It won't be the match-up of future Hall-of-Famers that everyone was anticipating, but this weekend's Patriots-Jets game will feature plenty of intrigue nonetheless.
Certainly, all eyes will be on New England's Matt Cassel, who takes over for the injured Tom Bradyat quarterback for the Pats. It will be Cassel's first start since high school.
On the other side, former Packers great Brett Favreleads his new team in his first regular season home game as a Jet.
During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Favre was asked if he had any advice for Cassel.
"I think of every guy who's ever had his first start, there was no person that I could think of who was ever more raw than me," he replied.
"I mean, I'd never really played in a passing offense. I was always in an option-style offense and was asked to do things that normal starting quarterbacks in this league were never asked to do; I blocked and just, you name it. So I was really learning on the run. I had a lot of talent, but was very raw. I didn't know how to use it. To me, if a guy was double covered or triple covered it didn't matter; I could throw it through them.
"But I think Matt Cassel is ready to accept this role. He's followed in the footsteps of somebody [Tom Brady] who's been pretty damn good. And he obviously handled himself well the other day. I don't see any reason why he doesn't continue to play well."
Favre may be wearing a different shade of green this season, but his play thus far looks a lot like what opponents and fans were used to seeing in Green Bay.
Last week against Miami, for instance, the Jets faced a fourth down in what normally would have been no-brainer field goal range. But New York was forced to go for it after their kicker hurt himself earlier in the game and couldn't attempt the mid-range field goal.
Favre wound up throwing a touchdown on the play, but not after heaving the ball up for grabs when he was forced to scramble out of trouble because his pocket collapsed on him. It's that type of improvisational magic that Favre has used to become a league legend. And it's exactly what the Patriots defense must contend with on Sunday.
"You need to stay in your coverag," linebacker and captain Mike Vrabelobserved. "Continue to rush, try to keep him in the pocket. Just gotta be smart, try to come up with a plan and stick to it."
On paper, pressuring Favre should be a more difficult chore for Vrabel and the rest of New England's front seven. In the offseason, the Jets spent considerable money to add veteran offensive linemen Alan Faneca from Pittsburgh and one-time Patriot Damien Woody, late of Detroit.
"Yeah, they've added some proven veterans in this league with Alan and Woody,"Vrabel added. "Two former first-round picks in [center Nick] Mangold and [tackle DeBrickashaw] Ferguson. So, it's a talented line. Certainly, it'll be a good test for us."
It'll be a tough test for New England's secondary as well.
"He's a QB that knows how to look you off, maybe check down to his second or third receiver, then come back to you," said cornerback Ellis Hobbs. "So, everyone [on defense] has to be alive and know the ball could come your way anytime.
"He's gonna end up being a Hall-of-Famer," Hobbs added. "I welcome the challenge."
"We're just treating it like another game," declared corner Lewis Sanders, a nine-year NFL veteran. "We're just going to go out there and do our jobs."
That job can be tougher against a quarterback like, Favre, who can make something out of nothing on any given play. That puts extra pressure on the defense to maintain their assignments when it appears a play is breaking down.
"Yeah, that's the thing," Sanders explained, "You just gotta be on your toes … just gotta stay with the receiver no matter what the quarterback is doing back there."
When asked about the difference in preparing for a player like Favre versus, say, young Kellen Clemens or former Jet Chad Pennington, safety Rodney Harrisonput it in perspective.
"It's just football. Just a different number throwing the ball. He's a great player, but he still has to complete passes and we still have to cover guys."
After serving a one-week suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, running back Kevin Faulkwas back in the Patriots locker room Wednesday.
"It was painful," he said of his week in exile, "but the week went by, and now I'm here."
When asked about how his team will move forward without Brady, Faulk replied, "Everybody just has to do their job."
Wednesday practice notes
He conducted a conference call with the national media and was seen joking around in the locker room Wednesday, but wide receiver Randy Mosswas not on the field during the media portion of practice. Also absent were fellow wideouts Jabar Gaffneyand Sam Aiken, as well as tight end Benjamin Watson.
The Patriots made some roster moves Wednesday, cutting safety Mark Dillardfrom the practice squad. In his place, the team added QB Matt Gutierrez, who was still a free agent after being released by the Pats two weeks ago, and punter Tom Malone, who was in camp with the Patriots in 2007.