Welcome to Season 3, Episode 7 of the Unconventional Preview, a serious-but-lighthearted, nostalgia-tinted look at the Patriots’ weekly matchup that runs right here every Friday (or Thursday) afternoon. The 4-2 Patriots, coming off a 37-22 dismantling of the Bills, host the 1-5 Jets, who opened the season with a win over the Raiders and haven’t won a damn thing since. The Patriots, who lost standouts Stevan Ridley and Jerod Mayo to season-ending knee injuries against the Bills, have found their mojo offensively with 80 points the past two weeks. But there’s a practical monsoon in the forecast tonight, which could add an element of unpredictability to the game. Kick it off, Gostkowski, and let’s get this thing started already
THREE PLAYERS OTHER THAN TOM BRADY I’LL BE WATCHING
Darrelle Revis: There’s a lot of buzz that he may get a chance on offense tonight against his former employer.. Not buying it, and hope to hell it doesn’t happen. He’s too important to the defense to risk exposing on offense, especially since he’s had some issues with his hamstrings on occasion.
Jace Amaro: The Jets are starting to suggest the rookie tight end could be their version of Gronk, which of course is nonsense. Actually, I think it was Geno Smith who said that, and I hope he was sent for a concussion test immediately afterward. Amaro, with 24 catches through six games, does look promising, and he is someone who was believed to be on the Patriots’ radar entering the 2014 draft. I’m not sure that’s true. The time probably is not right for them to draft a tight end whose Wikipedia photo when you type his name into Google is a mugshot.
Brandon LaFell: What’s this? A free-agent receiver who comes to New England, works hard, and develops a connection with Tom Brady? I was starting to think such a thing was impossible. Not to jump the snap or anything, but doesn’t he remind you a little bit of an elongated David Givens?
DOES REX RYAN HAVE A FOOT OUT THE DOOR?
I’ll admit it: I get a kick out of Rex Ryan and think he’s an above-average football coach. Oh, sure, he can be a buffoon whose lack of attention to detail — to offense, really — impedes his and his team’s path to success, but that kind of makes him likable, too.
I respect that he’ll come up a with a clever defensive game-plan — you don’t get four wins against Brady and Belichick, including a playoff road win, by reusing a playbook Rich Kotite left behind, you know?
But you also appreciate that his team — specifically, his nincompoop quarterback of the moment — will probably screw up to your team’s benefit along the way.
Ryan’s contract status — he’s one a one-year deal, essentially a prove-it-to-me challenge from general manager John Idzik — and the chaotic state of the Jets adds a level of intrigue to tonight’s game.
If the Patriots win big, does it spur Idzik to make an in-season change? Could the Patriots put an end to the six-season reign of a coach who foiled their plans during the 2010 season but who has also foiled his own team’s plans from time to time?
I think the Jets would be making a mistake in letting him go. But given how he was set up to fail this year, it looks inevitable, perhaps sooner rather than later.
… AND WE ALMOST DRAFTED CALVIN JOHNSON, AND WE LOVED J.J. WATT, AND, OH, THE CHIEFS STOLE OUR JAMAAL CHARLES PICK AND …
Figured the most absurd thing I’d read in the New York tabloids this week in the buildup to tonight’s game was the selective-history version of Spygate that ran in the Post a few days ago. (No recommendation, no linkage. It’s dishonest, pandering junk.)
And it was. But bless the Daily News’s little bleep-stirring hearts, because they came closer than I ever expected to writing the You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me, I’m Supposed To Believe This? story of the week.
Fourteen-plus seasons, five Super Bowl trips, three Super Bowl victories, and two NFL MVP award into Tom Brady’s career, and now this revelation comes from a former Jets scout: Oh, yeah, we almost drafted Brady in 2000. Yep. So close. Really wanted to. I fought for it, too. That meanie Bill Parcells nixed it.
I believe the proper reaction to this story goes something like this. Right, Jets guy. Suuuuuurrrrrre you did. Oh, we totally believe you.
This is what it’s come to. They now brag about players they almost chose. It’s the most Jets thing ever. Other than the buttfumble, of course.
The Jets didn’t draft Tom Brady. They drafted Chad Pennington, the only NFL quarterback I’ve ever seen who threw a changeup as his primary pitch, five rounds and 181 picks before Brady’s name was called. They weren’t spending another pick on a quarterback in that draft.
lovely piece of fiction story notes, the Jets used their sixth-rounder (179th overall) on defensive back Tony Scott, who by the appearance of this card played his entire, brief NFL career in the dark.
The Jets actually had an excellent draft that year. Pennington was a capable quarterback despite his lack of velocity, and they got three more quality players in the first round: John Abraham, Shaun Ellis, and Anthony Becht, as well as Laveranues Coles in the third round.
But usually, they draft like this:
I know, I think I’ve used this in every (or at least every other) Jets-related Unconventional Preview over the last three years. I’ll retire it when and only when the Jets draft Jameis Winston in the first round next spring.
GIVE STEVAN RIDLEY HIS PROPER RESPECT, YOU GUYS
After watching the 30 for 30 on the 1989 earthquake that rocked the Bay Area during the World Series, I had ESPN (actually, I think it was ESPN2) on as background noise last night when a show I’d never seen caught my attention. It was Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic — you know, Mike and Mike — basically rattling off NFL-related lists from the previous weekend’s games. The show is called NFL Rank, and it’s entertaining, mindless filler, sort of like their talk show. I’d watch it again. How’s that for a lukewarm recommendation?
Anyway, one of the lists, if I remember correctly, was a ranking of the 10 biggest injuries of the weekend. I suppose that’s somewhat callous, but it’s understandable, and it’s better than pretending injuries don’t happen. Jerod Mayo was designated as the third-most-important injury — behind Victor Cruz and Alex Mack.
What surprised me was that Stevan Ridley was nowhere to be found.
Now, I recognize that running backs are largely regarded as interchangeable nowadays, a development that screws up our fantasy football lineups way too often. (I say that as someone who chose Chris Johnson in the fifth round this year. Ugh.)
But Ridley, a versatile, tough runner who hadn’t fumbled all season, will be missed; he’s far and away the Patriots’ most complete back, and there weren’t 10 better players this past weekend who suffered a worst fate. Give the kid his due.
That said … a committee of Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, James White (he may get a real chance here), and perhaps Jonas Gray should be able to make up for Ridley’s production in sum. I don’t think they need to find someone outside the organization to bring in, such as old friend and plodder BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They shouldn’t sign him. They should find the next version of him, and hopefully it’s someone already on the roster.
(Semi-related to that, can you believe Laurence Maroney is only 29? He’s five months older than BJGE and long since out of sight and mind.)
PREDICTION, OR DOES ANYONE ACTUALLY ENJOY THE THURSDAY NIGHT GAMES?
You know, the answer the question, generally I don’t. But it is kind of fun to have a Patriots game four days after they last played. Of course, now we’ll have to wait 10 days until they play again. Just wait until Roger Goodell, provided he ever comes out of his ivory bunker again, decides he wants Tuesday games too. As for a prediction: The weather may impede the passing game, and Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson may impede the running game. But the Patriots will do enough — including a Revis pick-six — to pull away early in the second half. Then Rex Watch begins.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Jets 13