiving option Jeremy Kerley as he was concussed last week. They will need Santonio Holmes and last year’s raw but talented second round pick Stephen Hill to step up in his absence. Look for Smith to target Kellen Winslow frequently tonight as the two had a nice connection going last week. It will be interesting to see how Winslow fairs considering his injury history on a short week.
Overall, Bill Belichick against a rookie quarterback on a short week may look like a blowout on paper, but this game has the chance to be fairly close. Defenses in the past (including the Bills last week) have shown that Brady can struggle when facing constant heavy pressure. This is even more important early on in the season as Brady may not have his complete trust in all of his new options. However, I don’t see that happening this week as making the jump from a Buccaneers team that really didn’t show up to the Patriots on three days rest is too much to overcome. My prediction is Jets 13 Patriots(-11.5) 28.