By Andrew Kahn
These divisional rivals are going in opposite directions. After a season-opening victory, the Jets have lost five in a row. While they had a chance against Green Bay and Chicago in Weeks 2 and 3, they’ve gone backwards from there. Their schedule eases up after this trip to New England, but it’s too late to salvage the season. New England, meanwhile, was taking a lot of heat after a Week 4 Monday night blowout loss to the Chiefs, but has bounced back with two straight dominating performances (combined score: 80-39). Kick-off is 8:25 ET and can be seen on CBS.
When New York has the ball:
No current starting quarterback has a lower passing rating than Geno Smith. And yet, he still seems like the better option than old, brittle Michael Vick. So maybe the Jets look to draft a quarterback in 2015—and set their franchise back another couple of years, as nearly all rookie quarterbacks do—but for now, they’re stuck with Smith. To the naked eye, he looks more comfortable than last year. He keeps his eyes downfield and seems to know where his receivers will be. And yet, his numbers are terrible. He’s on another horrid interception pace (seven so far), surprising for a guy who, in his senior year of college, had three games in which his touchdown total equaled or exceeded his incompletion total. Needless to say, he’s not progressing like the Jets would like.
Part of the problem is that too much is being asked of Smith. The last two weeks, the Jets haven’t been able to get the ground game going. They were completely shut down by Denver until the final quarter, mustering just 31 yards total. They didn’t crack 100 the week before either. New York’s longest run the past two games has been 15 yards. If you can’t threaten with the run, it makes it even harder to pass. Chris Johnson looks like a shell of the once-explosive back he was in Tennessee.
When New England has the ball:
Those whispers we heard about Tom Brady and the Patriots being finished? They’re nonexistent after the last two games, in which Brady went 50 of 72 for 653 yards, six touchdowns and no picks. A subpar Jets secondary lost cornerback Dee Milliner last week to injury, so Brady should have a field day. Stevan Ridley is out for Thursday and probably the rest of the season with a knee injury but the Patriots have a stable of running backs capable of filling in, including Shane Vereen. The Jets normally stout run defense has shown cracks the past two weeks but still figures to limit New England.
With that in mind, expect the Pats to do most of their damage through the air. Familiar faces Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have been Brady’s favorite targets this season, but Brandon LaFell is coming on. New York will certainly wish Darrelle Revis was still in a Jets uniform, and not suiting up for the opposition on Thursday.
Prediction: New England 31, New York 24
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about the NFL and other sports at http://andrewjkahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.
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