If there’s such a thing as an opportune time to play on the road against the New England Patriots (1-0), Thursday night's nationally televised matchup could be it for the Jets (1-0).
New England was bitten hard by the injury bug during their Week 1 win over the Buffalo Bills and could be without a handful of their top players this evening.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola, quarterback Tom Brady’s primary targets, are listed as doubtful for their meeting with the Jets and are not expected to play. Pats running back Shane Vereen will not play following wrist surgery, and special teams captain Matthew Slater also showed up on the injury report Wednesday, listed as questionable.
Amendola led the team in receiving last week (10 receptions, 104 yards) while Vereen was their leading rusher (14 carries, 101 yards).
The Patriots, perhaps fearful of risking further injury, opted not to practice this week with such a quick turnaround time between games. Head coach Bill Belichick, notoriously tight-lipped, downplayed any challenges on preparing for a short week.
“It’s the same for both teams,” he stated. “We both have the same amount of time to get ready for the game. We’ll do the best we can with it to be ready to go Thursday night.”
New England isn’t alone though in dealing with health issues as the Jets have problems of their own. Wide receiver and punt returner Jeremy Kerley is out with a concussion and linebacker Quinton Coples remains sidelined with an ankle injury.
Should rookie quarterback Geno Smith struggle in his first test away from home, the team won't have Mark Sanchez to fall back on. Sanchez will miss his second straight game with a bad right shoulder.
Playing off the strength of their defensive line, New York has a chance to make the most of New England's limited arsenal. Pressure from the front four, combined with a lack of offensive weapons, could make it a long night for the Pats quarterback.
Brady, when asked what he can expect from the Jets defense, acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead.
“They’re getting a lot of pressure with just their front,” said the three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback as he addressed the Jets media. “They get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They’ve had a great defensive line, a lot of depth, it seems. They’re all big and physical, just really good football players. That’s what I’ve seen throughout the preseason and certainly into the Bucs game.”
Setting the tone early and continuing to establish their defensive identity is key if the Jets want to seize the opportunity.
“We have a lot of confidence going into this game,” Jets linebacker Demario Davis told the Daily News. “It’s very important for us to get off to a fast start and continue to build. I feel like we’ve been able to build all the way through training camp, all the way through the preseason up to this point.”
It’s never wise to count out Brady and the Patriots but injuries have rendered them mortal. For a Jets team with high hopes and low expectations, the stars have at least aligned in their favor to pull off a previously unthinkable road win over a division rival and one of the elite teams in the NFL.