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The New England Patriots had a successful offseason. It’s now time for them to translate that success to the field.
This game is a rematch of an AFC wild-card playoff matchup from Jan. 7, won 37-16 by the Patriots at Foxborough. Brady passed for 212 yards and two touchdowns while improving to 6-0 during his career in home playoff games - all of them coached by Belichick.
The Patriots - who went 12-4 to win their fourth straight AFC East title - advanced to the AFC championship game at Indianapolis, where they let a 21-3 lead slip away en route to a 38-34 defeat.
After the loss, New England spent the offseason aggressively retooling its roster. To bolster an aging linebacking corps, the Patriots signed two-time Pro Bowler Adalius Thomas away from Baltimore.
To provide Brady with the reliable targets he lacked in 2006, New England signed wide receivers Donte’ Stallworth from Philadelphia and Wes Welker from Miami, and acquired former All-Pro Randy Moss from Oakland for a fourth-round draft pick.
The flurry of moves has made New England a popular pick to win its fourth Super Bowl in seven years, but the Patriots are trying their best to ignore their press clippings.
“The amateurs do all the picking,” said Thomas, who had a career-high 11 sacks last season. “Pros just come and prepare for work.”
Coming off a 2006 season in which he caught 42 passes for 553 yards - both career lows - for the Raiders, Moss missed all four preseason games with a hamstring injury. He returned to practice Monday, though, and hopes to play against the Jets.
On the ground, running back Laurence Maroney will be expected to carry a heavier load. Maroney rushed for 745 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie in 2006, while splitting carries with the now-retired Corey Dillon.
“Being a very physical back like Corey is definitely not a part of my game,” Maroney said. “I’m looking for the best route to get around you. If I can outrun you that’s what I’m going to do. If I can put a move on you that’s what I’m going to do. If all else fails and I’ve got to drop the shoulder, that’s what I’ll do.”
New England’s revamped offense may need to find its form quickly, as the defense will open the season without two important parts. Safety Rodney Harrison is suspended for the first four games after violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour is on the physically unable to perform list due to knee problems and will miss at least the first six weeks.
The Jets are looking to build on a surprising 2006, in which they improved from a 4-12 record the previous season to go 10-6 and reach the playoffs in Eric Mangini’s first season as coach.
Mangini - a former Belichick assistant in New England - is downplaying that success in a manner similar to his mentor.
“Each year is its own entity,” Mangini said. “You have to do the same things every camp, every step of the way, to achieve the same level that you did. Prior results don’t predict future results, kind of like the stock market.
“Every season, there are teams that were disappointing that suddenly had very good seasons and teams that expectations were high for that didn’t. You see it year in and year out.”
New York lacked a clear No. 1 running back in 2006, and sought to remedy that by acquiring Thomas Jones from Chicago and signing him to a four-year contract. Jones rushed for 2,545 yards over the last two years for the Bears, whom he helped reach the Super Bowl last season.
“This is a totally different team, totally different situation,” Jones said. “I’m the type of person to just play football. I don’t get too much into people’s personalities and how people coach. I just do what I’m asked to do.”
A strained calf hampered Jones for much of training camp, but he’s expected to be ready for the season opener. He’ll seek to diversify an offense led by quarterback Chad Pennington, who earned comeback player of the year honors in 2006 by throwing for a career-high 3,352 yards - more than 2,000 of them to wideouts Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery.
The Jets, who allowed 14 points or fewer in seven of their last eight regular season games in 2007, drafted cornerback Darrelle Revis with the 14th overall selection. New York hopes he can improve a secondary that includes safety Kerry Rhodes, who had four interceptions, 92 tackles and five sacks last year.
Including postseason, New York has lost eight of its last nine meetings with New England. The lone Jets victory in that span was a 17-14 win at Foxborough on Nov. 12.
The Patriots have won six consecutive road games against the Jets - spanning Brady’s entire career as starter - by a combined 160-84.
New England is looking to win its fourth straight season opener.