BOSTON (CBS) — Thursday Night Football wasn’t much of a joy to watch over the first five weeks of the season, with many of the games decided by the end of the first quarter.
The average margin of victory on Thursday night through the first five weeks was 26 points (not including the NFL season opener against the Seahawks and Packers), and the losing team usually played sloppy enough that many fans could have confused them for an Arena League team who went to the wrong field.READ MORE: New Memorial In Worcester Honors Firefighters Killed In Line Of Duty
That changed last week when the Houston Texans made a second-half comeback against the Indianapolis Colts, making for an exciting finish to the 33-28 Colts win. We’re likely in for a similar game tonight when the Patriots host the New York Jets at a rainy Gillette Stadium.
While the 4-2 Patriots and 1-5 Jets are heading in opposite directions in the standings, the division foes always seem to play their best against each other (minus a few blowouts on either side). Rex Ryan is always keeping Tom Brady guessing, and the natural hatred between the two sides usually finds its way to the field at some point.
With some sloppy weather in the forecast we could be in for another low-scoring affair, much like last season’s 13-10 Patriots win in Week 2 on Thursday Night Football. But whenever the Patriots and Jets meet up, it’s always must see TV.
Here is what to watch for on Thursday night:
It’s Gonna Rain!
Much like last season when the Patriots and Jets met in Week 2 on Thursday night, it’s going to be a sloppy one at Gillette. It may clear up by the end of the game, but it’s going to be a sloppy one to start.
That won’t help the Patriots, who haven’t looked very good to start games this season.
While it looked like those slow starts were in the rear-view mirror after a pair of fantastic drives to open their drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks ago, the early-game struggles returned Sunday in Buffalo. The Patriots opening drive stalled after just six plays — a drive in which they used a timeout on a second down and then got flagged for a false start coming out of it on third down — and they were forced to punt. They followed that up with a pretty decent drive that got them into the red zone, but a false start on holder Danny Aiken followed by a bad snap led to a missed field goal.
It will be another Gronk-Edelman kind of game, but the Jets can be beat deep as well. New York has allowed 15 passing touchdowns and have picked off opposing quarterbacks just once through the first six games of the season, and with corner Dee Milliner on the shelf with a torn Achilles, the Jets secondary is ripe for the picking.
The Tom Brady-Rex Ryan chess match will be in full effect once again, though this time it doesn’t look like Rex has the weapons in his secondary to best Brady.
Who Steps Up For Ridley?
Stevan Ridley was off to a great start for the Patriots this season, running with authority and — most importantly — holding on to the football. But that is all over now, with the back reportedly sidelined for the rest of the season after tearing his ACL and MCL Sunday in Buffalo.
Hopefully that doesn’t mean Josh McDaniels refuses to run the ball anymore this season, because the Patriots have a decent collection of backs to fill the void.
Shane Vereen will likely see the biggest increase in action out of the backfield, but his most important contributions come in the passing game. The Patriots may be better suited going with someone else for the bulk of the carries out of the backfield, in order to keep Vereen as fresh as possible throughout the rest of the season.READ MORE: 2 Extricated From Car After Crash In Medford
Brandon Bolden could be “the next man up,” as he has the experience and is a serviceable runner up the middle. He’s averaged 4.5 yards per carry over his 28 NFL games, and is the kind of runner the Patriots will need against a solid Jets run defense. Rookie James White could also get some carries, James Develin could see an increased role at fullback, and we’ll see if Jonas Gray is elevated from the practice squad for more depth.
With some bad weather conditions, the New England ground attack could be the deciding factor in this one. Opponents are averaging just 92.2 rushing yards per game against the Jets this season, but they allowed 300 yards on the ground over the last two weeks against San Diego (162 rushing yards) and Denver (138 yards).
The Patriots will have to take advantage of those recent woes the Jets front seven have been experiencing, and though it will be a tough task without Ridley, they have the horses to get it done.
Another Patchwork Offensive Line?
Making things more difficult for the run game is more uncertainty along the New England offensive line. Both Dan Connolly and Bryan Stork missed the week of practice with concussions, so it’s very unlikely they suit up after a short week to recover. They are both listed as questionable, giving them a 50-50 chance of playing.
If neither can go though, that will leave the Patriots with another patch-work offensive line, which was a big part of the problem over the first four weeks of the season. Connolly and Stork played major roles in stabilizing the protection of Tom Brady, but now the likes of Josh Kline, Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon will be asked to keep Brady upright against a tough Jets pass rush. New York is just one sack off the league lead with 19 through five games, so it could be a long night for No. 12 if the line can’t come together once again.
The hard-hitting corner says he’s ready to go after watching the first six weeks of the season. We’d hate to be the first guy Browner hits this season, as he’s been chomping at the bit to get out there with his new team.
We’ll see if he has his legs back after all the off-time, and if he can hone in all his aggression instead of taking some costly penalties. Given the conditions and his six-week layoff due to a four-week suspension and an ankle injury, it will be interesting to see how much he actually plays.
If Browner does indeed play, he’s going to want to take someone’s head off. He’ll bring a new level of nastiness to the Patriots defense, and what better game to debut that than one against your biggest division rival?
Bonus: Revis On Offense?
As crazy as it sounds, The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian spoke with Revis this week about playing a little wide receiver against his former team. Revis would love to score a touchdown against the Jets, and he’d love for that touchdown to come from Tom Brady.
Bill Belichick has let his defensive players play the other side of the ball before (remember all those times Mike Vrabel waltzed into the end zone?), but don’t expect him to fool around with things now that Brady and Company are starting to gel.
Besides, Revis will likely have plenty of chances to catch touchdown passes from Geno Smith.
Catch Patriots-Jets on Thursday Night Football on WBZ-TV and 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship stations of the New England Patriots. Pregame coverage begins on 98.5FM at 5:30pm, with three full hours of postgame coverage following the game. WBZ-TV begins coverage with a special Patriots GameDay on Thursday at 7pm, and wraps everything up with Patriots 5th Quarter on myTV38 following the game.MORE NEWS: 'Loss Of A Beautiful Boy': Candlelight Vigil Held In Memory Of 5-Year-Old Elijah Lewis
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