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Sep
13
2008

Expectations, Injuries and Home Field Advantage

What a difference a week makes.

Just seven short days ago, the New England Patriots were the class of the AFC East and, really, the entire conference.  It was a foregone conclusion that the Pats would win the East and everyone else in the division would be battling for second place.

Not anymore.

It's amazing how one injury can cause a ripple effect in the ultimate team game, but that's exactly what happened when Tom Brady went down against the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday.  Suddenly, the Jets are the favorites to come out on top in the East.  At least, that's the prevailing thought among many in the know.  And Gang Green will get a chance to show if they are up to the task Sunday against the wounded, but still dangerous Patriots.

Funny how the schedule breaks sometimes.

The Jets survived a last-second run in Miami last week, but they better bring their "A" game if they expect to top New England at the Meadowlands.  Matt "White" Cassel did a decent job filling in for Mr. Brady last week (13 of 18 for 152 yards and a TD), but the Chiefs aren't one of the better defensive units in the league.  I watched some breakdown on Cassel during the week and he locked onto Randy Moss on at least two throws.  One went for a long gain and the other resulted in a touchdown pass, but he won't be successful if he continues to do that.  The Jet D did a pretty good job of confusing Brady with mixed fronts and creative blitzes in the past and I have to believe they will do more of the same against Cassel.

While I'm not exactly broken up that Brady is out, I'm not one to gloat over injuries.  Every team suffers through them and I vividly remember an injury that destroyed a Jets season.  The year was 1999.  The Gotham Green were coming off a 12-4 campaign and a championship game loss to the Denver Broncos.  But John Elway was retired and the Jets were expected to do great things in '99.  The Green and White opened up the season at home against the Patriots and the good vibes lasted about a quarter and a half.  Curtis Martin fumbled a handoff in the second quarter and Vinny Testaverde started toward the ball.  He never made it.  Testaverde took one step and collpased to the turf.  He suffered a ruptured Achilles' tendon on the play and was lost for the season.

And thougths of a Super Bowl run went up in smoke.

But enough about that.

The Jets had an injury of their own last weekend.  Mike Nugent went down with a thigh injury and will miss at least this game against the Pats.  Enter Jay Feely.  Feely was cut by the Dolphins before the start of the year despite making 21 of 23 field goals last season.  Feely has played in the Meadowlands before as a member of the Giants.  I'm not sure how long Cat Scratch Fever is going to be out, but the Feely pickup should offset his absence.

The Jets also signed tight end Chris Baker to a three-year, $12.2 million deal extension with $9 million guaranteed during this past week.  Looks like Baker got the long-term security he was after right?  Well, not really.  The contract is a bit complicated.  Baker will earn the guaranteed money if he is involved in at least 50% of the offensive plays this season and is still on the roster on March 5, 2009.  If the Jets don't want to give him the cash, they can just cut him before that date.  Chances are the Gotham Green will waive good-bye to Baker after this season since they drafted Dustin Keller in April.  Incidently, it looks like Eric Mangini isn't too pleased with Keller so far.  Mangini said Keller needs to "continue to be very consistent in terms of his routes, his depths, because you want to gain the trust of the rest of the group."

Speaking of groups, I'm hoping the group that is in attendence for Sunday's game can give the Jets an extra edge.  The Jets finished 3-5 at home last season (which isn't too bad considering they won only four games all year), but they are just 11-13 at home over the past three seasons.  That's not not going to get it done.  The Meadowlands must be transformed into a Green Hell every Sunday and here's some inspiration for the fans heading out to see the game.


Here's a really good preview of the game from a Patriots fan.

Can a Week 2 meeting be this important?

You bet your sweet ass it can.
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