While they haven't received the preseason hype of last week's opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Jets are one of the upper-tier teams in the AFC. Regardless of the history between the Jets (1-0) and the Patriots (1-0), this Sunday's 1 p.m. game is even more important in terms of AFC East division seeding and late season playoff implications. In fact it is likely that come December one of the two teams will look back on this early season match up and say, 'What if?'
The Jets are a balanced and well-coached team under second-year Head Coach Herman Edwards. With an impressive core of talented veterans and numerous solid offseason additions the team will look to improve on it's 2001 10-6 record and first-round playoff exit.
Offensively the Jets will still rely on running back Curtis Martin for significant production in 2002, although the back injured an ankle in Week 1 against the Bills and is questionable for Sunday. Without Martin, or at least with him in a limited role, the Jets may have to focus more on the passing game. Quarterback Vinny Testaverde is in his 16th season, but shows no real signs of slowing. An extremely talented player, Testaverde opened with a solid performance in Buffalo. He completed 24-of-30 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns and also added a team-long 24-yard rush in the game. Without the benefit of much of a running game, Testaverde's performance basically gave the Jets the opportunity to win thanks greatly to Chad Morton's two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Defensively, the Jets should be a better team than the one that gave up 31 points to the Bills. The unit added a number of solid players in the offseason including former Pro Bowl linebacker Sam Cowart, cornerback Donnie Abraham, strong safety Sam Garnes and defensive tackle Josh Evans. Last week the unit gave up 271 yards passing and more shockingly 142 yards rushing to the Bills. The group was able to get to Drew Bledsoe for four sacks and should be a bit more stingy with the points and yardage as the season unfolds.
The highlight of the Jets opener was kick returner Chad Morton. By returning two kicks for scores, with the second coming in overtime, Morton and his kick return teammates carried the Jets to victory. With his exciting day Morton became the first player in NFL history to return kickoffs for touchdowns in regulation and in overtime in a single game. While Morton is the poster child for the Jets special teams unit this week, on a whole they are an extremely talented and successful group. Special teams coach Mike Westhoff is regarded as one of the best in the league and the game will provide a solid test for the Patriots and their own extremely successful special teams units.
For the Patriots, Sunday's game represents an important chance to get off to a fast start. With a rather difficult schedule, especially in the middle and later part of the season, New England can't pass up a chance to go to 2-0 and get a win in the division on the road. In what may be the best division in the NFL and with one less wild card spot, games within the AFC East are as important as they have ever been and this game is no different. By approximately 4 p.m. on Sunday one of these teams will have taken an early but important step towards possible post season play.
The Jets lead the regular season series with the Patriots 46-37-1. … Testaverde had a passer rating of 118.1 in the Bills game. … The Jets led the NFL with a 18 turnover ratio in 2001. They were 2 last week. … The Bills won the time of possession game last weekend as they held the ball for 39:08, while the Jets had it for just 21:06. … Dating back to last season, the Jets have come from behind to win four of their last five regular season games. … The Jets have 17 new players on the roster this season