The bluster is gone from the Jets, it’s now residing in Western New York with Rex Ryan and the Bills.
In his stead as coach is Todd Bowles, who has the Jets off to a 4-1 start in his tenure. New York is the league’s dominant defensive team, has a penchant for takeaways, and will blitz from the time the team leaves the hotel until the final seconds tick off the clock.
Here comes the big test, and a chance to make a huge statement. The Jets travel to Foxborough, and a win Sunday over the 5-0 Patriots would establish New York’s credentials as a contender. But don’t expect any outlandish statements from Bowles or his players.
”I don’t discourage anybody,” he says of holding back what his players say. ”I just try to make sure we act professionally and we do the things that we need to do to win. It’s not about talking or discouraging or monitoring guys’ conversations or anything like that.
”It’s about being mature as a football team and understanding where we are and what we need to do.”
What the Jets need to do is slow down Tom Brady. New England barely has been tested so far, and the 38-year-old Brady – who said this week he would like to play another 10 years – needs 43 yards passing to become the fifth quarterback in NFL history to reach 55,000. Brady is 21-6 vs. the Jets, and few quarterbacks can handle the blitz the way he can.
”They bring everybody,” Brady said. ”So it looks like everybody gets a turn, and they’re just very aggressive with the blitz. They blitz a lot. You’ve got to be prepared for it at all times. They have big guys that blitz, outside linebackers. They’ve got the inside linebackers that blitz. They’ve got, you know, secondary players who are involved, so they come from everywhere.”
This week’s action began Thursday night with Seattle’s 20-3 victory at San Francisco. Russell Wilson threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett late in the first half, and Marshawn Lynch jumped the pile for a 1-yard score for Seattle (3-4). San Francisco dropped to 2-5.
Off this week are three 6-0 teams: Green Bay, Denver and Cincinnati. Chicago (2-4) has a bye, too.
Philadelphia (3-3) at Carolina (5-0)
Each team comes off a big win attained in diametrically opposite ways.
The Panthers staged a sizzling comeback at Seattle, making all kinds of clutch plays in the fourth quarter. It could be a defining win for this bunch – provided Carolina gets past Philly.
If the Eagles are as sloppy Sunday night as they were in prime time in their win over the Giants, the Panthers, who have nine straight regular-season matches going back to last season, should remain perfect.
Running back DeMarco Murray, the Offensive Player of the Year with Dallas in 2014, had 109 yards rushing and a touchdown vs. the Giants and could be ready to break out.
Baltimore (1-5) at Arizona (4-2), Monday night
After a stumble in Pittsburgh, when the Cardinals did nothing in the second half, they look to rebound against another AFC North team, the bumbling Ravens. Baltimore has some history on its side, having made its biggest comeback the previous time these teams met. In 2011, Joe Flacco led Baltimore back from a 24-3 second-quarter hole and won 30-27.
The Ravens spend a month without hitting the road after this one, while the Cardinals play four of the next five away from University of Phoenix Stadium, including all three NFC West trips.
Atlanta (5-1) at Tennessee (1-4)
Atlanta has had plenty of time to stew after its first loss, at New Orleans on Oct. 15. Falcons QB Matt Ryan needs 83 yards passing to reach 30,000 in his career, and RB Devonta Freeman leads the NFL with 10 TDs – more than any Falcon scored all last season.
In another scheduling quirk, the Titans wrap up a homestand of four home games and a bye. They last played on the road Sept. 20 at Cleveland, but ahead are three road games in four weeks. Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota is out with a sprained left knee, leaving Zach Mettenberger to start.
Dallas (2-3) at New York Giants (3-3)
Very little has gone right for Dallas in the past month after a 2-0 start. Injuries have ravaged the roster, though the Cowboys hope to get back star receiver Dez Bryant on Sunday. He would be catching passes from Matt Cassel, who takes over for the benched Brandon Weeden while Tony Romo rehabs.
New York was abysmal on offense in a prime-time loss at Philadelphia, but a defense missing some key players has shown signs of life.
The previous time these clubs met at MetLife Stadium, Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr., made that one-handed catch considered by many to be the best play of 2014.
New Orleans (2-4) at Indianapolis (3-3)
One thing the Colts do well – no, not fake punts – is win after a defeat. They are 16-2 following a loss under coach Chuck Pagano.
And they claim that abominable play against New England already is forgotten.
”This is one play,” said receiver Griff Whalen, who snapped the ball. ”Was it an important play? Yeah. Was it an important game? Yeah. Every game is important. But I put all that behind me Monday afternoon.”
New Orleans would love to repeat its performance in knocking Atlanta from the ranks of the unbeaten, and is well rested.
Minnesota (3-2) at Detroit (1-5)
The Vikings rank last in passing offense, and the Lions can’t run the ball. Any clues there on how the game-planning will go for this one?
Minnesota has dominated Detroit over the past 15 years (24-8), but Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has not won a road game in the division (0-3).
Detroit got off the schneid with its win against Chicago, but already has fallen to the Vikings this season.
Buffalo (3-3) vs. Jacksonville (1-5) at London
Exciting news for the folks in North Florida: The Jaguars have extended their deal to play a home game in London each year through 2020. So far, Jacksonville is 0-2 at Wembley as the host.
If you’re looking for this game on the telly in the States, forget it unless you live in Western New York or the Jacksonville area. It’s only being streamed. So try: https:nflstream.yahoo.com. It also can be found on Amazon Fire TV, AppleTV, ChromeCast, Roku, Samsung, TiVo, Vizio P-Series and XBOX 360 and XBOX One.
Pittsburgh (4-2) at Kansas City (1-5)
With Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Vick unlikely to play, unproven QB Landry Jones should get the nod against an angry bunch of Chiefs. Kansas City is among the most disappointing teams in the league, and has shown little life. Minus star RB Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs need the defense led by All-Pro LB Justin Houston to really step up.
That’s what Pittsburgh’s D has done despite dire predictions before the season kicked off. The Steelers are most effective against the run and are plus-6 in turnover margin, tied for the league lead.
Houston (2-4) at Miami (2-3)
Dan Campbell’s first outing as interim head coach was a rousing success at Tennessee. The Dolphins showed plenty of spark, led by WR Jarvis Landry, whose punt return work has him atop the league with a 19.1-yard average. He also tops Miami in receptions with 31.
But this is one of seven NFL series where one team has never beaten the other, and only one such matchup involves more games: the Eagles, 10-0 against the Jets.
Oakland (2-3) at San Diego (2-4)
A strange matchup for these teams as both franchises have partnered on a potential new stadium in Los Angeles even while beating up each other in the AFC West.
The Raiders rank 31st in pass defense, and Philip Rivers has been tearing it up for San Diego. Helped by league receiving leader Keenan Allen, Rivers set club passing records with 503 yards, 43 completions, 65 attempts in the loss at Green Bay.
Oakland safety Charles Woodson, tied for the NFL lead with four interceptions, needs one to surpass Ed Reed (64) and tie Ken Riley (65) for fifth all time.
Cleveland (2-4) at St. Louis (2-3)
Cleveland has done extra work in its past two games, splitting overtime matches. The star in Cleveland has been Gary Barnidge, the first Browns tight end to catch a TD pass in four straight games since Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome in 1981.
The Rams can run the ball now that first-round draftee Todd Gurley is healthy, and Cleveland ranks last in rushing defense.
Tampa Bay (2-3) at Washington (2-4)
The Bucs seem to be getting their offense straightened out, and now is a perfect time: Washington’s secondary is banged up. Tampa receiver Mike Evans had his best game as a rookie in 2014 when he became the youngest player in NFL history with a 200-yard receiving game with seven catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
Washington needs to rediscover its running game, which has stagnated after a terrific start.
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