By Steve Silverman
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The Jets are getting their chance at the New England Patriots at the right time.
The high-powered Patriots have turned down the wattage quite a bit. They have been an offensive juggernaut in recent years, but the team that takes the field at Gillette Stadium tomorrow night won’t resemble anything like the team that went to the Super Bowl following the 2011 season and went to the AFC Championship game last year.
Wes Welker was sent packing and he was signed by the Denver Broncos. Danny Amendola, Welker’s look-alike replacement, has a groin injury and he is not likely to play.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is getting closer to returning to the starting lineup but he is still among the walking wounded. Running back Shane Vereen has a broken wrist and he will miss at least eight weeks. Stevan Ridley found himself on the bench after his first-half fumble was returned for a touchdown by the Bills.
Ridley may well get another chance against the Jets, but the ugliness of that fumble put him in Bill Belichick’s doghouse and that means that LaGarrette Blount could get an opportunity.
But no matter what Belichick does, the Patriots are not going to have their “A” team on the field. It may just represent the Jets best chance to pay the Patriots back for past humiliations.
Can anyone say butt fumble, and the infamous 49-19 loss to New England on Thanksgiving night?
It would take a lot more than one win to give the Patriots sufficient payback for that, but it would be a step in the right direction.
It will take a lot of things to go right for Geno Smith to help the Jets get a victory, and while the offense will have their own burden, it’s still going to be difficult to stop the Patriots offense.
The main players may not be available, but Tom Brady almost always finds a way. He is going to throw the ball to Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins. Edelman was targeted nine times in the opener against the Buffalo Bills and he caught seven passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
Thompkins, a rookie free agent from Cincinnati, may turn out to be a vital receiver. He was targeted 13 times and caught four passes for 42 yards. Thompkins, 6-1 and 190 pounds, has the size to hold his own if the Jets defensive backs get physical with him.
Brady is also going to have to throw the ball to unknowns like Michael Hoomanawanui, Zach Sudfeld and Josh Boyce.
These names may not be familiar to Jets fans – or Patriots fans for that matter — but don’t think for a second that Brady won’t throw to them. If he gets protection from his outstanding offensive line, he will throw to them.
He’s also supportive of Ridley, and won’t throw him under the bus just because of his fumble in the opener. He tried to encourage Ridley without mentioning his name.
“We never like to see each other make mistakes, but they happen,” Brady said to the Boston Globe. “We fumbled the snap on the goal line [against the Bills], I threw an interception. You’ve got to be able to bounce back from those things.”
The Patriots are still the odds-on favorites to win the AFC East. The Jets may have their best chance to beat them tomorrow night, but they still represent a formidable challenge and they can never be taken lightly.
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