Jun 202013
 

Mike Wallace12. Miami Dolphins
Head Coach: Joe Philbin
2012 Record: 7-9
2012 Offense: 288 points scored, 27th in points, 27th in yards (26th passing, 17th rushing)
2012 Defense: 317 points allowed, 7th in points, 21st in yards (27th passing, 13th rushing)

Key Additions
WR Mike Wallace, LB Dannell Ellerbe, LB Philip Wheeler, TE Dustin Keller, WR Brandon Gibson, CB Brent Grimes, T Tyson Clabo, DT Vaughn Martin, DE Dion Jordan, CB Jamal Taylor, OL Dallas Thomas, CB Will Davis

Key Losses
RB Reggie Bush, T Jake Long, LB Karlos Dansby, LB Kevin Burnett, TE Anthony Fasano, CB Sean Smith, WR Davone Bess, DT Tony McDaniel, K Nate Kaeding

Why 2013 will be better
Ryan Tannehill is a promising young quarterback who might well break out this season with weapons like Wallace, Gibson, and Keller added to his arsenal. The offensive line is solid in its depth, though Jonathan Martin has struggled at left tackle. Clabo does offer an upgrade on the right side. Cameron Wake is an elite pass rushing talent, while Dion Jordan has the talent to be a disruptive force on the opposite side. Jordan’s addition to the lineup allows Jared Odrick to move inside along with Randy Starks and Paul Soliai, providing the Dolphins with an excellent defensive line. Brent Grimes was a solid addition to the secondary after returning from a torn ACL in 2012, and will likely start opposite Richard Marshall, though rookie Jamal Taylor looks equipped to push Marshall for the spot. There is little doubt that the Dolphins’ dreadful pass defense will be better in 2013.

Why 2013 will be worse
Tannehill has tons of potential, but was also very inconsistent last season. Lamar Miller enters 2013 as the top running back. While the second year pro has a potential high upside, he saw limited carries in his rookie season and is an untested; at least in the short term he appears to be a downgrade from Reggie Bush. Daniel Thomas can be a good complement to Miller, but only if he can stay healthy. While Ellerbe and Wheeler are touted as an upgrade to the linebacker corps, Ellerbe was a one-trick pony with the Ravens, and the Fins appear to have overpaid for a player who may not have the three down talent that they think he does. Wheeler appears to be the real deal, but doesn’t appear to be an upgrade over Burnett. The Dolphins got younger at linebacker, not necessarily better.

Outlook
Tannehill was sacked 35 times last season, and needs better play from his offensive line to be able to play with the new toys that he has. Tannehill finished his rookie system ranked 27th in the league, but showed numerous flashes of his potential last season. One thing the Dolphins lack is quality depth at offensive skill positions, so health is going to be critical to the team’s offensive success. On defense, the Dolphins need a pass defense to complement a solid run defense, and the upgrades appear to sufficient to accomplish this. At first blush, the worst case for 2013 would appear to be a repeat seven win performance, and the team appears capable of winning as many ten games as they challenge for a playoff spot and seek to depose the Patriots from the AFC East throne.

Jun 122013
 

Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan9. New York Jets
Head Coach: Rex Ryan
2012 Record: 6-10
2012 Offense: 281 points scored, 28th in points, 30th in yards (30th passing, 12th rushing)
2012 Defense: 375 points allowed, 20th in points, 8th in yards (2nd passing, 26th rushing)

Key Additions
RB Mike Goodson, RB Chris Ivory, G Willie Colon, DL Antonio Garay, LB Antwan Barnes, S Dawan Landry, G Stephen Peterman, WR Ben Obomanu, CB Dee Milliner, DT Sheldon Richardson, QB Geno Smith, G Brian Winters

Key Losses
CB Darrelle Revis, S Yeremiah Bell, DL Mike DeVito, WR Braylon Edwards, RB Shonn Greene, TE Dustin Keller, S LaRon Landry, LB Bart Scott, DT Sione Pouha, G Brandon Moore, G Matt Slauson, WR Chaz Schilens, LB Bryan Thomas, QB Tim Tebow, S Eric Smith

Why 2013 will be better
Define better? If by better we mean that the Jets will no longer have a circus sideshow in Tim Tebow, then yes it will be better. Otherwise, I’m not so sure. But since this is the part of the article where we look for bright spots, let’s start with running back Chris Ivory, who appears ready to replace the steady but enigmatic Greene. There are question marks after Ivory, with Goodson appearing to be a personal train wreck. Still, Ivory looks like the real deal and will be getting the bulk of the snaps this season. Given a weak passing game, the Jets should once again rank in the top twelve rushing attacks. The offensive line is beginning to come together, with Nick Mangold, D’Brickasah Ferguson, Austin Howard, Willie Colon, and Brian Winters eyeing starting roles, and the group should be able to open holes for Ivory, but it is in pass protection where this group must improve, as the Jets ranked 30th in pass protection last season, yielding 47 sacks, along with one very memorable butt fumble. However, the Jets are very thin on the line after the five starters, so health will be a key to success. On defense, the team looks to improve on its sub-par performance in 2012 with Rex Ryan taking a more direct role in defensive meetings and play calling, and looks to be a better group. Muhammad Wilkerson is a dominant presence at end, and looks to be flanked by Sheldon Richardson, who also looks like a beast. The only downside is that Quinton Coples will see an increased role at outside linebacker, which does not appear to cater to his strengths. Kendrick Ellis, Garay, and Damon Harrison round out this solid unit.

Why 2013 will be worse
The quarterback controversy that consumed 2012 has a new face in 2013 in rookie quarterback Geno Smith. It remains to be seen who will win the competition, as Sanchez has the early lead but Smith has the bigger potential upside. That said, I am unconvinced that Smith’s game will translate to the NFL. The Jets gambled on a quarterback in a weak quarterback draft, and I suspect will lose this bet in the long run, just as they are losing their gamble on Sanchez. In an offense happy league, the Jets enter the fray with one arm tied behind their collective backs. The wide receiving corps is weak and wounded, with Stephen Hill dealing with a knee injury, and Holmes’ status is unknown for the start of the season. Jeremy Kerley is finally healthy, and could see his numbers increase in 2013. Jeff Cumberland takes over at tight end in place of Keller, but will have a difficult time filling Keller’s shoes when Keller was healthy. Hayden Smith may also see time, but this is not a group that will cause panic in opposing defenses. The linebacker unit will be interesting to watch with Coples moving outside, with David Harris and Demario Davis inside and Pace playing the opposite side. Pace was brought back after being cut, and struggles to apply pressure to the quarterback, resulting in the Jets bringing in Barnes, a pass rush specialist. Harris was one of the worst starting inside linebackers in the league last season, who despite good tackling numbers is a significant liability in pass coverage and who also had a poor year against the run. While the Jets’ defense will likely still be in the top half of the league this season, the linebacker group doesn’t appear to be as solid as it has been in years past. Losing Revis in the secondary doesn’t help matters, especially since Milliner is struggling to even get onto the field. Milliner is a natural talent but was a risky pick for the Jets, who need Antonio Cromartie to step up in a big way this season. Cro may not be able to remember his kids’ names, but he is a solid corner talent, and the drop-off should not be significant. Kyle Wilson started opposite Cro last season and may not be able to hold off Milliner for a starting nod once Milliner is healthy. At safety, the Jets replaced one Landry with another, but overall the safety group has slipped from last year’s one year rentals, both of whom performed admirably.

Outlook
Only the most blindly loyal Jets’ fans will think this team has a chance of competing in 2013. New GM John Idzik tore the team apart to deal with Mike Tannenbaum’s salary cap debacle, but the Jets didn’t go as far as the Raiders did in simply blowing things up in order to start again. That’s why David Harris and Mark Sanchez still have jobs despite spotty performances (to be generous) and big salary cap hits. The Jets’ defensive front will be able to improve its performance against the run, but pass rushing issues have not been resolved, and a weakened secondary means their performance against the pass can be expected to slip. On offense, the quarterback drama promises to undo 2013 before it begins, and a lack of quality receivers who can’t stay healthy won’t help matters. Chris Ivory may be carrying a heavy load this season, but thankfully for the Jets he appears to be up to the task. In the final analysis the Jets got rid of Tim Tebow, but the circus remains firmly planted in town. I subscribe to the view that this is Year One of Idzik’s rebuilding plan, and that Year Two will be sans Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez, among others. The Jets will battle the Bills for third place in the AFC East, and can be expected to win anywhere from three to six wins in 2013.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, I missed the addition of Kellen Winslow, Jr. I must admit to not being real high on him as a solution at tight end. He is a beast of an athlete, but his attitude has gotten him run out of more than one town. The Jets are not a team I would send a reclamation project to, but he might none the less be helpful. Winslow has not signed yet, but he and Mike Sims-Walker have been trying out for the team.

Mar 122013
 

Mike WallaceWe will continue updating this article for the next few days until may of the top tier free agents have landed. Some may get their own article, but this spot will keep track of the major comings and goings of players as the free agency period begins.

 

Tuesday, March 12

– Prior to the start of free agency today, the Jets released defensive tackle Sione Po’uha, who had a base salary of $4.9 million for the upcoming season, creating $3.8 million in cap space. No word yet on whether or not he is expected to re-sign at a lower price.

– The Panthers released linebacker James Anderson, whom they had overpaid for last season to the tune of 5 years and $22 million.

– The Chargers released tight end Randy McMichael.

– The Rams released safety Quintin Mikell, and have now parted ways with both starting safeties from last season.

– Word is that Wes Welker is still waiting to hear the Patriots’ first contract offer before free agency begins.  Tom E. Curran suggesting it is hard for the Patriots to know what the market for Welker will look like, but Welker is likely to wait for offers to increase his leverage. The soft market for wide receivers doesn’t help the Patriots. The Colts and Broncos may well rival the Patriots for Welker’s service. The Pats are risking not making the highest offer to Welker, and it might come back to bite them. Perhaps the Patriots are heading in another direction? One thing is for sure… Bill Belichick has ice water in his veins.

Tony Gonzalez looks like he is heading back to the Falcons.

– The Texans have released receiver Kevin Walter.

– The Vikings have re-signed receiver Jerome Simpson for one year. Meanwhile, the Steelers are giving Plaxico Burress another shot (drum roll).

– Safety James Ihedigbo has re-signed with the Ravens, insuring another year of him being able to drop to the ground in pain after every play.

– Linebacker Larry Foote has worked out a deal to stay in Pittsburgh. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley has also agreed to restructure his contract.

Santonio Holmes has worked out a deal to restructure his contract and remain with the Jets.

– Cornerback Antoine Winfield has been released by the Vikings.

– Running back Beanie Wells released by the Arizona Cardinals.

– The Rams reach a deal to keep defensive end William Hayes in St. Louis.

– As expected, the Eagles have released cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha from their famous “Dream Team”

– Prediction 14 minutes before free agency begins, though not a stunner. Wes Welker is not returning to New England, and the Patriots don’t appear too concerned about losing him, despite numbers that put him on a path to the Hall of Fame.

– Giants sign cornerback Aaron Ross, who did not have to wait for free agency to begin as a result of being released by the Jaguars and going unclaimed.

– Vikings keep tackle Phil Loadholt just before free agency begins.

And now free agency begins…

Paul Kruger looks like he is headed to Cleveland… major surprise that the Ravens couldn’t get this one done. New word is that he has officially signed.

– The Bengals re-sign defensive end Robert Geathers.

– The Broncos steal away guard Louis Vasquez from the Chargers.

Mike Wallace appears set to make $13 million a year with the Miami Dolphins.

– Tight end Delanie Walker agrees to a deal with the Titans.

– The Bills have cut quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. I guess that prank phone call caused some embarrassment in western New York. Talk about addition by subtraction.

– The Chiefs have agreed to a deal with tight end Anthony Fasano.

– The Alex Smith to Kansas City trade is now official.

– Are the Colts set to steal both Talib and Welker from the Pats? A tweet from the Colts’ bizarre owner seems to go in this direction.

– Former Bills guard Andy Levitre headed to Titans on a six year deal.

– Or is this what Irsay was talking about? The Colts have reached agreement with offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus. Does he really merit that many exclamation points?

– Quarterback Chase Daniel agrees to terms with Chiefs.

– No, this is why Irsay is excited. The Colts have agreed to terms with cornerback Greg Toler. It’s a good move by Grigson.

– The Colts are on a roll. Linebacker Erik Walden has left Green Bay to join the Colts. Good moves by Indy, even if they aren’t sexy.

– Ah, the Colts did steal a Patriot! Guard Donald Thomas is headed to Indy.

– Punter Sav Rocca is staying with the Redskins.

– Elvis Dumervil now appears willing to take pay cut from Broncos; the two sides are apparently negotiating according to Ian Rapoport.

– Another Ravens loss: Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe reaches agreement in principle with Miami Dolphins.

– Colts make it five Day One signings as they pen linebacker Lawrence Sidbury from the Falcons. Busy day for the Colts.

Taking a dinner break now… will be back later.

Back from a long dinner break, and lots more has happened…

– Safety Darius Butler will be remaining with the Colts.

Martellus Bennett has landed with the Bears, with the tight end signing a four year deal.

– The Ravens signed defensive lineman Chris Canty to a three year deal.

– The Vikings re-signed fullback Jerome Felton to a three year deal.

– The Dolphins dumped linebacker Karlos Dansby, who started all 16 games last season playing with a torn biceps muscle and racking up 134 tackles. Ouch. They added linebacker Phillip Wheeler and re-signed safety Chris Clemons.

– The Rams are poised to sign the coveted tight end Jared Cook, formerly of the Titans.

– The Eagles get into action by signing former Patriots’ safety Patrick Chung (good riddance) and former Panthers’ linebacker Jason Phillips, as well as tight end James Casey from Houston.

– The Eagles keep it coming with former 49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoga and former Rams’ cornerback Bradley Fletcher.

– The Raiders released receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and safety Michael Huff.

– The Chiefs have stolen away a Jets’ favorite by signing defensive tackle Mike DeVito.

– Apparently Warren Sapp doesn’t think much of covering Bill Belichick on the NFL Network. Or maybe he just doesn’t think.

– The Browns get another one with the signing of defensive tackle Desmond Bryant.

The pace is slowing down a little at 8:30 pm Central, but there may still be a few transactions before the end of the night. In the meantime, the free agents that we are waiting to see what transpires with on this thread include (in no particular order):

Cliff Avril (Det / SEA)
Wes Welker (NE / DEN)
Jake Long (Mia)
Greg Jennings (GB / MIN)
Aqib Talib (NE)
Dashon Goldson (SF / TB)
Osi Umemyiora (NYG)
Steven Jackson (StL / ATL)
Ed Reed (Bal)
Danny Amendola (StL / NE)
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Phi / DEN)
Sebastian Vollmer (NE)
Connor Barwin (Hou / PHI)
Adrian Wilson (ARI / NE)
Andre Smith (Cin)
Cary Williams (Bal / PHI)
Brian Urlacher (Chi)
Dustin Keller (NYJ / MIA)
John Abraham (ATL / NE)

– Last one for tonight – offensive tackle Sam Baker is staying with the Falcons, signing a six year deal. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 13

A few early tidbits before the action begins again in earnest.

Wes Welker and the Patriots are described as very far apart on terms, with the Patriots maintaining an offer on the table. It will be interesting to see how this develops between now and the weekend.

– The Redskins signed defensive tackle Kedric Golston to a new three-year contract on Tuesday.

Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma are taking big pay cuts to stay in New Orleans.

– The Chargers signed former Eagles tackle King Dunlap to a two year deal.

– The Browns signed free agent linebacker Quentin Groves, who played in Arizona last season.

– The Jets housecleaning is in full swing. And even with Revis likely on his way out of town, it didn’t stop the the Jets from restructuring the contract of cornerback Antonio Cromartie. Baby Mamas should beware.

More to come as the day develops!

– The Ravens have just released safety Bernard Pollard. Is he worth a look in Foxboro?

Mike Giardi is tweeting that Wes Welker drew some attention, and those offers have impacted negotiations with the Pats. Expect the Patriots to move on and find a new slot receiver.

– The Lions have re-signed cornerback Chris Houston.

– The Broncos have guaranteed the salary of Peyton Manning for the next two seasons.

– Linebacker Manny Lawson has signed a multi-year deal with the Buffalo Bills.

– Some very interesting chatter about where Wes Welker may be going. Due to the source I won’t share where, but this is going to be a very interesting thing to watch. Plus I am going to lay $5 on my info.  I know, I know… big spender. :-)

– The Steelers have signed quarterback Bruce Gradkowski to a three-year deal.

– The Jaguars have waived wide receiver Laurent Robinson one year after signing the former Cowboy to a huge deal.

Wes Welker’s agent has described the Patriots’ offer to the wide receiver as “laughably low.” Sounds like all sides are ready to move on.

– The Giants have signed kicker Josh Brown.

– Former Colts’ receiver Donnie Avery is joining the Kansas City Chiefs.

– The Ravens have re-signed offensive guard Ramon Harewood.

Reggie Bush is the new lead back for the Detroit Lions.

– Word is that the Patriots offered 4 year, $32 million to Wes Welker and the Welker camp is unhappy. Suitors may be down to the Broncos and Pats, though I am hearing there are two dark horses, at least one of which has made a better offer than New England.

– The Arizona Cardinals agree on a one-year deal with former Steelers’ running back Rashard Mendenhall.

– A big one is off the market; the Rams have signed offensive tackle Jake Long to a contract. Update: Correction; an offer has yet to be made or accepted (as of 1:56 pm Central).

– It looks like the Broncos are working hard to get a deal with Wes Welker done today. I’m going to lose my five bucks.

– The Detroit Lions have added safety Glover Quin, formerly of the Texans; this is a big upgrade in their secondary.

– The Buccaneers have signed former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson to a five year deal.

– The Jaguars signed former Bears free agent linebacker Geno Hayes to a one-year deal.

– The Wes Welker to Denver deal is looking close to done.

– The 49ers have agreed to a contract with former Chiefs defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.

– The Titans have reached agreement on a three-year, $10 million deal with former Jets’ running back Shonn Greene.

– According to WEEI, Wes Welker’s camp has brought the Broncos’ offer back to the Patriots to give New England a chance to match. My guess is no, but this shows where Wes’ heart really is.

– The Broncos announce one-year deal with linebacker Stewart Bradley.

– Running back Lex Hilliard has signed a one year deal to stay with the Jets.

– Cornerback Drayton Florence has agreed to a one year deal with the Panthers. It looks like the corners are now going to start to go.

– Defensive tackle Samie Lee Hill has reached agreement on a three-year, $11.4 million deal with the Titans.

Wes Welker has agreed to terms with the Denver Broncos. Clearly, the Patriots declined the offer to match. It is only a two year deal, so it must be coming down to guaranteed money. Waiting for the details.

– Details on Wes Welker… it is “only” two years, $12 million. Must be fully guaranteed, and it must be that the Patriots set a value for the position and would not exceed it.  Sounds like the Patriots had already determined that Welker was no longer “Plan A.” Patriots have yet to make major moves, but it’s in the air. The next couple of days should show us the Pats’ off-season approach.

According to Greg Bedard, Patriots initial offer to Wes Welker was two years and $10 million with incentives. Albert Breer accurately notes that the Pats likely see Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker as redundant, and Hernandez is much younger and at least as difficult to cover. This deal underscores how much the Miami Dolphins, who have agreed to shell out $30.55 million over five years for Brian Hartline, overpaid for a number two receiver.

– Quarterback Drew Stanton signed a three year deal with the Arizona Cardinals. Here’s hoping they don’t trade for Tim Tebow.

– The Broncos have signed former Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.

OK… time for another dinner break… and to make sure I move the Wes Welker to the back of my closet.

– The Oakland Raiders signed linebacker  Kaluka Maiava and defensive tackle and defensive end Pat Sims, as well as defensive end Jason Hunter.

– The Arizona Cardinals signed cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Yeremiah Bell.

– The Seattle Seahawks have landed defensive lineman Cliff Avril, who provides an instant upgrade to the Seahawks’ pass rush.

– Not waiting long to respond to Wes Welker’s deal with Denver, the Patriots have signed wide receiver Danny Amendola to a five year, $31 million deal,, with $10 million guaranteed.

– The Titans signed linebacker Moise Fokou, formerly with the Colts.

– The Broncos complete a successful day by reeling in cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a one year deal.

– The Colts have signed former Jets free agent safety LaRon Landry

That’s all for tonight…. more to come on Thursday!

Thursday, March 14

I’m expecting today to be a little bit slower as the agents and teams take a breath and assess where they are, and as remaining players line up visits with teams.

– Former Seahawks’ running back and return man Leon Washington will visit the patriots, who just lost their punt returner yesterday (what was his name again?). Washington has also been connected to talks with the Bucs.

– Cornerback Derek Cox has signed a four year, $20 million deal with the San Diego Chargers.

– Running back Chris Ogbonnaya will be staying in Cleveland, agreeing to a two year deal.

Greg Jennings will be visiting the Minnesota Vikings, who seem to be the front runners (along with Green Bay) to land the veteran wide receiver.

– A mystery suitor for Wes Welker has been revealed by Adam Schefter.. the Tennessee Titans. I rather suspect we will learn of one or two more teams in the coming days.

Great article from Mike Reiss details that Wes Welker went back to the Patriots with the Broncos’ offer, only to be later informed that the Patriots had already made a commitment to another player (Danny Amendola).

– The Chiefs have released Matt Cassel. Is a homecoming a possibility in Foxboro?

– The J-E-T-S are trying to build leverage by suggesting that they are not actively trying to trade Darrelle Revis.

– The Panthers are keeping quarterback Derek Anderson for another year.

– Cornerback Sean Smith has found a new home in Kansas City, agreeing to a three year deal.

– It turns out that the Patriots signed Danny Amendola on Tuesday, a full day before the Wes Welker drama took place. Anyone else think the team hadn’t already decided to move on?

– The Redskins and offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood have reached a deal.

Kevin Kolb is about to be released by the Cardinals, and his next destination appears to be the starting quarterback of the J-E-T-S.

Ricky Jean Francois has agreed to a four-year, $22 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts.

– The Vikings have landed quarterback Matt Cassel, who was just released from the Chiefs.

– The Eagles have added cornerback Cary Williams and safety Kenny Phillips .

– Cornerback Keenan Lewis has agreed to terms with the New Orleans Saints on a five year deal.

– The Falcons have landed running back Steven Jackson to replace Michael Turner in Atlanta.

– Linebacker Connor Barwin leaves Houston for Philadelphia and a six year deal.

– The Patriots have landed kick returner and running back Leon Washington.

– The Buccaneers have signed wide receiver Kevin Ogletree.

 Friday, March 15

We’ll wrap this thread up with a recap of last night’s signings and some look at today.

– The Jets are close to signing running back Mike Goodson. UPDATE: Goodson has signed.

– Defensive end Michael Bennett has agreed to a one year, $5 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks. The 49ers may be an early favorite for the Super Bowl, but right now they appear to have serious competition to win the NFC West.

– Former Vikings’ linebacker Jasper Brinkley has agreed to a two year deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

– John Elway says that defensive end Elvis Dumervil’s salary is “out of whack.” From a business perspective Elway is right, but does anyone seeing a change of location coming for the pass rushing star?

– The Jaguars re-signed cornerback Antwaun Molden to a one-year veteran minimum deal.

– The Rams have re-signed defensive end William Hayes and defensive tackle Jeremelle Cudjo.

– The Bears re-signed defensive tackle Nate Collins to a one-year contract.

– Former Bears’ linebacker Nick Roach has joined the Oakland Raiders.

– Adam Schefter is expecting cornerback Aqib Talib to return to the Patriots, as the cornerback market is not drawing the same dollars it was just a year ago.

We’ll keep updating the list presented at the end of Day One, but we will only be posting updates for bigger news the rest of the way out.

– OK, this is worth an update. According to PFT, the 49ers are in “serious discussions” with cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Charles Woodson.

– The Patriots have signed former Bills’ wide receiver Donald Jones.

– Tight end Dustin Keller has joined the Miami Dolphins, who appear to be cementing second place in the AFC East.

Kevin Kolb is being released in Arizona. Is New York next?

– Cornerback Kyle Arrington has re-signed with the Patriots and a four year deal.

– Running back Danny Woodhead has signed to two year deal with the San Diego Chargers.

– Offensive Lineman Willie Colon has joined the Jets.

– Safety Louis Delmas has signed back on with the Detroit Lions.

– Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy has a one-year deal in Arizona.

– Huge drama surrounding Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil agreed to a salary reduction but the paperwork did not get filed on time by his agent. The Broncos were seven minutes late filing, and Dumervil has been officially released. The release, along with Welker’s new deal, has just created a cap problem in Denver. The Broncos can likely still work out a deal, but they now have a huge financial mess on their hands. UPDATE: The release creates $4.87M in dead money for this season, meaning Denver will be hard pressed to bring Dumervil back. Question: Why are teams in a multi-billion dollar industry still relying on fax machines?

– While fax machines are being flung out windows in Denver, defensive end John Abraham officially becomes a member of the New England Patriots.

– Eagles announce they acquired wide receiver Arrelious Benn, a former 2nd-rd pick, and 7th-rounder from Tampa Bay for a 2013 6th-rounder and 2014 conditional pick.

– Wide receiver Brandon Gibson is now a member of the Miami Dolphins.

– Running back Justin Forsett has agreed to terms with the Jaguars.

– Big news breaking that the Patriots have signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet, which is undoubtedly front-loaded with case. The cap-strapped Pittsburgh Steelers now have a chance to match the offer. It’s been a big day for the Patriots.

– The Cardinals agree to terms with cornerback Antoine Cason on a one year deal.

– Safety Adrian Wilson has signed a three year deal with the New England Patriots. Right now Bill Belichickk is looking like a salary cap genius.

– Big news in Minnesota… the Vikings have signed wide receiver Greg Jennings away from Green Bay.

– The Jets signed defensive tackle Antonio Garay to a one year deal. That’s two good moves in the same day, Jets’ fans.

– The Ravens signed defensive lineman Marcus Spears to a two year deal.

Saturday, March 16

– Per Adam Schefter, the Patriots have not signed wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet… yet. They are mulling over the possibility. That may be a cap issue, or it may be an issue of whether or not they believe they can fit Sanders in with Lloyd, Amendola, Jones, Gronk, Hernandez, and Balllard. The Pats have also been quiet on the re-negotiations with Lloyd, so that may be part of the calculus.

– Hearing that something is likely forthcoming on cornerback Aqib Talib’s return to the Patriots. All is still quiet on the Sebastian Vollmer front.

Feb 152013
 

Joe FlaccoPredicting human behavior is a bit harder than predicting the weather, mainly because warm and cold fronts don’t have agents. Nevertheless, NFL free agent season is soon be upon us and this is the way that Flip Stricland (your friendly neighborhood Professional Football Meteorologist) sees it.

 

Joe Flacco

Best Bet for 2013: Baltimore Ravens
I really don’t see Baltimore having any other choice than pony up (yes, that indeed was a poorly crafted Colts reference) and pay Flacco what he wants to stay a Raven. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has all the leverage and his representation will do all it can to generate interest from other clubs to drive the price as high as possible. In the end Flacco resigns with Baltimore a very rich man.
Second Guess: Arizona Cardinals
Never under-estimate what very rich and very desperate men will do. There are high school quarterbacks in Texas who are more NFL ready than the troupe the Cardinals put on the field. Somewhere, someone will think that Arians can turn Flacco into Peyton Manning and entertain the thought of spending a whole bunch of money to make that happen.

Dwayne Bowe

Best Bet for 2013: New England Patriots
New England continues to long for a down field threat and has the blueprint in turning a malcontent wide receiver into a model citizen. Bowe stretches the field and gives Brady a reliable deep ball option Lloyd failed to provide. Bowe also makes the departure of Wes Welker easier to swallow.
Second Guess: Miami Dolphins
Miami adds some talent to a rather under-whelming corps of receivers. While I feel Miami has other free agents wide receivers at the top of their list, it could happen.

Mike Wallace

Best Bet for 2013: Pittsburgh Steelers
Make no mistake, there are still hard feelings between Wallace and the Steelers front office but money has an amazing way of healing old wounds. Pittsburgh needs Wallace more than Wallace needs Pittsburgh in my opinion but a deal gets done to keep #17 a Steeler.
Second Guess: Oakland Raiders
Yes, Al Davis is dead and so is Davis’s well documented blind love of speed. Nonetheless, the Raiders need more talent at the position to keep opposing defenses from stacking the line on McFadden.

Greg Jennings

Best Bet for 2013: Miami Dolphins
Jennings takes his talents to South Beach and reunites with Joe Philben. Miami needs to upgrade the WR position and Jennings is looking to get paid. The best deals are those when both sides walk away happy.
Second Guess: Detroit Lions
Detroit cut ties with mercurial Titus Young which means they are in the hunt for a #2 receiver. Calvin Johnson could use some help and who better than from a divisional rival.

Wes Welker

Best Bet for 2013: Dallas Cowboys
In Tony we trust – for at least another year. The rationale here is that Dallas goes all out and lands Welker to take advantage of the underneath route with Bryant and Austin on the outside.
Second Guess: San Francisco 49ers
Welker knows a good thing when he sees it and jumps to the left coast to give the Niners an added scoring threat. Just think of all the fun things Harbaugh can do with him and that offense.

Steven Jackson

Best Bet for 2013: Cincinnati Bengals
The addition of Jackson gives the Bengals the offensive balance they lacked in 2012. Jackson’s injury history is a concern but this hard nosed running style would create a nice change of pace for a Bengals offense too reliant on the pass.
Second Guess: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals could benefit from a run game….and pass game……and at any position not played by Patrick Peterson. We see what Arians did with Vic Ballard. He could do more with Jackson.

Danny Amendola

Best Best for 2013: Denver Broncos
Denver is close, very close. Amendola offers a nice compliment to Thomas’s deep threat and is the type of player who would thrive catching the ball from Manning. He won’t command the money Welker will want and serves as a nice upgrade from the departing Stokley.
Second Guess: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle is close, very close. As such they too are in the market for an affordable receiver to add talent to the position. Amendola would command the attention opening up room for Wilson to use his legs as well as his arm.

Martellus Bennett

Best Bet in 2013: Tennessee Titans
Jared Cook is a free agent and Tennessee will need to find someone of comparable talent. Bennett fits this bill and more creating match up problems and gives Locker the check down option he needs.
Second Guess: Chicago Bears
The Bears have been unable to fill the void created by the trade of Greg Olsen to Carolina and quite literally have no talent at the position. Signing Bennett allows the Bears to use the draft to concentrate needs other than the TE position.

Ahmad Bradshaw

Best Bet in 2013: Green Bay Packers
The Packers tried their luck with Cedric Benson in 2012 and has some success prior to his season ending injury. Green Bay rolls the dice again, this time on Bradshaw who has his own history of injuries. Bradshaw, when healthy, gives the Packers the run game that has been their fatal flaw for far too long.
Second Guess: Cincinnati Bengals
The logic here is the same as above with Jackson. Cincinnati needs to improve the running game and Bradshaw can provide the run-pass balance that was absent last season.

Dustin Keller

Best Bet in 2013: Washington Redskins
Washington has a bona-fide playmaker at QB and needs to give him all the tools he needs to succeed AND stay healthy. Keller, who has health issues of his own, is a legit red zone target who had success with Sanchez under center. Keller’s size and athleticism could make him an attractive option for the Redskins.
Second Guess: New York Giants
If Bennett leaves, Manning and the G men will be on the market for a suitable replacement. Insert Keller who takes the short walk across the concourse to the Giants locker room.

Reggie Bush

Best Bet in 2013: Arizona Cardinals
This is the third time I’ve referenced the genius of Bruce Arians and I very well could be giving the man more credit than he deserves. Nonetheless, Bush has crazy athleticism and could be a crazy fun option to improve the Cardinals run game. Arians skill is with QBs not RBs – regardless Bush is an upgrade at a position that needs talent.
Second Guess: Green Bay Packers
The Packers used Randall Cobb in the backfield last season and benefit from the mismatch his athleticism created. Bush could provide a similar benefit in both the pass and run game.

Brian Hartline

Best Bet in 2013: Buffalo Bills
Hartline stays in the AFC East and moves north to join the Bills to compliment Johnson. Buffalo has an emerging offense and Hartline provides Fitzgerald a reliable alternative to Johnson.
Second Guess: St. Louis Rams
With Amendola gone, Hartline serves as a nice, although unspectacular, replacement. St. Louis needs talent at the WR position and will need to replace the production lost with Amendola moving on. Hartline isn’t much of a free agent splash but I’m not sure the Rams are seeking one this off season.

Nov 232012
 

At the end of the first quarter, the game was scoreless, though the New England Patriots were driving deep in Jets’ territory. Just ten game minutes later, Stephen Gostkowski was kicking an extra point to push the Patriots’ lead to 35-0 while the Jets and their faithful looked on in stunned disbelief.

Thus is the tale of two NFL teams headed in very different directions.

For the Patriots, last night’s 49-19 blowout win was their fifth straight victory, locked up the AFC East except for the technicality of math, and cemented the Patriots as a favorite entering the final five games of the season in preparation for the playoffs. For the Jets, the crushing loss confirmed that big off-season changes can be expected for a franchise that has collapsed under its own weight in each of the last two seasons. Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan, and Mark Sanchez all have their jobs on the line as the Jets come to terms with the fact that they simply not a good team.

The game started as a defensive struggle as the teams exchanged punts before the Patriots drove to the Jets’ 21 yard line, but the Patriots came up empty when Stephen Gostkowski missed a 39 yard field goal. The miss seemed to spark the Jets, who rode Shonn Greene’s running and some short passes to the Patriots’ 23. But then Sanchez was fooled by the New England  secondary on the next play, and Steve Gregory picked off a pass intended for Bilal Powell, ending the threat. The Patriots offense then got into synch, as the Patriots drove 84 yards on 15 plays, with Tom Brady connecting to a wide open Wes Welker for a three yard touchdown and a 7-0 Patriots lead.

The Jets tried to answer back on the next drive, using Bilal Powell’s running  to push into New England territory. But on fourth down at the Patriots’ 31, the Jets called Greene on a very obvious run play up the middle, which was stuffed by Brandon Spikes, who forced a fumble that was recovered by Gregory at the New England 17. On the very next play Brady connected on a short pass with Shane Vereen, who outraced the Jets’ defenders for an 83 yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

After a touchback and a quick pass for 11 yards, Sanchez made a mental error and turned the wrong way to hand the ball off. Finding no running back to hand off to, Sanchez ran to the line, seeking running room. But Vince Wilfork manhandled Brandon Moore, shoving him back into Sanchez and forcing Sanchez to fumble the ball. Gregory continued his banner night by picking up the ball and racing 32 yards to extend the Patriots’ lead to 21-0.

But wait; there’s more…

On the ensuing kickoff, Joe McKnight got lit up by a shot from Devin McCourty and the ball popped into the air, landing in Julian Edelman’s arms as he returned the fumble 22 yards for a touchdown. The score was now 28-0, and the rout was on. Rex Ryan could be seen on the sideline shaking his head and muttering “bleeping unbelievable.”

The Jets tried to calm the game down on the next drive, seemingly more focused on preventing disaster than in striking back. Greene was finding room to run and rushed for 19 yards on the drive, but a Jerod Mayo sack snuffed out the drive and forced a punt. The Patriots then needed only four plays to cover 77 yards, as Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 56 yard touchdown pass and a 35-0 lead. The Jets would end the half with a field goal to get on the board, but the Jets’ fans booed loudly as the teams went in for the half, with some calling for Tim Tebow to replace Sanchez.

The Jets were forced to punt on their opening drive of the second half and the Patriots went back to work. New England drove again into Jets’ territory and seemed well on its way to another score before Eledman got hammered by LaRon Landry, forcing the ball out of his hands and knocking Edelman out of the game. The Jets then drove to the Patriots’ one yard line, but Greene was again stuffed by Spikes on a run, turning the ball back to the Patriots. However, on the next play Stevan Ridley was called for a chop block in the end zone, netting a safety and turning the ball back to the Jets. The Jets, now seemingly playing for pride, then drove 71 yards on 4 plays, ending with a Bilal Powell 4 yard touchdown and cutting the Patriots’ lead to 35-12.

Then, just as Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth began filling the Jets’ fans heads of visions of a comeback, the Patriots marched methodically down the field, going 17 plays and using seven and a half minutes off the clock with Brady taking the ball the final yard for a score and a 42-12 lead. On the next play from scrimmage, Alfonzo Dennard stripped the ball from Chaz Schillens and Rob Ninkovich recovered at the Jets’ 37 tyard line. Brady then hit Welker on a 28 yard pass play before Ridley scampered the final 8 yards and a 49-12 Patriots’ lead. The Jets would add a late touchdown pass from Sanchez to Keller to close out the scoring, but it did little to mitigate the completeness of the Patriots’ domination of the game.

When the Patriots ran

Stevan Ridley ran for 97 yards on the night, never rushing for more than 9, but getting consistent chunks all night long. The Jets were soft up the middle, and Vereen added 42 yards as the Patriots amassed 152 yards on the night. The Patriots’ balance on offense kept another opponent off balance throughout the evening. Advantage: Patriots

When the Patriots passed

Brady threw for 323 yards and three scores, but could have had much more as he missed several open targets during the course of the game. None the less, the Jets had little answer for the Patriots’ passing attack. Welker caught 7 balls and was the primary target on the night, as Lloyd caught 3 passes and Vereen, Edelman, and Hernandez each grabbed two while Brady spread the ball to seven different receivers. Brady’s long connection to Edelman and Vereen’s big run after the catch on the way to his 83 yard touchdown helped pad Brady’s numbers for the night. The make-shift line did a great job protecting Brady, as the Jets rarely pressured Brady and did not register a sack on the night. Advantage: Patriots

When the Jets ran

The Jets found running room in the middle early, but then Vince Wilfork and Brandon Spikes seemed to will themselves to shut down running lanes and intimidate the running backs. Greene was able to gain an impressive 71 yards on the night as the Jets ran for 119 yards. Although productive early, the Patriots’ huge lead took the Jets out of their running game, although they were able to use it for some success in the second half. But the inability to convert on fourth and one on two occasions killed any hope the Jets might have had. We’ll call this one a push. Advantage: Even

When the Jets passed

Sanchez was able to throw for 301 yards, but much of this was in “garbage time” as the game was already out of reach and the Patriots were simply limiting damage.  Kerley caught seven passes on the night, while Keller added five and Jeff Cumberland caught four. The Patriots gave up yards but the secondary also broke up several passes, and Dennard forced a fumble after he had been beaten on one play. Steve Gregory’s interception was a beautiful job of baiting Sanchez into throwing an ill-advised ball. Kyle Arrington had a better performance last night than in the previous outing against the Colts. Slight edge here to the Jets. Advantage: Jets

Special Teams

The Patriots created a touchdown on special teams by forcing a Joe McKnight fumble on a kickoff return. This negated an otherwise decent performance by the Jets’ return unit. Malone was the better of the punters this night and Ghost missed a field goal, but McKnight’s gaffe tips the balance towards the Patriots. Advantage Patriots

 Intangibles

The Jets needed to win the turnover battle to have a fighting chance. Instead, the turnover difference was +4 in favor of the Patriots as they affected big plays on defense and, with the exception of the Edelman fumble, protected the ball on offense. The Patriots did commit eight penalties to the Jets five, but this game was decided by turnovers. Belichick and his staff did the superior coaching job this night as well, as Rex Ryan must now be scrutinized for his refusal to make personnel changes despite  some awful offensive performances. Advantage: Patriots

Key Moment:  Vince Wilfork creating a Mark Sanchez fumble that was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by Steve Gregory. Sanchez never really looked confident after that play, it put the Patriots up by three scores and utterly demoralized the home crowd.

Game Ball: Steve Gregory for his interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown.

Notes: As noted by Patriots Life, Last night marked Bill Belichick’s 200th NFL coaching win, and marked the first time ion NFL history that a team has scored 100 or more (108) points in a five day span. Finally, the Patriots scored 35 points in the second quarter despite only possessing the ball for 2 minutes and 14 seconds. That is an amazing accomplishment.

Nov 212012
 

In Week 7 I chose the Patriots to wallop the Jets. As it turns out the Patriots won, but only as a result of a last minute regulation comeback and a field goal in overtime to edge the Jets 29-26. And while one could argue that a game being played five weeks later in the New Jersey and without Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski could yield a different result, that seems like an unlikely outcome for two teams that are headed in different directions.

Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan seems to understand this, given his very conscious decision to rein in the smack talk this week, to declare Tom Brady a once in a lifetime player, and to defend Bill Belichick’s decision to keep Gronkowski in on a special teams play that resulted in Gronk breaking his arm and missing at least the next three to four weeks. It took the New York media to start the hype, thanking Bill Belichick (in turkey form) for leaving Gronk in. Newsflash to the New York media: no coach selectively pulls players off of special teams in a blowout win, and the play was a fluke. Gronk had a better chance of breaking his arm on a touchdown spike than he did on special teams. As Bill Belichick said on WEEI this week, show me the player that we know is going to get hurt on this play, and we’ll pull him out of the game.

None the less, Gronk is out for this contest, but that doesn’t necessarily mean good news for the Jets. Aaron Hernandez, a healthy scratch for the past couple of games as a result of an abundance of caution, will return. The Jets likely won’t find Hernandez much easier to cover than Gronk, particularly when he is complemented by Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman, and Danny Woodhead. The players may change from week to week, but the offensive assault remains.

In truth, the Jets fired their best shot against the Patriots in Week 7, and they came up short. Don’t expect the Patriots to let them hang around as long this time around. The Jets have tanked since the last match-up, coming out of their funk long enough to beat the Rams last week in St. Louis, but the Rams aided the Jets’ effort by turning the ball over three times, something the Patriots generally do not do. In a battle of turnovers, expect the Patriots to get the best of the contest. A Patriots win would further separate New England from the rest of their divisional foes, and would also likely end any hope of the Jets making the playoffs this season. Finally, a Patriots’ win would be the 200th of Belichick’s career.

Here’s how the game will likely break down:

When the Patriots run

The Patriots running game went to sleep last week against the Colts, in part by design and in part because of a solid effort by the Colts’ defensive front. But the Jets are giving up over 140 rushing yards per game so far this season, and the Patriots are averaging right about the same on offense. The Patriots ran the ball for 131 yards in the first contest, and I expect that Shane Vereen will get more opportunities this week, given how well he performed in Week 7 (8 carries for 49 yards). Expect the Patriots to come in around the 130 yard mark again on  Thursday night, as the Patriots are likely to focus on exploiting the Jets’ secondary. Ridley will once again not get close to 100 yards, but should be able to net consistent gains.

When the Patriots pass

The Jets possess the third best pass defense (200.1 ypg) in the league and the Patriots own the fourth best passing offense (289 ypg), so something has to give. Tom Brady had a sub-par performance in Week 7, going 26 for 42 for 259 yards and two touchdowns. Since then Brady has started to look sharper, and the Patriots are likely to run a pass-heavy attack on the Jets. Gronk, Hernandez, Welker and Woodhead all did the damage in the first meeting, and this week Edelman and Lloyd will both get more looks with Gronk sidelined. Antonio Cromartie has the ability to shut down the man he is covering, but he can only cover one at a time. The Patriots will seek to create mismatches against safeties and linebackers and exploit those for consistent chunks of yards. The Jets have probably realized that their new safety tandem of  LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell is not an answer to shutting down the tight end and slot attack of the Patriots.  Look for Brady to be closer to the 300 yard mark on Thursday night. The Jets’ pass rush did sack Brady once in the first meeting, but the Jets will generally have to sell out in order to apply pressure to Brady, which typically results in big Patriots’ gains. Even without Logan Mankins out of the lineup, the Patriots offensive line is more than a match for the Jets’ defensive front.

When the Jets run

Ground and pound is what the Patriots do, not the Jets. The Jets are 15th in rushing with just over 108 yards per game, and the Patriots possess the 10th ranked run defense, giving up 99 yards per game. Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Brandon Spikes know how to fill running lanes and stuff the run, and Spikes has a knack for jarring the ball loose. Shonn Greene has had one game of over 100 yards this season, but has otherwise looked very pedestrian and is averaging 3.7 yards per carry. He ran for 54 yards in the first meeting and will likely come in somewhere near that number this week. Greene has a habit of putting the ball on the ground, but has not lost any fumbles yet this season; that will be a key factor if the Jets expect to have a chance of winning this game. The bigger threat is Bilal Powell, who gets fewer carries but has greater big play potential. Joe McKnight is an inconsistent runner, but is capable of an occasional big play as well. The Jets ran for 106 yards in the first meeting, and should be close too that number this week as well.

When the Jets pass

This is where we can expect to see the biggest difference between Week 7 and Week 12. In the first meeting Mark Sanchez was accurate, focused and poised (until the last play) while passing for 328 yards and a touchdown. But he also made key mental mistakes that seem to be the unfortunate trademark to his career as an NFL starting quarterback. Jeremy Kerley and Dustin Keller both had big days, each catching seven passes, while Greene caught six passes out of the backfield. The Jets are still likely to rack up yards on Thanksgiving, but not likely to match their Week 7 performance. Aqib Talib is working into the secondary rotation and will likely have safety help when he matches up against the Jets’ receivers, presumably matching up against Kerley. Alfonzo Dennard is turning out to be a seventh round steal in this year’s draft as he has established himself as a solid contributor in the secondary despite having a long way to go in his development. Kyle Arrington has been symptomatic of the struggling secondary, but moving McCourty to safety on a permanent basis will improve the secondary in the long run. The improvement in the secondary seems to be giving Bill Belichick the willingness to blitz more to improve the pass rush, and this will be important with rookie Chandler Jones out of the lineup this week. The Patriots racked up four sacks in the previous meeting. Vince Wilfork is playing like a man possessed, Rob Ninkovich is simply a playmaker, and Hightower and Jermaine Cunningham will likely get opportunities to take shots at Sanchez. Look for Sanchez to be closer to 200 yards this time around, with turnovers coming from quarterback pressure via strip sacks or errant throws.

Special Teams

In the first meeting the Jets surrendered a 104 yard kickoff return by Devin McCourty, though McCourty’s kickoff fumble in the fourth quarter nearly cost the Patriots the contest. The Patriots possess the superior return units, and the Jets have been plagued with special teams problems throughout the season. Don’t be surprised to see the Patriots gain the field position advantage through special teams and perhaps pull off another big return. Julian Edelman is a dangerous punt returner.

Intangibles

Which Mark Sanchez shows up this week? The one who throws with 75% accuracy (v. the Rams) or the guy who has thrown with 53.5% accuracy on the year. As the Jets’ media is pointing out, the Jets’ lack first tier starters and solid depth on the roster. Bill Belichick’s team is perfect in the second half of the season going back through 2010, and Belichick is deadly when he gets a second look at an opponent in a season, even a divisional one. The revamped secondary may be the coach’s means for delivering a big headache to Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez on Thursday night. Finally, the Patriots are +20 in turnover differential this season, best in the league, while the Jets are at +1, 6th in the AFC.

Prediction

It’s entirely possible that the Jets could win Thursday night, and they have the advantages of no Gronk, a home game, and knowing that they gave the Patriots all they could handle in Week 7. But the Patriots are a better team now than they were five weeks ago, whereas the Jets are a team verging on a full-blown meltdown; a meltdown that becomes more likely if the Jets get blown out on Thursday night.

I am not expecting a Patriots’ blowout of the Jets, but do find it more likely than a Jets’ win. More likely we will see the similar script that has played out in recent Patriots’ contests; an early exchange of scores followed by a slow but inexorable assertion of the Patriots’ will in the second and third quarters before closing the game out in the fourth. In this case however, I think Gronk’s absence does help the Jets linger for the better part of three quarters before the Patriots put the issue to rest. Look for mismatches involving Edelman, Welker and Hernandez to allow the Patriots to sustain long scoring drives, while the Patriots defense  continues to both give up chunks of yardage and find ways to take the ball away from the opposition, offering up a short field to the offense. Predicted Score: Patriots 30 Jets 17.

Nov 162012
 

I’ll say at the outset that this article can be claimed to be the football equivalent of beating a dead horse; thus the title and the South Park graphic. But as someone who predicted the demise of the Jets a full year ago, I can’t help but look at the events that have unfolded recently in the New York Jets’ locker room and conclude that my article just after the launch of this website was prescient.

Not that the article was a huge stretch, but any objective observer of the New York Jets could have concluded that this was a team headed quickly towards a cliff, and Rex Ryan was driving with a blindfold on. But then Rex said it was ok because he had painted a pair of eyes onto the blindfold, which by his judgment meant he could see. Alas, the Jets’ front wheels have now gone over the cliff, and the rest of the clown brigade is poised to follow their clueless fearless into the abyss.

Recent events

So what has happened of late? For those who have not been paying attention, the Jets were coming off of pounding the Indianapolis Colts 35-9 and then put forth a solid effort before falling apart late against the Patriots in a 29-26 overtime loss. Since then the Jets’ dysfunction has soared, with a bye week being sandwiched by a 30-9 loss to the Dolphins and a hapless performance against the Seattle Seahawks, where the Jets’ offense managed 218 yards of total offense in a resounding 28-7 thrashing. Immediately following the loss to the Seahawks, Head Coach Rex Ryan could be seen teary-eyed, though he would not confirm crying in front of the players  after the loss. Rex than came out in defense of Mark Sanchez as the starting quarterback of the New York Jets, and why wouldn’t he? He traded Drew Stanton, the only real quarterback on the roster, to the Colts after Stanton asked for a trade in light of the Jets trading for Tim Tebow. Thus, the Jets sacrificed the backup quarterback position on their roster in order to secure someone who could best be described as a gadget player. And they did so without even having the slightest flipping clue about how to utilize said gadget player. While Tebow has made a handful of plays this season, the Jets’ use of him has been a failure of epic proportions, as his appearance for a few plays is episodic, often contrary to the flow of the game, and in some cases has disrupted what little rhythm Mark Sanchez was putting together. As I said at the beginning of the season, the Jets’ coaching has far greater belief in their own abilities than they deserve, and that starts with Rex Ryan.

After the loss, some of the Jets’ players tried to create the ultimate silver lining behind their last place 3-6 record by proclaiming that at least the locker room this season is free of the tension that ripped the locker room apart during the Jets’ three game losing streak to close the season out at 8-8 while missing the playoffs. But… wait for it… the Jets then went and created some of the drama they claimed to be free of. Matt Slauson got it started by stating that Sanchez was the Jets’ best quarterback by far, which is far more an indication of how bad the Jets’ quarterbacks are as a group than it is a vindication of Mark Sanchez. “It’s not even close,” Slauson said. “All the other quarterbacks know it. I have all the confidence in Mark. We don’t really have a choice… We have Greg (McElroy) . . . and we have an athlete..”

Other, unnamed players were more blunt about using Tebow, saying that the former miracle worker from Denver is “terrible” and is a “wildcat guy” rather than a quarterback. Another raised the question of whether or not using Tebow was relying on miracles to win. Still another raised questions about the receiving corps that Sanchez is throwing to, referring to the players as “garbage.” That’s right… no divisiveness in this locker room.

Predictably, Ryan had to get the back of Tim Tebow following those comments, making the argument that players making comments without using their names were acting cowardly. Ryan said he addressed the Tebow comments with his players and thought that the incident was bringing the team together as a unit. “I think this team is coming together,” Ryan said. “Could this galvanize it? I don’t know. Maybe so. This team, in my opinion, is not going to be pulled apart by outside people. I think inside the walls we are going to (be close).” Mind you, this is coming from the same coach who admitted losing the “pulse” of the 2011 locker room after acting like there was nothing wrong during the course of last season.

The next day Tebow admitted feeling frustration and sadness after the comments of other Jets’ players were made and published. To Tebow’s credit, he kept the spirit of his comments positive, talking about what he could control and how he tries to improve. But there has been no secret in recent weeks that Tebow was growing frustrated in his limited role.

Shonn Greene then opened up a can of worms when he told Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports that it was time for Tim Tebow to run the offense. “You feel bad for Mark, but at the same time you want to win games. We’re not here to protect people’s feelings. If you want to win games, you’ve got to try something. If somebody’s not getting the job done, you see if somebody else can do it. It’s the same with coaching, or any position. You don’t mean to belittle someone or say ‘he sucks.’ That’s just the harsh reality.” Stunningly (or not), Greene later tried to walk those comments back in an interview with Manish Mehta.

Since then Bart Scott and Antonio Cromartie have defended themselves against allegations that they were unnamed sources in the article. Scott took exception to LaDainian Tomlinson’s belief that he was one of the sources,   while Cromartie also took exception to the comments of a “retired player” and asserted that he (Cromartie) was not a cowardly person. Mayhaps he is and mayhaps he ain’t, but this is coming from the same guy who is crowing that the Jets are going to the playoffs this season. And Scott doesn’t exactly have oodles of credibility after threatening a reporter earlier this season.

Perhaps the only thing that made sense this week was when two former Jets, Wayne Hunter and Kellen Clemens, came out and shared how happy they were to be in St. Louis, on a team that has a “great quarterback situation” and none of the drama of the Jets’ locker room.

UPDATE (11/17): No sooner do I publish this article does Mike Tannenbaum come out and defend himself for trading for Tim Tebow. I won’t update this article after every chucklehead on the Jets comes out, but it is very clear that this ridiculous soap opera is going to continue until there is a regime change.

Where is this headed?

If you have not read the article “Here Comes the Collapse“, please note that while I didn’t get each game right, I had the Jets nailed exactly at a 3-6 record heading into this week’s contest against the Rams. I had the Jets ending up at 7-9, but looking at the injuries, the pathetic offense, and the overrated defense, I am thinking that 7 wins might have been optimistic. While the schedule is moderately “easy” the rest of the way out,  the Jets simply don’t look good enough to contend. The playoffs are about as far away from reality as the thought of Tim Tebow succeeding as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

The Jets are capable of going 2-2 in their next four, with likely losses to the Rams and Patriots, and wins over the Cardinals and Jaguars. Chalk up road losses to the Titans and the Bills, and a home win against the under-performing Chargers, and the Jets might well go 6-10 this season, one game worse than I had predicted.

Unless the Jets recover and go on a serious winning streak and make the playoffs, big changes appear to be in store for the Jets. They have a handful of talented players on both sides of the ball, but the number is not what Jets’ fans once thought it was. Mike Tannenbaum seems to be a failure as the Jets’ GM, and changes must start in the front office with respect to the evaluation of talent. Quinton Coples has turned out to be a great find, but the Jets’ defense has fallen to 17th in the league (6th against the pass and 30th against the run). Perhaps it’s the fact that the defense spends a lot of time on the field (31:51), but more likely it is simply that they overrated their own talent, particularly in stopping the run. Yes, Revis’ injury has hurt the defense, but it is the responsibility of the front office to make sure that team depth provides effective replacements.

On offense the loss of Santonio Holmes has hurt the team’s offensive production, but it would not have been much better with Holmes, though he amazingly is still second on the team with 20 receptions. The rest of the receivers, described within the team as garbage, are certainly not players who would be starting on most other teams. Dustin Keller has been up and down, and Greene has racked up 567 yards, but with only 3.7 yards per carry; “ground and pound” has been an illusion in New York made worse by the fact that the arch-nemesis Patriots have developed a far superior running game. At quarterback, Sanchez has been a disaster with a 52% completion rating, 10 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, and a passes rating of only 70.4. The Jets need better talent on both sides of the ball, and the talent has deteriorated over the past two seasons.

Next on the list is the head coach. Rex Ryan is a solid defensive coordinator, and he should know his limits. He is too erratic to be in control of 53 men for the entirety of a season, and seems to have no clue as to how to get a team to buy into a shared vision and plan. He may not have come to New Jersey to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings, but he would have been wise to learn the lessons that Belichick did in his coaching style with the Patriots, and how much it differs from his days in Cleveland. Can Rex Ryan be a good head coach? Maybe, but it’s not going to be happening at the head of the three ring circus of the Jets. His cardinal sin, in my view, was living and dying on the fate of Mark Sanchez, and then agreeing to peddle away the backup spot to a gimmick. Such a move should have sealed the fates of both Tannenbaum and Ryan.

Finally, the most obvious change that must come is at quarterback. Perhaps the answer is to be found in the draft, or maybe in free agency, but both Sanchez and Tebow have to go. Let Greg McElroy fight for a spot on the roster, but otherwise the Jets have to clean house at this position. Doing anything less invites another losing season in 2013.

As I have said before, as a Patriots’ fan I actually prefer better competition in our division, because it makes my favorite team a better club. But the Jets are not holding up their end of the bargain, and it is going to take significant change in New Jersey before this team gets back to being competitive. In the meantime, the circus surrounding the Jets is a sad reminder of the team that could have been.

Oct 222012
 

Let’s start with the positives for the New England Patriots: they won the game, beat a division foe, and took sole possession of first place in the AFC East. And for a few key moments at the end of the fourth quarter and in overtime, Tom Brady was clutch again. After that, it gets pretty hard to find positives from Sunday’s performance against the New York Jets.

It’s no secret that the Patriots have had a dreadful time closing out games on both offense and defense this season. In the three games won prior to today, the Patriots outscored their opponents by a total of 55 points. In the three games they had lost, they were outscored by only four points, lost late leads, and squandered opportunities to close out games, either through not converting first downs on offense, or giving up huge chunks of yardage on defense. And Week Seven against the Jets was shaping up a lot like the three losses.

And then Rob Ninkovich came to the rescue.

The converted long snapper to linebacker to defensive end had several big plays on Sunday, but none bigger than the sack and forced fumble that ended the game as the Patriots survived a sub-par effort and squeezed out a narrow 29-26 victory over the new York Jets.

The game started out as expected. The Jets drove 75 yards to open the scoring with a one yard touchdown run by Shonn Greene to put the Jets in front 7-0. From there the Patriots took control of much of the first half, with Devin McCourty returning the ensuing touchdown 104 yards to tie the game. After a Jets’ three and out, the Patriots then marched 58 yards, culminating in a Brady to Gronkowski touchdown and a 14-7 Patriots lead.

Early in the second quarter things went from bad to worse for the Jets. Starting on their oen 12 yard line, Mark Sanchez muffed a hand off to Greene and the ball rolled into the end zone, where Sanchez made a heady play and kicked the ball out of the end zone, resulting in a safety and a 16-7 Patriots lead. After a Patriots’ punt, the Jets once again started deep in their own end but had moved the ball to near midfield before Sanchez was late on a throw, allowing Alfonzo Dennard the opportunity to pick off the pass and thwart the Jets’ drive. The Patriots started the next drive at their own 2 and were able to punch the ball into Jets’ territory, aided by a facemask call against the Jets which otherwise would have had the Patriots punting from their own 32. The Pats pinned the Jets at their own 5 and looked ready to get the ball back and post another score before the break. But Sanchez and the Jets wouldn’t cooperate. Aided by Greene’s running, a 15 yard pass play to Dustin Keller, and a defensive holding call the Jets were able to drain the rest of the first half clock, ending the drive with a 54 yard field goal by Nick Folk to cut the Patriots lead to 16-10.

The Jets opened the second half by driving deep into Patriots territory with the aid of another Sanchez to Keller connection, and then surprisingly did not go for it on a fourth and one, opting for a 21 yard Folk field goal and closing the gap to 3. The Patriots’ offense then seemed to click into gear, at least momentarily, as Brady drove the Patriots 83 yards, primarily on the back of Stevan Ridley, before connecting on another touchdown pass to Gronkowski and extend the advantage to 23-13.

The Jets then went three and out on the next drive and the Patriots looked like they were on the verge of finally putting a close game away. Shane Vereen ripped off 24 yards on the next two plays to close the quarter, but then Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels’ play calling to open the fourth quarter seemed to tajke the wind out of the Patriots’ sails. After Vereen ran for another two and a Patriots first down, the next Vereen run also only netted two. Instead of looking downfield to the tight ends or Wes Welker on 2nd and 8, McDaniels tried a short screen to Welker, which the Jets blew up for a two yard loss. Then on third and ten McDaniels went back to the same well, trying another short pass to Woodhead which also got blown up for a two yard loss and forced a Patriots’ punt. The series was a bizarre set of downs and seemed to reinforce the notion that McDaniels can get too cute for his (and the Patriots) own good.

The Jets started the next drive again deep in their own territory, thanks to a poor decision by Jeremy Kerley to field the ball at his own 8. But Sanchez, looking like a far better quarterback on Sunday than the Patriots had seen in a long time, engineered a 14 play drive that featured a 17 yard pass to Stephen Hill, a 19 yard pass to Kerley, and another 15 yard pass to Hill before Sanchez connected with Keller for a 7 yard touchdown, cutting the Patriots lead to 23-20. the next Patriots’ drive opened with a push-off by Brandon Lloyd that was flagged for offensive pass interference, immediately putting the Patriots in a hole. Three plays later the Patriots punted again, and most Patriots’ fans around the country were undoubtedly having flashbacks to the Seahawks’ game (I know I was) as the Jets started at their own 35 and began moving in for the kill. Sanchez hit Keller for a 20 yard game before Joe McKnight reeled off a 12 yard run, and the Jets were off and running. Three plays later though Hill dropped a pass that would gave given the Jets a first down deep in Patriots’ territory, and the Jets had to settle for a Folk field goal and a 23-23 tie.

On the kick off, McCourty coughed up the ball, and the Jets recovered the ball at the Patriots’ 18 yard line. But the Jets stalled, picking up three yards on two plays before Sanchez was sacked by Dont’a Hightower. Folk then kicked his fourth field goal of the game to put the Jets up 26-23 with only 1:42 remaining. But that’s plenty of time for Tom Brady, and he smoothly connected with Gronkowski for 15 and then for 12 more, and then with Danny Woodhead for a 20 yard gain that got the Patriots to the jets’ 32 yard line. Two plays later Gostkowski exercised some demons by connecting on a 43 yard field goal that tied the game at 26 and sent it into overtime.

The Patriots won the toss and methodically drove the ball 54 yards on 12 plays before Gostkowski kicked a 48 yard field goal to put the Patriots up 29-26. The Jets then began at their own 15, and netted only five yards on their first two plays, them failed to convert on a long pass. But Dennard was flagged for defensive holding and the Jets got a fresh set of downs at their own 15. McKnight then got blown up by Ninkovich for a two yard loss, but Sanchez responded with a beautifully thrown 17 yard connection to Kerley to keep the drive moving. McKnight was then stuffed again by Vince Wilfork for no gain, before Sanchez dropped back to pass on the next play. Jermaine Cunningham got to Sanchez’ legs and held onto him while Ninkovich hit Sanchez in the chest and arm, forcing the ball out of his hands. Ninkovich then promptly pounced on the ball to end the game and snuff out the jets’ chances of an upset.

This game will do little to relieve Patriots fans who think that this team, which is capable of utterly dominating its opponents, has something wrong with it. Between the Patriots’ tendency to give up big plays on defense, and the offense’s ability to inexplicably fail to execute at key moments, and the recipe for disaster never seems far away. Add in Josh McDaniels own lackluster coaching performance, and I expect the Boston faithful to be up in arms this week despite the Patriots pulling out a narrow win in a game that they could have won handily.

This is to take nothing away from the Jets’ performance. Sanchez executed well all game and looked like a far more patient quarterback than normal, though he still missed connecting on a couple of key plays in addition to having his receivers drop a couple of important passes. The Jets’ defense was hardly spectacular, but it made key plays at key times to keep the Jets in contention. If nothing else, the jets proved that rumors of their demise are still premature, and that this team still has a lot of fight left in them despite the rash of injuries that has taken away some of their best players. It may not last long, but the reinvigorated Jets were tough to put away for this one Sunday in October.

When the Patriots ran:
For the most part, the Patriots were able to run the ball effectively on Sunday. They simply didn’t call running plays at the right times. Stevan Ridley gained 65 yards on 7 carries, well below his usual productive level. But Shane Vereen added 49 yards on just 8 carries and Danny Woodhead added 17 yards. Advantage: Patriots

When the Patriots passed:
Once again, when the Patriots called the right plays they were highly effective. Although Brady only threw for 259 yards, he had two touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski and did not throw an interception, although Antonio Cromartie managed to drop an easy one. Gronk and Welker both had six receptions and Aaron Hernandez added five as Brady connected with eight different targets on the day. Advantage: Patriots

When the Jets ran:
Although Shonn Greene was able to carry the ball effectively on a few occasions, he had an unspectacular game, rushing for only 54 yards on 16 carries before leaving due to a head injury. He did return for one play but was then taken out again. McKnight provided a spark off the bench, with 23 yards on 7 carries, and five other rushers combined for 29 yards as the Jets tallied a total of 116 yards. It was more the timing of the Jets’ running game than the 3.5 average per carry that made the Jets’ ground game effective. Brandon Spikes was a beast against the run on Sunday, recording ten tackles and routinely stuffing the Jets’ rushers. Advantage: Jets

When the Jets passed:
Mark Sanchez threw for 328 yards with one touchdown and one interception. And while Sanchez’ own blunders and the mistakes of his receivers likely cost the Jets the game, it was the ability of the Jets to gain major chunks of yards through the air all day that kept the jets in the game at all. The Patriots gave up six passing plays of more than twenty yards and committed a slew of defensive penalties in the secondary that only served to underscore the current state of the Patriots’ secondary. Advantage: Jets

Special Teams:
Devin McCourty sparked the Patriots early with his 104 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, then nearly cost them the game with his kickoff return fumble late in the fourth quarter. Ghost connected on both of his field goal attempts and Folk on all 4 of his, but the real difference was in the punt game, where Zoltan Mesko routinely pinned the Jets deep and was aided by Jeremy Kerley’s questionable decisions to field at least two punts deep in his own end that might have resulted in touchbacks. In the game of field position, the Patriots won the day and were aided by uncharacteristic Jets’ errors. Advantage: Patriots

Key moment: Twenty yard connection from Tom Brady to Danny Woodhead to help move the Patriots into field goal range to tie the game before the end of regulation.

Game ball: Rob Ninkovich with four tackles, 1.5 sacks, another tackle for loss, a quarterback pressure, and the strip that ended the game.

Oct 172012
 

Here’s the thing. I just got done reading the GHOST RAT’s Week 7 Preview…. and I just can’t let that sort of thing go unanswered. My boys are hurting, yes. We have lost Revis and Holmes. We are likely without our starting and backup nose tackles. We are severely banged up at running back (both McKnight and Powell). Keller and Stephen Hill are still playing through recovery and Mangold has been questionable. You may say to me… How can you win? How is it possible that a defense that bad at stopping the run while healthy can win while hurt? How can an offense not producing consistently in run, pass, or play action take on the Patriots? I’ve got one word for you:

MOTIVATITUDE!!!!

Listen, I’ll admit this team has proved nothing this season other than that it can be exceptionally average. We kill teams on the bottom tier like the Bills and the Colts, we get beat by teams in the top tier like the 49ers and the Texans, and we will likely have nail biters against other teams who should be playing better than they are (hey Steelers fans!) – but this week brings a challenge of a different sort, this week isn’t a middle tier verses a top tier. This week is the Jets vs. the Patriots and we HATE THESE GUYS.

It was 2010 when Bart Scott reminded us the “Anybody can be beat” and it was this Summer when Revis reminded us that Belichick is a “Jerk” and it is this Sunday that the Jets will remind the Patriots that the bigger you are the harder you can fall. (My guess is that this will come from a Landry – Gronk leveling that I will feel all the way from my couch at home) The Jets are coming off a great win last week. Yes, those were the Colts and yes… they are just bad, but if you watched closely you could see that my boys were hungry and ticked off. They have a chance to prove to the world that they are more than just the team that Holmes and Revis play on – they have a chip on their shoulder and this attitude and this kind of motivation is exactly what can give these boys an edge over Mr. Rat’s team.

Keys to a Gang Green Victory:

No Sanchize turnovers. We have based our offense around long (over the middle) passes and up the gut runs. We need to throw more 5-8 yard passes to give Mark some confidence and back the rush defense off a bit so that Bill will be forced to rely on a secondary that is weak.

Kyle Wilson needs to show up to play. This kid is no Revis, he is no Cro, he is no NFL caliber corner but over the last three seasons he has provided fan with glimpses of why the Jets drafted him and it is not his fault that he was forced to cover the slot receivers when he is more effective with a sideline. My guess is the Patriots will look for any time he is matched up with Welker and try to capitalize. This is likely to happen every third down and it is going to be up to Kyle to step up and make a play.

Dustin Keller. He was out for a couple weeks and Sanchez had to find other ideas, but he is back and there isn’t a lot of game tape on how the Jets are going to use him for Bill to watch. He was barely involved last week but this week is going to be a Keller breakout performance. The Jets receivers will be covered man to man while the Patriots blitz a ton to disrupt Sanchez. This will provide Keller opportunities to release for those 5-8 yard passed we just talked about.

Game Clock Management. Other than a bad hair day, there is nothing that the Tom Brady hates more than when he has to throw on the sidelines to stay warm enough to perform well. When teams can keep him off the field he can’t get in a rhythm and he can’t be Brady. If the Jets can mix things up enough, intentionally call two plays in the huddle and have rehearsed audibles, use hard counts to pull antsy, young defensive ends offsides, run the ball effective on third and short, and capitalize on screen passes; the Jets can feasibly keep Brady on the bench.

I believe in the New York Jets. Realistically, is this our year? Probably not… I’ve covered that before. I don’t think our window is as wide as it was in 2009 and 2010. I do, however think that this week is more possible that my colleagues 41-17 prediction indicates. We will have to see on Sunday.

My prediction:
New York Jets 16 Patriots 14

Ghost Rat you can leave the lair and vacation on Reyno Island anytime.

Oct 172012
 

The meltdown in Seattle has many Patriots’ fans wondering what is wrong with the New England Patriots. The offense, despite putting up over 450 total yards against the league’s top-ranked defense, suffered from bad decision-making, poor throws by Tom Brady (two picks and at least two more that could/should have been), and awful time management that cost points on the board which might well have made the difference in the outcome. The defensive front seven played exceptionally well, but were hung out to dry by an abysmal secondary; the corners routinely got beat and/or ran through receivers to draw PI calls, and the safeties got beat deep while in Cover-2. I am not sure what the secondary coaches are teaching the players, but it clearly isn’t working, and it all conspired to contribute to a dramatic Seattle 24-23 comeback win while the Patriots went 1 for 6 in the red zone and left many points on the field. The Patriots ran 86 offensive plays to the Seahawks’ 57, yet lost the game. Their secondary made Russell Wilson look like Joe Montana, and John Boyer, Patriots’ cornerbacks coach since 2009, is now under scrutiny given the team’s pattern of bringing in cornerbacks who perform well for a period of time and then regress.

So what is to stem the tide of negativity and bring relief to Patriots’ fans? Why, there’s nothing like a visit from the J-E-T-S (or Y-E-T-S for those paying attention) to cure what ails us.

If the Patriots are really as bad as they looked in the final seven minutes of the game in Seattle, then you can expect the Jets to come in, exceed expectations, and engineer an unexpected upset of the host Patriots. If however, you are one who concludes that the Patriots will make the necessary corrections that are required to beat the Jets and get back on track, then you can expect a game that features exacting offensive execution and opportunistic defense in a game that will quickly get away from the Jets.

My money is on the latter.

Pay no attention to the Jets’ dismantling of the Colts last weekend; the Colts’ don’t possess the league’s top offense and are vulnerable against the run. One only need to look at the match-ups to realize that the Jets are not currently constructed and equipped to seriously threaten the Patriots this weekend. The Jets are without Darrelle Revis and Kendrick Ellis, are likely without Eric Smith and Sione Po’uha, and possess a dreadful run defense. While the Jets aspire to be a “ground and pound” team, it is the Patriots who have the capability to pound the Jets into submission through the run while also moving the ball effectively through the air. The Patriots not only have the league’s best offense, they also maintain control of the ball for more than 32 minutes a a game. No matter what troubles the Patriots are having in the secondary and in closing out games they should win, the Jets are not prepared to go up against this offense. The formula for a Jets’ win is to create an ugly contest, run the ball effectively and keep Tom Brady off the field, and hope that their safeties can contain Gronk and Hernandez. I’m thinking it’s more likely that the Patriots take out several weeks of frustration against a very vulnerable New York Jets team.

Patriots’ offense (4th rushing, 3rd passing) versus Jets’ defense (28th rushing, 5th passing)

The Jets’ defense has been coming around, but without Darrelle Revis on the field they are likely woefully outmatched against the Patriots’ offense. While Cromartie is a good coverage corner, he can only cover one receiver at a time. The Jets don’t have the corners or the safeties to compete with the Patriots’ arsenal of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, and Deion Branch. Despite earlier boasting from Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, the Patriots will be able to choose their preference of match-ups for Gronk, Hernandez, and Welker. The biggest question mark for the Patriots in the passing game is the health of both Gronkowski and Lloyd, but their status should be known well before game time. Expect Brady to pick apart the middle of the field and hit quick outs to Branch and Lloyd to help the Patriots move down the field. Brady could stand to improve the accuracy of his throws, as he has been off the mark on a number of throws in the past few weeks, and has been fortunate not to have more balls picked off by opposing defenses. The Patriots have the third-ranked passing offense going up against the Jets’ fifth ranked passing defense, but Brady won’t need a big statistical day to effectively navigate the Patriots down the field. The Jets got four sacks of Andrew Luck on Sunday, but the Patriots only gave up one late sack to the Seahawks. The Patriots should contain Coples and Wilkerson and give Brady the time he needs to make his reads.

It is in the rushing game that the Jets’ are even more vulnerable. The Jets are giving up 150 yards per game on the ground, and the Patriots have the horses to gain at least that much, ranking fourth in the league in rushing yards per game. The game plan against the Seahawks was intentionally pass heavy, but you can expect that Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, and Danny Woodhead will get plenty of carries to take advantage of the porous New York run defense. Look for the Patriots to execute long scoring drives all afternoon to shorten the game and build a substantial lead.

Jets’  offense (15th rushing, 30th passing) versus Patriots’ defense (6th rushing, 28th passing)

Shonn Greene ran for a career-high 161 yards against Indianapolis on Sunday, but the Patriots’ run defense is far more formidable. The offensive line of the Jets will struggle to contain the Patriots’ front four, and Chandler Jones in particular has been a tremendous complement to Vince Wilfork on the line. Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo are both fierce against the run, making the idea that Greene will have another banner day an unlikely possibility. Greene will need to rush for at least 100 yards (more likely 125) for the Jets’ to have a realistic chance to compete in this game, but it is more likely that he will be in the 50-60 range; the Patriots recognize Greene as the strength of the Jets’ offense, and will take that strength away. The Jets’ like to find ways to utilize Joe McKnight (if he is available) and he has the potential to bust off a big play or two but once again, the Patriots’ run defense is better than the Colts.

In the air, even Mark Sanchez could have connected on some of the plays that Russell Wilson made on Sunday, but truthfully Wilson already has better judgment as well as more mobility to be a more effective quarterback. The Jets’ thin receiving corps is comprised of Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Dustin Keller, and Chaz Schilens, and is not the same type of threatening group that the Patriots faced in Seattle. Given Sanchez’ propensity for bad decisions, the Patriots will likely be able to force some mistakes and give their offense a short field, particularly given the pass rush that the Patriots can bring to bear against a suspect offensive line. While you can expect the Jets to hit one or two long sideline passes over the course of the game, I rather suspect the safety play in the middle will be cleaned up before this game begins. Additionally, the Jets may play with the Wildcat offense; expect Tebow to trot onto the field for a couple of series’ worth of plays, grab a first down or two, and get stuffed for a loss or two, but the Patriots will not allow Tebow to change the course of the game.

Special Teams

Both the Patriots and Jets have solid kicking units, though the Patriots’ punt cover team is susceptible to giving up a big return and Jeremy Kerley is capable of delivering. Similarly, Wes Welker has a knack for turning bad field position into good field position, so big plays are a possibility on either side. Look for the Jets to treat this game like they have nothing to lose, and fake runs and passes with Tebow in on the punt team are very likely. The Patriots will have to spy every special teams play to prevent this from turning the tide of the game.

Prediction

Obviously, I am expecting the Patriots to rebound for at least Week Seven. The Jets are coming in to Foxboro at exactly the right time and are going to have a hard time with the Patriots’ new diversity on offense. On defense the Patriots front seven will take away the Jets’ best chance to win the game (Greene) and force the ball into Mark Sanchez’ hands. Sanchez is no Russell Wilson, and will have a hard time executing over the middle of the field.

Even with the Patriots’ defensive woes, it is hard to imagine the Jets scoring more than 17 points, if you assume Sanchez to be good for one scoring drive, and allow for one big special teams play and a big play from Tebow. On the flip side, expect the Patriots offense to be angry for failing to execute when it counted on Sunday and to be looking to pile it on the Jets this Sunday. After an early exchange of scores, I look for the Patriots to take control of the game in the second and third quarters, and to close out the game in the fourth quarter by running the rock and pouring the points on. Patriots 41 Jets 17.