New England Patriots: New York Jets

NFL Nation: 4 Downs - AFC East

May, 7, 2014
May 7
Did the AFC East's best keep on getting better?

The perennial division champion New England Patriots signed elite cornerback Darrelle Revis, which could offset significant free-agency gains by the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.

The Buffalo Bills are in good position to improve through this week's NFL draft. EJ Manuel, the Bills' top pick last season, returns as the starting quarterback and is one of three second-year players facing intense scrutiny in 2014.

Who finishes atop the AFC East in 2014 could depend largely on which team best handles the stretch run, as December features five inter-division matchups -- including three in a row for the Patriots to end the season.

The four writers who cover the division -- Rich Cimini in New York, Mike Reiss in New England, Mike Rodak in Buffalo and James Walker in Miami -- offered their insights on the AFC East offseason and other key topics. They also polled their Twitter followers to find out if they saw the issues differently.

First Down

Which AFC East team has had the best offseason to date?

Rich Cimini: I'm all about the stars, which is why I'm picking the Patriots, who landed the best free agent of them all: Darrelle Revis. He's one of the top two cornerbacks in the league, a legitimate game-changer. His presence will allow Bill Belichick to play more press-man coverage, which will help their pass rush and create headaches for opponents. Once Brandon Browner serves his suspension, they'll have two physical corners. The Jets and Dolphins helped themselves in free agency, addressing need areas, but neither team acquired a player as good as Revis. The Patriots lost a terrific corner in Aqib Talib and actually upgraded. How often does that happen in free agency?

Mike Reiss: The Patriots get the nod here because they added the best overall player in cornerback Darrelle Revis and re-signed receiver Julian Edelman (the Jets had explored poaching him), but I don't think it's a large gap to the next club. I like what the Dolphins have done to start rebuilding their offensive line (Branden Albert, Shelley Smith) while also bringing in defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, re-signing cornerback Brent Grimes and potentially getting some value with cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

Mike Rodak: Comparing gains and losses in free agency, the Patriots have fared the best. The season is never won in March, but the Patriots were able to upgrade even after losing cornerback Aqib Talib. Signing Darrelle Revis was the most significant free-agent move in the division, while Brandon Browner adds another quality player to the secondary. The Jets aren't too far behind. Eric Decker and Chris Johnson add firepower where the Jets have struggled in recent years -- at their skill positions. Neither player, though, is on the same level as Revis, which is why I give the Patriots the edge. Honorable mentions go to the Dolphins for signing Branden Albert and the Bills for signing Brandon Spikes.

James Walker: I like what the Jets have done this offseason. It has been offense, offense and more offense in free agency for New York. The Jets went out and signed wide receiver Eric Decker, former Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson and veteran quarterback Michael Vick. All three have a chance to make an impact on New York's weakest side of the football. Jets head coach Rex Ryan is a great defensive mind and has that side taken care of. It's just a matter of New York scoring more points this year. If the Jets can add a receiving threat such as Marqise Lee or Brandin Cooks in the first round Thursday, look out for "Gang Green."

Second Down

Will an AFC East team select a quarterback in the first three rounds of the draft?

Cimini: No one will pick a quarterback in the first two days of the draft. The most likely candidate is the Dolphins, who have a new offensive coordinator and might be looking to acquire some Ryan Tannehill insurance after two so-so seasons -- but it won't happen before the fourth round, not this year. Neither Geno Smith nor EJ Manuel is entrenched with the Jets and Bills, respectively, but their teams have too many other needs to start doubling down on quarterbacks. The Patriots made headlines by hosting Johnny Manziel on a pre-draft visit, but I'm not buying it. It's still too early to start looking for an heir to the Tom Brady throne.

Reiss: Yes. One of the things that has become clear in the build-up to the draft is that this is a good year for clubs looking for a developmental quarterback. ESPN's Mel Kiper said he has spoken with teams who have identified as many as 15-20 draftable quarterbacks this year, which is higher than the norm. NFL Network's Mike Mayock said he has 10 signal-callers with grades within the first three rounds, which is about double the norm. I think Buffalo (insurance for EJ Manuel) and New England (backup Ryan Mallett's contract expires after the 2014 season) are the spots to look within the division.

Rodak: The Patriots are the most likely to select a quarterback in the first three rounds. Their backup since 2011, Ryan Mallett, enters the final season of his rookie contract and hasn't proved in limited playing time that he's capable of being a starter. Mallett was a third-round selection and that could be the sweet spot for the Patriots again, although I wouldn't put it past them to take a quarterback in the second round if one of the top signal-callers falls. The Bills might also pluck a quarterback off the board by Friday night. EJ Manuel, a first-round pick last year, is their starter but they could use an upgrade over Thad Lewis or Jeff Tuel as their backup. If the right quarterback falls, Buffalo might pounce.

Walker: The third round seems like the best possibility; it's the safest round of the three for avoiding a quarterback controversy. The Bills would have the best case for drafting a quarterback fairly early. The team has said several times that it's behind 2013 first-round pick EJ Manuel, but I don't see any reason for the Bills to avoid adding depth at the position behind Manuel in the middle of the draft. Backup quarterbacks Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel are not the answers. Manuel had injury issues last year, as well. It makes sense for the Bills to consider a capable backup.

Third Down

What stands out about the NFL schedule for each AFC East team?

Cimini: Prepare for the missiles of October. The Jets face Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in a 12-day span, Weeks 5 to 7. Before that, they meet up with a few other top quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford. The Jets' suspect pass defense, which allowed nearly 4,000 yards last season, will be seriously tested. This is the main reason they need to prioritize cornerback in the draft.

Reiss: The Patriots have a well-placed bye week and some of their biggest games around it. A Nov. 2 home game against the Broncos precedes the bye, then coming out of it is a Nov. 16 road game against the Colts. Fun, fun. If that's not the iron of the schedule, then back-to-back road games against the Packers (Nov. 30) and Chargers (Dec. 7) probably qualifies. Also, with the season concluding with three straight division games, the AFC East could still be up for grabs late.

Rodak: I've harped on this point before, but the Bills might have the NFL's toughest December schedule. Who knows where they'll be by Thanksgiving -- they could be in the playoff hunt or fading -- but their final month is brutal. The Bills must travel to face Peyton Manning and the Broncos, return home to host Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, make a cross-country trip to face the Raiders and then head back East to finish their regular season on the road against Brady and the Patriots. Ouch. Perhaps it's better that this four-game stretch comes at the end of the season rather than the beginning -- the Bills could be staring down an 0-4 start if it did -- but if they have any hope at the playoffs, they're going to need to win a couple of those games.

Walker: The Dolphins must bring their A-game on the road because they do not have back-to-back home games until the final two weeks. The Dolphins were a respectable 4-4 on the road last season, but it will be challenging for them to put together any significant winning streaks away from Sun Life Stadium. Miami's regular-season opener at home against the Patriots also stands out. We will find out immediately whether the Dolphins are a legitimate threat to New England in the AFC East.

Fourth Down

Which AFC East second-year player has the most to prove?

Cimini: My first inclination is to say Jets quarterback Geno Smith, who could lose his starting job to Michael Vick, but that's the Jets beat writer in me talking. The better answer is Bills quarterback EJ Manuel. Why him? Unlike Smith, Manuel was a first-round pick, which means greater expectations -- and those expectations were heightened when the Bills anointed him as The Guy. Smith has yet to receive that kind of endorsement from the Jets. The Bills have hitched their franchise to Manuel, who is coming off a mediocre-at-best rookie season in which he went 4-6 as the starter. He was hampered by injuries, but part of being a franchise quarterback is being on the field.

Reiss: Bills quarterback EJ Manuel would be my choice. He looked like a foundation-type player in the season opener against the Patriots last year, and had a few bright spots in ensuing weeks, but overall had an uneven first year in the NFL that was affected by injuries. The Bills surprised many by using a first-round draft choice to select him last year, and because of that Manuel gets the nod here over Jets quarterback Geno Smith, a second-round pick. It will be intriguing to see how things unfold with Smith now that the Jets have also signed Michael Vick, but I think the discovery process on Manuel in Year 2 -- is he really a franchise quarterback? -- trumps it.

Rodak: It has to be EJ Manuel. Geno Smith is a close second, but the Jets have Michael Vick to lean on. The Bills decided not to add an experienced backup quarterback this offseason, clearing the way for Manuel to be their unquestioned starter. Manuel needs to be more consistent. He showed flashes last season but also had some downright horrid games, including a four-interception afternoon against the Buccaneers. Manuel must also stay healthy. His three knee injuries last season limited him to 10 games and set back his development. Another injury this season will cloud the picture and keep the Bills from knowing exactly what they have. That could give him more leeway if he isn't progressing as quickly as the team would like, but it could also cause the Bills to look elsewhere.

Walker: It's easy to point to the quarterback position and say New York's Geno Smith and Buffalo's EJ Manuel have the most to prove. But neither player was drafted higher in 2013 than Miami's Dion Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick. The Dolphins traded up nine spots to get Jordan last year, only to use him as a backup defensive end and special-teamer. It was head-scratching to figure out why such a dynamic talent couldn't find his way onto the field. Jordan's usage actually was one point of contention between Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin and former general manager Jeff Ireland, who had a falling out last season. Was Jordan not ready for the NFL level? Was Miami's coaching staff holding him back? This is a big Year 2 to answer those questions.

Jaworski: Brady missed opportunities

January, 18, 2011
ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski broke down the film of the New England Patriots' loss to the New York Jets and discussed his observations on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Tuesday afternoon.

Probably the most significant of his findings was that there were opportunities in the passing game that Tom Brady just missed.

"I’m going to be honest with you guys,” Jaworski said. “I went through the tape and there were some plays on the field that Tom Brady did not see. I think Tom began to play a little bit fast, and the term I use, he began to see ghosts. There were some opportunities, particularly early in the game, a key third-and-3, he had Danny Woodhead out of the backfield in the flat and he doesn’t throw the football. It’s a play that Tom has probably seen 50 times this year and completed 50 times. For some reason, he didn’t throw the football. I don’t know if he got spooked by the [first-quarter] interception or what, but he did leave some plays on the field.”

The Jets didn’t blitz Sunday nearly as much as they have in the past, choosing instead to focus more on bumping receivers off the line of scrimmage and blanketing them in coverage. The strategy worked, with Brady getting sacked five times and rushing other throws even when defenders weren’t close to sacking him. According to Jaworski, he seemed to be reacting to the “perception of pressure” even when it wasn’t there.

"I think he had a poor game,” Jaworski said. “I’ve always said that Tom is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the game. I’m not talking about run-around quarterbacks, I’m talking about how I believe you have to play the position. He’s always been really good at that moving in the pocket, those subtle little moves to the left or right or up in the pocket that compress and allow some time for receivers to uncover.

“I just felt that at times he had those opportunities and he kind of flinched. There was a perception of pressure, and at times it wasn’t there. It was awkward to me to see Tom reacting that way. When bodies weren’t around him, he was perceiving pressure."

Among some other observations by Jaworski:

* He saw some similarities in the Jets’ strategy to the famous defensive game plan Bill Belichick devised to stop the “Greatest Show On Turf” St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

“Belichick did an outstanding job of jamming, rerouting, being physical with Marshall Faulk and the wide receivers of the Rams,” Jaworski said. “To a certain degree, Rex Ryan stole a little bit of that game plan. They really took the timing and rhythm away from Brady and those receivers.

“Not only were they holding up [Rob] Gronkowski, they were bumping the wide receivers, bumping the backs out of the backfield. ... The game plan to be physical and chip the wide receivers, chip the backs coming out really played well for the Jets.”

* In reaction to the Patriots evolving over the course of the season into an inside passing team, the Jets’ defense funneled everything back to the middle of the field on defense.

“You’re trying to move people to the inside, congest the areas,” Jaworski explained. “And as I like to say it, make it muddy for the quarterback, dirty it up a little bit inside. And you do that by being physical at the line of scrimmage, rerouting inside, where your help is.”

* If Pat Chung had cleanly handled the snap on the Patriots’ fake punt attempt, Jaworski thinks the play would have succeeded and resulted in a first down. "The play was there," Jaworski said.

* He was surprised that the Patriots did not try to take advantage of tight end Aaron Hernandez in the passing game. Hernandez was targeted just once by Brady.

“If you get explosive plays out of [Hernandez] that kind of softens up the defense,” Jaworski said. “We all know [Alge] Crumpler is more of a possession receiver. I was surprised we really didn’t see Hernandez until very late in that game as part of the two tight end system. I thought he would be an explosive guy that you can create some matchups with.”

* Jaworski observed that Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis “had a tremendous game.”

* He was surprised that the Patriots did not seem to display a sense of urgency during their long fourth-quarter drive when trailing by 10 points.

"There just didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency," Jaworski said. "It was a great drive if it was in the first quarter. ... I was very surprised by the lack of urgency to get the plays running.”

* On defense, Jaworski was surprised to see the Patriots playing zone on defense against Mark Sanchez. In his opinion, the Patriots should have pressed the young quarterback more.

Listen to the full interview HERE.

Chung: Blame me for botched fake punt

January, 17, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patrick Chung didn’t blame anyone but himself for the botched fake-punt play that wound up costing the New England Patriots dearly Sunday in their 28-21 loss to the New York Jets in the divisional round of the playoffs.

“I take full responsibility,” said Chung more than once when surrounded by the media Monday in the Patriots’ locker room as the players threw their stuff in garbage bags and left Gillette Stadium, stunningly headed into the offseason after a 14-2 regular season record that earned New England the top AFC seed in the postseason.

Chung was the personal protector for punter Zoltan Mesko with the Pats trailing by 7-3 and on their own 38-yard line with 1:14 remaining in the first half. Chung noticed New England had the numbers in their favor, so he called for long snapper Matt Katula to snap him the ball instead of Mesko.

The Patriots had eight men on the line to the Jets’ six, which Chung saw as an opportunity to fake the punt and run for the first down.

Katula’s snap to Chung was good, but Chung began running before he caught the ball and dropped it. Chung picked it up, but by then, the Jets were all over him, tackling him behind the line of scrimmage and resulting in a turnover on downs.

A few plays later New York quarterback Mark Sanchez hit Braylon Edwards with a touchdown pass just before the end of the half, giving the Jets a 14-3 lead, and the Patriots weren’t able to overcome that deficit.

“It’s part of the game,” Chung said Monday after he had declined to speak to the media after Sunday’s loss.

“Of course there are regrets. It’s not [head coach] Bill [Belichick] or [special teams coach] Scott O’Brien,” said Chung. “None of them. I take full responsibility. I saw the look we had. I made the call. It didn’t work out for us.”

Chung was asked if he thought he would have made the first down had he caught the ball cleanly.

“No ‘ifs.’ I didn’t catch it. It’s part of the game. Things happen. You have to bounce back. It’s my responsibility. Leave Bill alone. Leave Scotty alone. That’s my call, man. My mistake,” said Chung.

He was asked if he thought it was a good time of the game to even have made that call.

“I take full responsibility,” repeated Chung.

Jets credit 'unbelievable' plan

January, 16, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Just how to the Jets go from giving up 45 points to the Patriots on Dec. 6 to surrendering half of that total (21) just over a month later?

The Jets laid most of the credit to a vastly improved game plan, which included confusing Tom Brady before the snap, pressure at the line of scrimmage and zone coverage in the secondary. Below is a sampling of the comments from the Jets on their game plan:

* Defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, who called the game plan “unbelievable”: “I thought [the game plan] was going to work, but I didn’t know it was going to work that well. At the end of the day, receivers run routes, DBs hustle. It’s supposed to be simple. But they found a way to make it as complicated as possible and Tom Brady literally had no answer.”

What was the key?

“I think a lot of the pressure. Shaun Ellis was really getting to him and [Jason Taylor] was getting to him. A football play only takes so many seconds. After your first read isn’t open, now Brady’s shaking his head wondering who’s going to hit him next and he has to dump the ball off. Anytime you can do that to a guy like that you’re going to win.”

* Cornerback Antonio Cromartie: “That was the whole point of this whole entire week that we wanted to practice was to make sure that we got our hands on them [and were] physical with the guys, and just playing our game. When we play our game on the outsides, it makes things very difficult for the quarterback with the timing routes and the things that he does.”

* Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis: “[Brady] just couldn’t get a beat on us. It was one of those things where he was expecting one thing and we showed him another thing and, like I said, our defense did a great job. Our defensive backs did a great job of showing him one look and moving to another look, and getting hands on receivers. One thing that hurt us the last time was when they were empty -- they completed some passes on us. He made some throws but it really didn’t hurt us. We regrouped and came back and played well.”

* Coach Rex Ryan: “You know, this isn’t the first time we’ve played good defense. We know a little bit about playing defense and clearly you got to mix it up on it. You can’t just give them one thing all the time. Mix your coverages, mix your blitzes, mix your pressures, all that kind of stuff. Against these great quarterbacks, that’s what you have to do. And that’s back-to-back weeks. You know, against Peyton Manning at Indy and now, Tom Brady at New England.”

* Linebacker David Harris: “I think our D-line takes credit for [Brady being off his game]. They were after him every play. [Five] sacks? That’s unheard of from the Patriots considering how good their offensive line is and how good Brady is in getting the ball out of his hands.”

* Linebacker Bart Scott: “I think that had something to do with us, Brady not looking like Brady. We’ll keep those secrets to ourselves. I think we’ll be seeing these guys for a long time to come, I’m sure they’ll be [angry] the next time they see us.”

Ryan: 'We talked because we believed'

January, 16, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As New York’s Shonn Greene zipped around the right end and headed toward the end zone for a game-deciding 16-yard touchdown run with 1:41 left in the divisional playoff game against the Patriots on Sunday, the Jets’ beefy head coach Rex Ryan was jubilantly racing down along the sideline, showing some unexpected speed in almost catching up with his running back.

That Ryan didn’t pull a hamstring on his celebratory mad dash was one of the night’s major surprises in New York’s 28-21 triumph.

The fact that Ryan’s team will not run from anyone, not even the top-seeded Patriots, who had crushed New York, 45-3, roughly six weeks earlier in a Monday night showdown for first place in the AFC East, was not a shock to anyone who would listen, and the loquacious Jets made sure everyone in the football world heard their boasts during the past week.

Even after his team got thumped in December, giving each team a home win against the other during the regular season, Ryan gave the Patriots credit for that night’s performance but said he was confident his team would prevail in a third game, in the playoffs, should the teams meet.

They did meet, and Ryan’s Jets emerged victorious, thanks in no small measure to a defensive scheme that seemingly baffled Tom Brady, the NFL’s likely MVP this season, and the Patriots’ heralded coach, Bill Belichick. The Jets trash-talked during the week and backed up the talk on Sunday.

“You know, that’s a great football team we just got through playing. We talked because we believed in ourselves,” said Ryan, whose Jets upset Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs the previous week on a last-play field goal, earning the trip to Foxborough.

“I think that is where the talk came from. There is a huge amount of respect that our team has for New England . . . They’ve got a great franchise, but you know, we aren’t afraid of anybody. Maybe people take it the wrong way. But we don’t try to bad-mouth an opponent. We respect every opponent. We respect these guys. But we came in here on a mission and we’re trying to win a Super Bowl,” he said.

“We said, you know, maybe everybody else didn’t believe us or whatever, but we believed. We worked too hard to get back here and we came here for a reason. We thought we were the better team. Now, clearly in the Monday night game we weren’t. They were clearly head and shoulders better than we were. But I knew if we applied ourselves and we played the way we were capable of, then we would beat them. And that’s exactly what happened,” he said.

The defensive game plan, in particular, stymied the Patriots.

“We thought we had a good plan, but the plans are useless without great play from your players and our guys bought in and they did a great job,” said Ryan. “It was a total effort there on defense, from pass rush, to the second level and obviously to the deep guys. Just a great effort. We knew we had a good plan. Again, I tip my hat to the players and the assistant coaches.”

But Ryan couldn’t leave the podium without delivering one more zinger to the Pats, notably Brady, echoing a theme he expressed prior to the game against the Colts in a comment that was treated as if he were not showing any respect to the Patriots’ quarterback.

“This team had a zillion points and all that this season -- it’s Tom Brady back there at quarterback,” said Ryan. “He may not study like Peyton Manning but he is pretty good.”

Scott: 'The cream rises to the top'

January, 16, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Jets linebacker Bart Scott has spent a career crunching ball carriers, receivers and quarterbacks with an all-out, aggressive style of play.

So when he speaks, it’s no surprise that Scott doesn’t mince any words.

During the week leading up to Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, Scott basically threatened New England receiver with his life if he dared venture across the middle to make a catch.

Not surprisingly, Scott was crowing after the Jets convincingly upset the top-seeded Patriots, 28-21, and advanced to next Sunday’s AFC title game in Pittsburgh.

“If you go down board for board, look at our roster and look at their roster, we have better players across the field,” said Scott.

“You guys talk about how great their defense was playing. Last I checked they were 25th in the league and we were third, and we’re the one that get disrespected for not being able to put pressure on the quarterback, not being able to get off the field. But we were ranked 22 spots ahead of them. . . . I guess the cream rises to the top,” he said.

“We were the experienced group going into it. Last I checked Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Richard Seymour, those guys weren’t on that sideline. We don’t fear anybody. We believe we can match up against anybody,” said Scott.

Scott is a staunch supporter of head coach Rex Ryan. Scott played when Ryan was a defensive coordinator in Baltimore.

“I would die for that man [Ryan]. I love than man to death. That’s the reason I left Baltimore [as a free agent] to come here and write my legacy with him,” said Scott.

New England’s Bill Belichick is considered a coaching genius in the NFL. Scott was asked by WEEI if Sunday’s victory meant Ryan was on equal coaching footing with Belichick.

“Why not better?” Scott told WEEI. “Belichick is one Mo Lewis hit from being fired. [Brady] don’t come in we might be talking about him on the unemployment line.”

Scott was referring to a 2001 hit by Lewis that knocked out Drew Bledsoe, forcing the Pats to go with Brady at quarterback.

In the meantime, Scott thinks the Pats and the Jets now have an official rivalry.

“This is how rivalries start,” said Scott. “Rivalries start when both teams take something from the other team. This is probably the first time the Jets have taken something important away from the Patriots. Game on. They can hate us forever because the feeling is mutual.”

Comments from sober Pats locker room

January, 16, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots tried to digest their season-ending 28-21 playoff loss to the New York Jets Sunday at Gillete Stadium, a stunning conclusion to a year that produced an NFL-best 14-2 regular-season record and a number one seed in the AFC.

Some comments from the locker room:

* Fred Taylor: “Coach [Bill Belichick] laid it out on the line for us. This is a new season and everything we did up until this point is just to put you in position. You still have to go and play, especially in this tournament.

“I won’t say I’m shocked. You look at the parity that’s developed around the league, even in this playoffs. A few home teams lost. You had a 7-9 team [Seattle] that fought. This is football. I think this is why it’s one of the greatest sports. You never know what you’re going to get, really. I don’t know. It’s just [football]. It’s a funny game.”

* Alge Crumpler: “It is tough. Your emotions are going to be at one extreme. You’re either going to be really happy or really sad. And I hate that we all have to feel this way. I don’t care about [the regular-season success]. All I care about is what happened in the last three hours and it wasn’t good. And I’ve got to deal with it.”

* Matt Light: “We didn’t make the plays when we needed to and it’s unfortunate. We have got a great team and great guys. We have had good chemistry throughout the year. Unfortunately in this game it doesn’t mean much at the end of it. It’s not every day you get an opportunity like this and to fall short, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. It’s pretty final. Unfortunately.”

* Wes Welker: “You have such a great regular season to get yourself in good position and we just didn’t really take advantage of it. The Jets were the better team today and we paid the price for it.”

* Danny Woodhead: “Hey, this is the NFL playoffs. You want to go out and do your best in the NFL playoffs and hopefully advance. And we didn’t advance tonight.”

* Jerod Mayo: “You’re always going to be surprised and disappointed when you lose a game, especially the way we’ve been playing. They just came out and played more physical than we did. It’s very disappointing. The regular season means nothing now. We came into the postseason 0-0.”

Welker on benching: 'A coach's decision'

January, 16, 2011
Following the Patriots’ season-ending loss to the Jets, receiver Wes Welker discussed being benched for the team’s first possession of the game for his subtle dig at Rex Ryan earlier in the week.

“I don’t feel anything [about the benching],” said Welker, who made 11 foot references during a news conference Thursday. “I was just ready for the opportunity to play and help the team win. That’s a coach’s decision, the game plan. You can ask the coach about that stuff. I’m not going to really comment on that stuff.

“We’ve always respected the Jets. They have a good football team.”

When asked about the benching, which was first reported on the CBS game broadcast, coach Bill Belichick had only this to say after the game: “I don’t have any comment on that.”

Jets linebacker Bart Scott, who reacted to Welker's comments late last week by threatening him ("his days in a uniform will be numbered," he told Newsday) didn't have much of a reaction to the benching.

“I know you would like to say that this is like the ‘Young and the Restless’ and I pay attention to what’s going on there, but I could care less," Scott said after the game. "All I do is play whoever comes out there.”

However, he also wasn't backing down from his original comments.

"I stand behind my words and if I get another opportunity for him to come through the middle, I'm going to try and put him through the ground," the linebacker told Boston sports radio station WEEI.

Branch: Some Jets 'classless' at end

January, 16, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots receiver Deion Branch was asked following the game if he was embarrassed by the loss. His answer: “I’m not embarrassed, I’m just frustrated. The embarrassing part came from a few classless guys [on the Jets] after the game. There were a lot of classless things that went on after the game ended.’’

When asked what he was referring to, Branch answered, “Didn’t you see it? You’ve got to go back and watch it. Pretty classless stuff.’’

Some of New England’s players left the field when time ran out rather than shake hands with the Jets players. When asked if he was one of them Branch said, “I’m a champion. I’m always going to congratulate guys. They beat us today. The ones with class, I shook their hands. And the ones that didn’t, I didn’t (shake their hands). You can tell they’re not used to being in this position.’’

Chat with us during Patriots-Jets

January, 16, 2011
Join's Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak, AFC East blogger Tim Graham and our friends from for an in-game chat during this afternoon's Patriots-Jets AFC Divisional playoff game. Join us at 4:30.

Will trash talk have any impact on game?

January, 16, 2011

In the video above, ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown crew debates whether the trash talking that took place this week between the Patriots and Jets will have any impact on today’s game.

“Sometimes it’s better to remain quiet and appear stupid than open your mouth and remove all doubt,” Mike Ditka says. “That’s the truth, gang. Shut up and play football. [Antonio] Cromartie you haven’t covered anybody for three weeks.”

Video: ESPN field reports from Gillette

January, 16, 2011

In the video above, ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio and Suzy Kolber check in with field reports from Gillette Stadium on Sunday morning.

Video: Patriots-Jets Field Pass

January, 14, 2011

In the Field Pass video above, ESPN analysts preview Patriots-Jets in three different areas:

* Difference maker: Mark Sanchez (by Adam Schefter)

“He’s been very good against the Patriots in New York, but subpar in New England, where he’s thrown one touchdown and seven interceptions,” says Adam Schefter. “Sanchez can’t turn the ball over on Sunday. If he doesn’t, he gives the Jets a chance to win that game.”

* Matchup to watch: Jets linebackers vs. Patriots tight ends (by Herm Edwards)

* Prediction: Mark Schlereth thinks the Patriots will win, 20-17

Gallery: Top 10 Pats moments against Jets

January, 14, 2011
As part of the run-up to Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Jets, we picked our Top 10 all-time moments for the Patriots in their rivalry against the Jets.

Check out our list here and let us know in the comments section of this blog entry if we missed any that belong in the top 10, or if you would have ordered some of them differently.

And if you’re into this kind of thing, here’s’s Top 10 moments from a Jets perspective.

ESPN's Patriots-Jets prediction roundup

January, 14, 2011
A roundup of how ESPN's analysts see Sunday's Patriots-Jets AFC divisional playoff game playing out (Cliffs Notes version: Only Herm Edwards and Michael Wilbon pick the Jets. Wilbon made his pick Friday afternoon on "Pardon the Interruption"):

*’s Mike Reiss: Patriots 24, Jets 17. I think this one will be close throughout, and I believe the Jets' offense will have success moving the ball against the Patriots and that front seven, particularly on the ground. In the end, though, I think the Patriots will be able to move it and score more on a Jets defense that doesn't have great matchups in the middle of the field. The tight ends will be a big part of this attack for the Patriots.

*’s Tedy Bruschi: Patriots 31, Jets 20. As tight-lipped as the Patriots might be this week, I would anticipate an impassioned pregame speech from Coach Belichick, reminding players of doing their talking with their play and enjoying the experience of ending the season of a hated rival. I see the Patriots moving on to the AFC Championship Game.

* Bill Simmons: Patriots 34, Jets 17. I keep thinking of Bill Belichick going into his office last Sunday, popping in that Colts-Jets tape, watching Mark Sanchez's passes sailing away like helium balloons at a 5-year-old's birthday party, then thinking to himself, Should I just start scouting Pittsburgh and Baltimore now?

* ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter: Patriots over Jets. It’s not saying much, but the Jets are going to give them a much better game than they did that Monday night in the 45-3 game. I think they’re coming ready. I think they have to get more pressure on Brady, run the football and keep Mark Sanchez from playing the way Mark Sanchez has in his two visits to Foxborough. If they can do those three things, and you can go case-by-case and argue whether they can, then they’ll have a chance to beat the Patriots. [from a WEEI interview]

* ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth: Patriots over Jets. There’s nobody playing at a higher level than Tom Brady rght now, executing the offense. He’ll find the offense, and once he finds it he’ll execute, he’ll pick you apart on that.

* ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards: Jets over Patriots. I think the Jets are going to do a great job of running the ball, controlling the clock, staying on the field on third downs and their defense getting off the field on third downs. I see the Jets upsetting New England.

* ESPN experts: All eight pick the Pats.

* Sunday Countdown: Keyshawn Johnson, Tom Jackson, Mike Ditka and Cris Carter pick the Patriots.

* AccuScore simulations: Patriots 29, Jets 19 (on average). Patriots win 78 percent of more than 10,000 simulations. You can simulate the game yourself here.

* Madden simulation: Patriots 34, Jets 24. If you're going to call Tom Brady anything, call him a winner. The guy is Mr. Clutch, and he proves once again (at least in the "Madden" sim) that it doesn't matter how much junk you talk during the week, it's about what you do on the field that speaks loudest. And if that's truly the case, Brady was shouting against the Jets, throwing a near-perfect game with 22 of 29 passes complete for 304 yards and three touchdowns. In fact, the Patriots never trailed in this one, as Brady threw a touchdown pass to Wes Welker in the opening drive, then never took his foot off the gas en route to the 34-24 win. Watch highlights below:

* Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc. (Insider): Patriots 35, Jets 17

* What's your prediction for Patriots-Jets III? Leave it in the comments section of this blog post.