It was Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010. I remember turning off my television that night and saying good-bye to the New York Jets for the 2009 season.
If you’re like me, you woke up today more excited than ever that the day we’ve been waiting almost eight months for is finally here. Like the NFL Network commercial, I’ve got “high hopes” for this season and am chomping at the bit for the boys in green to finally take the field.
Patience is a virtue and today the patience of Jets fans will again be tested. Unlike the fans of 30 NFL teams, we must wait one more day.
Approximately 30 hours from now the Jets will finally take the field at the new Meadowlands Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football.
But just in case you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth your while to watch football today, the answer is most definitely YES!
Looking back on the 2009 season, the one stat that still makes me cringe is the Jets’ 2-4 division record. Clearly, this cannot happen again this season.
Winning the AFC East isn’t a given. We think we already know the strengths and weaknesses of the 2010 Jets. Today is the day to watch the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and, yes, even the Buffalo Bills and begin to get a better picture of how they will matchup against Jets in weeks 2, 3, and 4.
The Jets aren’t the only team that made a lot of offseason changes. The AFC East as a whole has an entirely different look. The games today will give fans a better understanding of the Jets’ rivals and allow us to better predict if this team can improve its division record from a year ago.
So go ahead and DVR one game and watch another. Jets fans have a TON to pay attention to today.
New England Patriots vs. Cincinnati Bengals – 1:00pm EST
Are the New England Patriots a one-dimensional team? The Patriots are dealing with their own holdout this season. Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins won’t be on the field today. Can Dan Connelly effectively take his place? Laurence Maroney and Fred Taylor didn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of many defenses in the preseason and the absence of Mankins may carry that over to the regular season. Will the Patriots have to rely solely on their passing game and become a one-dimensional team? Will Tom Brady have the protection needed behind the current offensive line?
Can the Patriots youngins on defense get the job done? If you watch one thing this weekend it should be the Patriots’ defense. The one word to describe them is “youthful.” Expect them to be tested early and often. Their secondary – primarily rookie Devin McCourty and second-year CB Darius Butler -- will have their work cut out for them against Batman & Robin today.
Pass Rush issues: An effective pass rush hampered the Patriots last season. It should continue to be something to watch this season. There will be lots of pressure on rookie linebackers Brandon Spikes, and Jermaine Cunningham, who by the way was injured and hasn’t played this preseason. It shouldn’t take a genius to notice the pass rush may still be an issue.
Cedric Benson runs right: I’m expecting to see the right side of the Patriots’ defensive line be tested today. The Patriots will have two new starters when they take the field. Gerrard Warren and Marques Murrell will play their first games in red, white and blue uniforms and will have their work cut out for them against a strong Cincinnati offensive line. A “run Benson run” day could mean a “run Greene run” game next week, if you catch my drift.
Jermain Gresham: Why do you need to watch the Bengals rookie tight end? No, not because I’m infamously known for praising tight ends. You need to trust me, there is a method to my madness. Gresham is a dynamic tight end that runs routes like a wide receiver. He has quickly become one of Carson Palmer’s favorite targets. Expect the Patriots to play a cover-2 to take care of Chad OchoCinco and Terrell Owens down the sidelines. Can the Patriots linebackers cover Gresham? Remember the Jets have a certain No. 81-wearing tight end that gives linebackers nightmares as well.
Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills – 1:00pm EST
Dolphins front seven: Will CJ Spiller run all over Miami? Out of seven players up front, defensive end Kendall Langford is the only player starting in the same spot as last year. The Miami defense, at least in the interim, is all about the line and linebackers.
Miami’s new middle men: The Bills defensive line (Stroud, Williams, and Edwards) are strong and will be facing Miami’s new interior line consisting of Berger, Incognito and Jerry. Can the new guys step up and help Brown and Williams put up big numbers today? For Jets fans, how this shakes out will give some perspective. A big rushing day by Miami today may mean a big rushing day for the Jets on Oct 3. Both the Jets’ interior O-line and D-line can take either of these teams.
What will Trent Edwards do? Edwards may not be the most dynamic quarterback but his performance today could expose a lot about a very young Miami secondary. With the Jets having in my opinion the best secondary in the league, a good performance by Edwards today is a win-win situation for the Jets for when they play the Dolphins.
Brandon Marshall: I’m going to be watching Brandon’s performance for one reason only. I know Darelle Revis can cover him and Antonio Cromartie will have no problem dealing with Hartline and Bess. Buffalo had the second-ranked pass defense last season (mainly because many teams just ran the ball against them in the third/fourth quarters). Brandon’s performance today will start to get my wheels turning as to how the Jets’ passing game will perform against him in three weeks.
C.J Spiller: Here’s a rookie I’m very excited to watch and really wish was not in the Jets’ division. I’ll be interested to see how he’s used. Will he get the ball as a receiver out of the backfield? Will we see him on the field with Lynch and used in the slot?
The “new” (and improved?) Miami Dolphins: Here’s a tidbit to keep in mind: Only six Dolphins players from last year are playing the same position this season. They have 10 players who have two years of experience or less.
So get your jersey ready, eat some wings, watch some football and keep the Jets in the back of your mind. Today you get to enjoy football without the roller coaster of emotions that will be here before you know it.
Tomorrow night is only hours away.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year … and I love it.