Week 2: Patriots-Jets matchup analysis

Derek Harper, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

New York Jets (1-0) at New England Patriots (1-0)
Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. - TV: NFL Network
*TV announcers: Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan
*Keys to the game: The Patriots face a rookie quarterback for the second consecutive week and need to apply more pressure than they did against EJ Manuel, who was rarely touched, much less sacked, as New England narrowly escaped the Buffalo Bills' upset bid in Week 1. Like most rookies, Smith was productive when given time to survey his options against Tampa Bay but his efficiency plummeted in the face of pressure. He did find an immediate security blanket in TE Kellen Winslow, who led the Jets with seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs. For sustained success, however, RBs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory must improve on the 2.0 yards per carry they averaged in Week 1. Patriots QB Tom Brady knows there will be growing pains with an overhauled receiving corps that will likely be without WR Danny Amendola (groin). Look for the Patriots to rely early on RB Stevan Ridley, who was benched after putting the ball on the ground twice last week. Brady needs ground support to help soften the downfield coverage.
*Matchup to watch - Jets pass defense vs. Patriots WR Julian Edelman: With Amendola likely out and youth scattered all over the Patriots' receiving corps, Edelman is suddenly Brady's most valuable target after largely being a forgotten man over the offseason. New England will put him in motion seeking mismatches, primarily working between the hashes. The onus will be on the Jets to recognize where Edelman is pre-snap and avoid assignment breakdowns.
*Player spotlight - Patriots WR Kenbrell Thompkins: The undrafted rookie was the Patriots' star of the preseason and was targeted 14 times in Week 1, but he caught just four passes and was out of position on his routes multiple times.
*Fast facts: Smith was the Jets' leading rusher with 47 yards in Week 1. ... The Patriots have averaged 38 points in winning the past five meetings.
These aren't your parents' Patriots. Youth and injuries will reduce Tom Brady's arsenal early in the season, but New England is at home and in primetime against an untested rookie quarterback making his first career road start with a limited supporting cast.
*Our pick: Patriots 20-16

What to Read Next