No Brady means Jets-Pats could be pivotal AFC game Print
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Saturday, 13 September 2008 07:44
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 Even before the Jets signed Brett Favre and the Patriots lost Tom Brady, Sunday's matchup at the Meadowlands between New York and New England had an intriguing subplot.
Now it could have an impact on who wins the AFC East.
The intrigue stemmed from what happened 53 weeks ago, when a Patriots employee was caught taping Jets defensive signals, creating ``Spygate.'' It was an issue that didn't go away until long after the unbeaten Patriots were upset by the Giants in the Super Bowl.
But Favre's trade to the Jets and the knee injury last weekend that knocked Brady out for the season have made this an important game in what may have become a three-way race with Buffalo. New England has won the division five straight times.
are the team to beat.''
Maybe.
But the Jets, coming off a 20-14 win in Miami, are a lot closer to contending with Brady out of the picture.
His backup, Matt Cassel, was 13-of-18 for 152 yards and a touchdown in New England's 17-10 win over Kansas City last week. But that was coming in cold. This will be Cassel's first start since his final game at Chatsworth High School in California; at Southern Cal, he backed up Carson Palmer and then Matt Leinart.
Bill Belichick is stoic as usual about Brady's injury, focusing only on what he can control.
And his players buy that, even the flamboyant Randy Moss, who was very emotional on the day it happened.
``The 'said and done' term is to just go forward,'' Moss says. ``That is hard for us to really say and hard for us to really do when you are talking about a player and team leader such as Tom. With all that said, we know the show must go on.''
Favre's presence has given the Jets a lift, even though he's still learning after just a month with his new team. Last week he threw two touchdown passes, looking as good at 38 as he did last season, when he led Green Bay all the way to the NFC championship game before retiring, unretiring and getting himself traded.
d Chris Baker says.
``He's a little bit of a free spirit, as far as if something comes in and he's not sure exactly what it is, he'll just say, 'OK, do this,' as opposed to, 'OK, you're supposed to do this.' He's just like, 'Do this,' and we just kind of roll with it.''
---
In other games Sunday, Green Bay is at Detroit; the New York Giants at St. Louis; Indianapolis at Minnesota; Oakland at Kansas City; Chicago at Carolina; New Orleans at Washington; Tennessee at Cincinnati; Buffalo at Jacksonville; San Francisco at Seattle; Atlanta at Tampa Bay; Miami at Arizona; San Diego at Denver; and Pittsburgh at Cleveland.
Philadelphia is at Dallas on Monday night along with Baltimore at Houston, moved from Sunday because of Hurricane Ike.
Philadelphia (1-0) at Dallas (1-0) (Monday night)
The first of what could be a series of monumental games in the NFC East, the SEC of the NFL. These two established their credentials in Week 1, the Eagles thrashing the Rams 38-3, the Cowboys winning 28-10 in Cleveland.
The Cowboy now known simply as Adam, the former ``Pacman'' Jones, is shooting off his mouth. ``They played the Rams, dude,'' he said after someone asked him about Donovan McNabb's 361 yards and three touchdowns passing.
losses last season. That was the 10-6 game in Dallas when Brian Westbrook eschewed a touchdown and fell down short of the goal line to let the clock run out.
Indianapolis (0-1) at Minnesota (0-1)
Two presumed contenders who were disappointing the first week.
The Vikings may be under more pressure because their loss was to Green Bay, whose NFC North crown they covet. Their fans' Super Bowl hopes were based in part on the acquisition of Jared Allen. But last season's NFL sacks leader for Kansas City was shut out by Chad Clifton and didn't manage even a tackle.
``It burns my gut,'' Allen said.
Peyton Manning, who missed most of training camp and didn't take a snap in an exhibition game, looked rusty against the Bears. Chicago also exploited the absence of Jeff Saturday, Indy's All-Pro center, to get at Manning up the middle.
Pittsburgh (1-0) at Cleveland (0-1)
The Steelers looked super against Houston last week and the Browns were thrashed by the Cowboys. So Cleveland's high hopes coming off a 10-6 season will take a serious hit if it loses this game to the disliked division rival. Cleveland's problem continues to be a leaky defense that allowed 487 yards to Dallas.
offensive line, a question mark, opened holes that allowed Willie Parker to rush for 139 yards.
Chicago (1-0) at Carolina (1-0)
Two recent Super Bowl teams coming off down years. Each upset two AFC powers on the road in Week 1, the Panthers shocking the Chargers and the Bears reverting to dominant defense and the running of rookie Matt Forte to beat the Colts.
Forte's presence makes things easier for Kyle Orton. Orton may not be Peyton Manning, but he doesn't seem to be Rex Grossman either, passing for 150 yards without turning the ball over.
The Panthers are a different team with Jake Delhomme back. They'll miss suspended WR Steve Smith again, but that didn't bother Delhomme last week in San Diego, where he completed seven passes to TE Dante Rosario, including the winning TD as time expired.
Buffalo (1-0) at Jacksonville (0-1)
With Brady's loss, the Bills are in position to challenge New England. Buffalo doesn't look like a fluke: Marshawn Lynch is a weapon on offense, Roscoe Parrish a weapon on special teams, and the defense is solid. One defender who will be up for this game is DT Marcus Stroud, the former Jaguar.
ing game. Jacksonville gained only 33 yards on 17 carries in the loss to Tennessee.
Tennessee (1-0) at Cincinnati (0-1)
Vince Young has a knee injury and a troubled psyche. So Kerry Collins is the QB and the just-signed Chris Simms is behind him, leaving the Titans with two pocket passers instead of a scrambler.
Cincinnati lost to a Baltimore team with a rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, starting his first NFL game, and got its only TD on a fumble return. Carson Palmer was just 10-of-25 for 99 yards. And Chad Whatshisname caught just one pass for 22 yards.
San Diego (0-1) at Denver (1-0)
Another game that demonstrates how Week 1 quickly changed preseason predictions.
The Chargers, expected to romp through the AFC West, were upset at home by Carolina with Shawne Merriman doing nothing on his severely injured knee. So Merriman finally decided to have season-ending surgery, a blow to the San Diego defense.
It's hard to measure Denver off its 41-14 win over Oakland because the Raiders made more mistakes in a half than most teams make in a season. One pleasant development for the Broncos was the performance of rookie Eddie Royal, who had nine catches for 146 yards and will be joined this week by Brandon Marshall, back from suspension.
Green Bay (1-0) at Detroit (0-1)
mmates predict big things for the Lions. Every year, the performances fall flat. Last week was embarrassing against a bottom-of-the-table Atlanta team, when the Lions, with run-stopper Shaun Rogers gone, allowed 318 yards rushing, 220 to Michael Turner.
Aaron Rodgers, only the second quarterback to start a game for the Packers since 1992, looked like a fitting successor to Favre against the Vikings. This might be a trap game off a short week, on the road against a division opponent who could be underestimated.
New York Giants (1-0) at St. Louis (0-1)
The Giants have 10 straight road wins (not 11; the Super Bowl was a neutral site). Extending that run would seem easy against a team that was 3-13 last season and was blown out in its opener. ``We don't assume anything, it is a whole new year,'' Giants coach Tom Coughlin said this week after making the Rams sound like a title contender.
The 38-3 loss in Philadelphia last week won't help Scott Linehan's job security. Neither will this game, at least on paper.
New Orleans (1-0) at Washington (0-1)
The Saints will be without Marques Colston, their top wide receiver, out four to six weeks with a thumb injury. That probably means Drew Brees will throw a lot to two non-wideouts, Reggie Bush and Jeremy Shockey.
e Giants to try and get some rhythm into an offense that gained just 209 yards. At the least, they might try to run 10-yard patterns on third-and-9 after coming up short by a yard a half-dozen times in the opener.
Atlanta (1-0) at Tampa Bay (0-1)
Can the Falcons win two straight? Maybe. Brian Griese, No. 2 in Jon Gruden's seemingly inexhaustible line of QBs, will replace Jeff Garcia, who has a sprained ankle. Key linebacker Derrick Brooks also is likely out with a hamstring problem.
Matt Ryan threw a 62-yard TD pass on his first NFL play and Michael Turner rushed for 220 yards for the Falcons last week. It won't be that easy against a defense that allowed 438 yards to the Saints, but is normally much better.
San Francisco (0-1) at Seattle (0-1)
The Seahawks should be the favorite in the NFC West, but were trounced in Buffalo last week and lost WR Nate Burleson for the season, the latest of their receivers to go down.
Seattle is a hard team to beat at home and is 8-2 against the 49ers since 2003. San Francisco put Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, on injured reserve this week, probably ending Smith's career with the team.
Baltimore (1-0) at Houston (0-1) (Monday night)
uring the weekend.
The one bright spot for the Texans in their loss to Pittsburgh, was Mario Williams, who had two sacks. Williams could make life difficult for rookie QB Joe Flacco, who won his first NFL game, running 38 yards for a TD in the 17-10 win over the Bengals.
``I would say there was a lot of things he did well, but nothing that surprised us,'' John Harbaugh said of Flacco after Harbaugh's first NFL win as a head coach. ``All of us had the question mark: Would the game be too fast for him? It wasn't. That was a good thing to see.''
Miami (0-1) at Arizona (1-0)
Chad Pennington made the Dolphins competitive last week against his old team from New York. But the Dolphins ran for only 49 yards and will have to do better against Arizona, which can be explosive, especially at home.
The Cardinals are already in a rare spot - first place in the NFC West. For a franchise with just one playoff win in 60 years, it's never too early to say too early.
Oakland (0-1) at Kansas City (0-1)
The Raiders' 41-14 loss to the Broncos was so bad that even Ronald Curry, one of the few reliable offensive players, dropped passes. Big-time (and big money) acquisitions D'Angelo Hall and Gibril Wilson were torched - Wilson known for his tackling with the Giants, was left in single coverage, something he's bad at.
rady's injury overshadowed everything in Kansas City's first game, including Brodie Croyle's separated shoulder. But Damon Huard is an experienced backup QB who got the Chiefs within 5 yards of the tying TD in the final minute.
 

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