AFC East: Thanksgiving 2010 Five Things to Watch

Five things to watch: Bengals at Jets

November, 24, 2010
The New York Jets will resume their high-wire act at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, when they play the Cincinnati Bengals at the Meadowlands.

I give you five questions to consider about the game from a Jets perspective:

Can the Jets win a game without requiring divine intervention? The Jets are on an obnoxious roll of dramatic victories. They've played like a team of destiny, repeatedly catching breaks and capitalizing in the final moments to remain atop the AFC East. Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been unapologetic about his team's improbable success, but I'm sure he'd love to survive Thanksgiving without indigestion and win a home game comfortably.

Can the Jets make the Bengals quit? The Bengals can be explosive, as they showed in the first half Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. The Bengals also can implode, as they did in the second half. The Bengals surrendered 35 unanswered points and folded before our eyes, helping the Bills win for just the second time. The Bengals are mentally fragile. If the Jets can crack them early, then the game should turn into a rout.

Will Darrelle Revis be above average against Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco? T.O. has been dismissive of Revis this week, calling the All-Pro "an average corner to me." Owens has been the catalyst for Cincinnati's offense and is among the league leaders with 62 receptions for 897 yards and eight touchdowns. Ochocinco has been quieter, but remains dangerous. Revis and Antonio Cromartie will see plenty of action, which means they'll have opportunities to make big plays.

Does Shonn Greene continue to get the majority of carries? Through the first eight games, Greene rushed more times than LaDainian Tomlinson just twice. But in each of the past two weeks, Green has been getting more attempts. Tomlinson continues to take his touches in the passing game, but it appears the Jets are transitioning into a winterized ground game while also preserving the 31-year-old Tomlinson down the stretch.

How can Mark Sanchez outdo himself? Maybe he'll help old ladies cross the 50-yard line while the Jets' defense is on the field. Maybe he'll rescue a cat stuck in the rafters during pregame warm-ups. Maybe he'll help change tires for stranded motorists on the Jersey Turnpike at halftime. Maybe he'll stage an Oprah-style "My Favorite Things" show in the parking lot. It has been that kind of month for the second-year quarterback.

Five things to watch: Patriots at Lions

November, 24, 2010
The New England Patriots and Detroit Lions will play at 12:30 p.m. for your Thanksgiving enjoyment.

Here are five questions to consider for the Patriots:

Can the Patriots win three games in 11 days? The Cleveland Browns, of all teams, pummeled the Patriots in Week 9, creating plenty of concern about the defending AFC East champs. Since then, however, the Patriots merely knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts -- the past two AFC champions and the only other two teams in the conversation when discussing the greatest team of the past decade. Now the Patriots face the lowly Detroit Lions. Should be a piece of pumpkin pie, right? In many ways, this will be the toughest of the three games. The Patriots are on the road with four days to prepare for a tradition the Lions consider their Super Bowl. It will be a test. Legitimate contenders close these games out.

Can the Patriots put together a 60-minute defensive performance? The Patriots' defense had its moments Sunday versus the Colts. They intercepted Peyton Manning three times, including the game-clinching pick snagged by safety James Sanders with 31 seconds left. But the Patriots were clinging to a three-point lead because they'd been dominated by Manning for much of the second half. The Patriots rank 30th in total defense, 17th in run defense and 31st in pass defense.

How do the Patriots cover Calvin Johnson? With injuries hampering the Lions backfield, they'll need to rely heavily on their superstar receiver. The Patriots have struggled in defending the pass, but they have done well against specific receivers, namely Randy Moss in Week 8 (one catch for 8 yards). Johnson presents a more multidimensional problem. New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis held Johnson to one catch for 13 yards in Week 9. But the Patriots don't have a Revis, and that's the only game "Megatron" hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3.

Will DanJarvus Green-Woodhead control the game again? This could be another big day for New England's effective backfield combo of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. The Patriots have been successful on the ground against 4-3 defenses, including Sunday's victory over the Colts. The Lions feature a rugged defensive line that's anchored by rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and right end Kyle Vanden Bosch. Even so, the Lions rank 26th in run defense and 28th in average allowed per carry.

Which Patriots rookie tight end will have honors this week? Tom Brady has been alternating back and forth between Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez almost by the week. Hernandez had two touchdown receptions against Cleveland. Gronkowski had three against Pittsburgh. Hernandez had one against Indianapolis. Thanksgiving was supposed to be a big day for the Gronkowskis, but the Lions traded brother Dan Gronkowski to the Denver Broncos in September. Dallas Cowboys fullback Chris Gronkowski will play the New Orleans Saints at 4:15 p.m.




Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22