COMMENTARY | On paper, the New York Jets look like the sacrificial lamb for the New England Patriots home opener tonight.
A short week. A huge underdog (11-point dogs, as of Thursday morning). A fierce rival who has, of late, owned them (4-0 over the last two seasons).
So the Jets shouldn't even make the trip from the team hotel to Gillette Stadium, right? Wrong. The Jets could -- and very well might -- beat the Patriots tonight.
No, I didn't drink the Jets Kool-Aid after their Week 1 win against Tampa Bay. Yes, I'm the same guy who's questioning the offensive line, and I'm the same guy who wrote that the Patriots "over-match the Jets in every which way and win by at least two scores" in his season predictions column.
But here's the thing: If that offensive line plays better than it did against the Buccaneers, the Jets have a really good chance to pull the upset tonight. Why? Let me explain:
The injury report. New England looks to put a MASH unit out on the field tonight. Three of the team's top offensive weapons (Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski) are out or doubtful. Another eight players are questionable, including another five offensive starters or backups.
Tom Brady will have to make some magic with second-and-third stringers, which bodes well for Gang Green, which comes into Foxboro with the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL after week 1.
The Buffalo Game Plan. A rookie quarterback leading an underrated opponent takes the presumed AFC East champion to the wire. The same storyline that played out last week in Buffalo could come true tonight.
Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel played exceptional football in his first outing: two touchdowns, a 67-percent completion percentage and no turnovers. If Geno Smith can replicate that performance, the Jets will have a good chance to win.
History in the past. New England great Tedy Bruschi will be on the field tonight to be honored at halftime, but that's about the only connection (aside from Brady and Bill Belichick, of course) this New England squad has to its Super Bowl-winning past.
The last few years has seen an exodus of New England's glut of stars who made the New York Jets their punching bag. The Jets, on the other hand, still have a core group of guys on both sides of the ball (Nick Mangold, Santonio Holmes, Calvin Pace, Antonio Cromartie) who continue to have a bad taste in their mouths from their continued beatings at the hands of the Patriots.
If the Jets pull off the improbable and win tonight against the Patriots, they would have a huge advantage heading into the remainder of their season schedule: a 2-0 record and a win against the division's top dog.
And then I would start drinking the Kool-Aid.
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