Are the Jets now the team to beat in the AFC East? Brett Favre sounded off on that subject today. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The Jets 2-week agenda is simple: Beat the Brady-less Patriots at home, travel to San Diego 2-0, in the driver’s seat of the AFC East and easily handle the Chargers on Monday Night. Right? Not so fast. Even without the face of the Patriots dynasty, Gang Green is not sleeping on New England this week.
Despite having little film on Patriots QB Matt Cassell, Head Coach Eric Mangini is familiar with him from Cassel arriving in Foxboro when Mangini was there.
“I think Matt [Cassel] will do an excellent job for them. He’s been there a long time,” Mangini said. “There are some things that are different about Matt and Tom stylistically. The system I think is going to remain consistent. The weapons he has available are consistent.”
Said weapons include WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker as well as TE Ben Watson. In the backfield, Kevin Faulk, LaMont Jordan, and Laurence Maroney could present all sorts of trouble for New York’s 3-4 defense.
Mangini did not shy away from praising New England’s offense.
“I think this is a very well-oiled machine,” Mangini said. “Cassel comes in last week, backed up, throws a 51-yard pass. Turns around, throws a touchdown to Moss. Hits Welker on a bunch of plays. 13-for-18, 112-point quarterback rating. It’s a very efficient offense.”
Of course, with the Jets-Pats rivalry on the table, there is plenty of room for emotion leading up to Sunday.
“I think that everybody is pretty well-versed in this rivalry,” Mangini said when asked about preparing for the emotion. “There’s been a pretty strong track record of these games and the emotion that goes into it.”
Brett Favre, who is familiar with playing against Randy Moss back in the NFC North, wants to change the trend of New England being on top of the AFC East.
“This is my first Jets-Patriots game, but the Patriots really have had the upper hand on everybody in this division for quite a while,” Favre said. “They’ve really dominated everyone, not just in this division. We’d like to change that this week. Of course, it’s easier said than done.”
Easier said than done is right. Going up against a Bill Belichick-coached team is never a small task, with or without Brady.
“I think he’s a helluva coach,” Favre said. “The guy has been pretty good. He’s always overcome adversity. Somehow, he’s always had his guys believe that they can overcome adversity.”
Mangini downplayed Belichick’s approach to adversity, saying it isn’t just about adversity, but also a function of success.
“Sometimes you have to overcome success. Bill does a great job of getting everybody on exactly the same page in terms of what’s important. That is all it’s about, that is all it’s ever about is what’s important, and what’s important now.”
What’s important now for the Jets is not overlooking the Pats, and treating this game exactly how they would if Brady was playing.
“The Patriots have to move on and the rest of football has to move on,” OL Alan Faneca said before practice Wednesday. “All 11 guys are on the field at any given time. They’re all prepared and ready to play. Guys go down and other guys step up.”
LB Eric Barton said the defense will prepare the same way they would prepare as if Brady was in there.
“Taking nothing away from him [Brady], he’s a great player but guy’s go down for them and the next guy comes in and they don’t miss a beat. That’s what we expect. They’re a well coached team.
“I think the media’s having more fun than we are,” Barton said about the Brady-less Patriots speculation.
S Kerry Rhodes felt similarly.
“They’re not gonna change things for him [Cassel]. He’s a guy that behind Brady has seen how he works and how he operates, so it’s not gonna be that hard for him to get the offense down,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes noted that Brady was put in this very position when Bledsoe went down several years ago, and how that has worked for New England, to which a reporter retorted that Brady at least played in college.
“He has about the same amount of experience that I have playing quarterback in a real game,” Rhodes said. “He’s a guy that can get it done. He did it against Kansas City. They still have the same playmakers and they have a ton of them. When you have guys like that that can make plays, you can make any quarterback legit.”
Randy Moss was available via conference call before practice. He was positive not only about Cassel backing up Brady, but how the team responded.
“It got quiet when Tom went down,” Moss said. “Everyone was like a deer in the headlights. But that’s what backups are for. The coaching staff, organization and team are behind Matt Cassel. They’ve done a good job keeping him positive and upbeat.
“I have to go out and do my job; doing things a little harder, quicker, and faster. There’s a lotta football to play,” Moss added.
Moss said he’s talked to Brady since Sunday, and while he’s expected him to be more down, the injured QB is still the same old Tom Brady.
“He’s here today and has been uplifting. He has a positive attitude, which can go a long way for the team.”
Feely signing official, Jets make other moves
Coach Mangini formally confirmed that the team signed FA K Jay Feely to fill in for the injured Mike Nugent. Mangini would not elaborate on the extent of Nugent's injury but speculation is that he could be out for more than one week. To make room for Feely, the Jets waived LB Kenwin Cummings who will surely be brought back to the practice squad if he clears waivers. The team also announced that they signed OL Stefan Rodgers and TE Brad Listorti to the practice squad and waived OL Stanley Daniels and WR Larry Brackins off the practice squad to make room.
New England Still Team to Beat
Despite speculation that the Jets are now the AFC East team to beat, the players have laughed it off.
“That’s kinda crazy,” DE Shaun Ellis said. “Have one guy go down, and we’re the team to beat. We’re just gonna continue to grind and work and reach towards our goal.”
Brett Favre thought similarly.
“I haven’t heard we’re the team to beat,” Favre said. “I think the Patriots are still the team to beat till proven otherwise. We won one game. We barely beat Miami. One game doesn’t make us the team to beat. I sure hope people don’t feel that way.”
Kings of Wishful Thinking
S Kerry Rhodes and LB Eric Barton both commented on how without Tom Brady, the Patriots are still the Patriots, and aren’t to be taken lightly. Both had wishes of other scenarios, but both know that wishing will get nowhere in the NFL
“I wish it was a week where we could be like ‘Whoo! We don’t have to worry about it,’ but that’s not the case.”
Rhodes echoed Barton.
“I wish,” Rhodes said when asked, ‘No Brady, no worries?’ “Matt Cassel did a good job against Kansas City. They’re a system team, so they expect their quarterback to come in and fit right into the system.”
Favre Doing the Little Things
Eric Mangini had nothing but praise for Favre when asked about their status after having game one in the books.
“There’s a lot of things I really like.,” Mangini said. “At practice we had a reverse call. He’s the lead guy out on the reverse looking to pick up a block. When he’s not in, it’s the defense going against the show team, he’s trying to help out any way he can there, whether it’s talking to the defensive players or talking to the show team to get them to continue to improve the look.”
Mangini added how Favre could very easily take care of himself and simply go home, but mentioned that he’s not wired that way.
The coach compared Favre’s actions to Jerry Rice, who would go to every special teams meeting despite not playing on special teams.