Friday, September 18, 2009
AFC East: Final Word Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend's games:
Rich Kane/Icon SMI
Rex Ryan has helped add a little extra spice to the Patriots-Jets rivalry.
Sunday's showdown between the New England Patriots and New York Jets will be more electric than some playoff games. Thank you, Rex Ryan. Let's waive the waiting period and put the Jets head coach in the Sports Talk Hall of Fame right now. It's not only the stream of sound coming from Ryan, but also the trickle down that has turned his players into trash-talking demons. Jets safety Kerry Rhodes wants "to embarrass" the Patriots on Sunday at the Meadowlands. Eric Mangini never would have stood for this. And that's why the media and the Jets players love Ryan all the more.
Tom Brady versus the Jets defense will be entertaining and educational. The Jets gave a fine demonstration of what they want to be on a weekly basis by dictating pretty much every snap in Sunday's season-opening victory over the Houston Texans. The Jets' defense didn't give up a point and throttled a respectable offense without two of their top players: defensive end Shaun Ellis and outside linebacker Calvin Pace. Ellis returns Sunday, giving the Patriots that much more to consider. Brady overcame a shaky start Monday night and looked every bit the quarterback who won two Super Bowl MVPs in a stunning comeback over the Bills, who were without top tackler Paul Posluszny. Can Brady decipher a significantly more dynamic defense on Sunday?
The Miami Dolphins likely will start the season 0-2, but they did the same thing last year. The reigning AFC East champs have another difficult assignment on both sides of the ball Monday night, when the Indianapolis Colts visit Land Shark Stadium. It's early in the season, so maybe we'll look back on the Dolphins' flat-line, opening-day performance against the Atlanta Falcons as an aberration. Maybe Chad Pennington will unlock the Dolphins offense, which looked dull in the preseason, too. Even so, Peyton Manning Inc. isn't the best outfit to have an emphatic bounce-back game against.
Mark Sanchez isn't going to face a prototypical Bill Belichick defense. One of the story lines not dealing with pregame smack involves how the rookie quarterback will fare against defensive mastermind Belichick. But let's face it: whatever defenders the Patriots field on Sunday will barely be indicative of what they will be two months from now. Even before stud linebacker Jerod Mayo went down with a knee injury, the defense was a work in progress. The Patriots are developing their own identity without veterans Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison. Then Mayo, the new centerpiece, gets hurt. Sanchez will be facing a patchwork crew. Belichick certainly will have them coached up, but the talent level and depth has dissipated considerably in the past few weeks.