Patriots, Jets to square off Thursday night
Both squads squared off in highly competitive games this past Sunday—with the Patriots squeaking out a 23-21 victory over the Buffalo Bills—thanks to a game-winning field goal by Stephen Gostkowksi.
Similarly, rookie quarterback Geno Smith also led a late-game drive for the Jets to set up a contest-deciding field goal for Nick Folk to best the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The real story, however, will be how injuries affect New England.
Quarterback Tom Brady entered 2013 without three of his most elite offensive weapons in Wes Welker (free agency), Rob Gronkowski (forearm) and Aaron Hernandez (release from team).
Well-hyped wide receiver Danny Amendola joined the team during the offseason and played extremely well despite battling an injury last Sunday. Amendola caught 10 passes for 104 yards—including a catch to set up the Gostkowski field goal—but is more than likely to miss Thursday’s game with a groin injury.
Running back Shane Vereen took over the bulk of the Patriots’ carries last Sunday when Stevan Ridley had his playing time cut following a second-quarter fumble. Vereen ran for 101 yards on 14 carries but broke a bone in his wrist during the game and will miss a few weeks of action.
Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots have won the last five regular season games against their in-division rivals, but, with a depleted offense, face a Jets’ defense that impressed last week.
Star running back Doug Martin of the Buccaneers managed only 65 yards on 24 carries last Sunday, as the entire Tampa Bay offense managed only 250 yards and three second-half points.
The Patriots, on the other hand, have averaged 38.0 points and 419.2 yards in those last five matchups with head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets.
As for the Jets’ offense, other than quarterback Geno Smith, the other rushers, Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory, managed only 44 combined yards the entire game.
This series usually involves a good amount of trash-talking and history—the image of Mark Sanchez on Thanksgiving Day fumbling the ball after running into his lineman’s backside lives forever in our minds—but each team has something to prove in Foxboro following last Sunday’s games.
Both fresh-faced teams have a lot of questions to answer at 8:25 p.m. Thursday night at Gillette Stadium on NFL Network.