Week 4 Preview: All New England and New York Special
Team Spogo calls Boston and New York home. Your hometown is always going to hold a special place for you. Whether it’s paaking tha caa at havaad yaad, or eating a dirty-water dog on the street, you can’t help but think your city is better than anyone else’s. For us, that comes out in fanhood. Andrew and David have their Patriots, while I have my Giants. Being the gentleman I am, I don’t want to stir the hornets’ nest that is Andrew and David’s Pats-love (even though the Giants have beaten the Pats in the Super Bowl twice in the past 5 years…), however, I do think it’s worth having an in depth look at these two teams upcoming games. Grab a pizza slice to go, or whatever it is you pilgrims in Boston eat (chowdaa?), and let’s get ready for this weeks match ups.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills – 1:00 PM EST, Sunday
Players to Watch
Wes Welker (New England Patriots, WR)
All the news on Welker blows my mind. People are talking about him like his on-field product has diminished or didn’t lead the league in receptions last year by a wide margin. Well, last week the old Welker came back to us, snagging 8 balls for 143 yards. Even after this, I read one blurb that said something like: ‘Welker’s output may be due to the loss of Hernandez (O.K. somewhat acceptable) and a banged up Julian Edelman (umm, what?)’. Seriously? Since when did Julian Edelman become a better option than Wes Welker? Did I miss something? Well since the Pro Bowler Edelman didn’t practice Wednesday, maybe the lowly Welker will have another day to shine until he’s healthy again…
Tashard Choice (Buffalo Bills, RB)
The running back injuries in Buffalo are starting to add up, and it’s only been 3 weeks. Fred Jackson goes down Week 1, and then C.J. Spiller bites the dust early Week 3 with a shoulder injury. While Fred Jackson is eyeing an early return for this game, reports from Buffalo have been skeptical of his ankle. Which leaves Mr. Choice to pick up the scraps. The ex-Cowboy looks to keep up his solid play, as he rushed for 91 yards on 20 carries last week. Buffalo will look to run the ball often against a shaky Patriots defense, and the looming threat of Tom Brady. I see Choice getting twenty-plus touches this week.
The Patriots do not lose three games in a row very often. In fact, it’s been nearly a decade since they did (2002 season). However, they’ll march into Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday with memories of blowing a 21 point lead last year in that very spot. This could be fuel for the Pats to play hard until the final whistle, or it could be the spark of confidence the Bills need. These teams have had opposite first three weeks. Week 1, the Bills got destroyed by a Jets team that couldn’t find the endzone in the preseason. They went on to right the ship in Weeks 2 and 3 against the Chiefs and Browns. The Pats started off by crushing the Titans, then losing to the Cardinals at home and Ravens on the road. All wins by these teams have come against weak opponents, so this should be a better test for both sides. The Pats looked solid against a good Baltimore squad on Sunday night, in one of the wackier refereed games of the week (overshadowed by Monday’s farce). They were one play away from wrapping the game up (McCourty’s should’ve-been-pick) late in the 4th quarter. I can’t see the Patriots starting the season 1-3. While the Bills won this match up at home last year, they have an inconsistent quarterback and an untested defense. The Pats are coming off a hard road game, and should find the Bills a more manageable opponent. Key word: Should…
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles – 8:20 PM EST, Sunday
Players to Watch
Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles, QB)
Hate him, love him, or wanna-drown-him in a puppy tub, the Eagles offense runs around Michael Vick. So far, Vick is drowning himself. He is completing 55% of his passes (8th worst), with 3 TDs (3rd worst among starters) and 6 INTs (tied for worst). Vick also leads the league in fumbles (4). Andy Reid went so far as to make statements about Vick’s not-so-certain job future this week. Reid has since come out to take a less aggressive stance. Long story short, Vick is not going anywhere. The guy has a $100 million contract and is an electric, polarizing football player. While the Giants injured secondary did pick off Cam Newton 3 times last week, this teams receivers are more talented and dynamic. Vick will have to take care of the football this week, and not turn the ball over to the MVP caliber QB, Eli Manning, to have a shot this week.
Andre Brown (New York Giants, RB)
While Amhad Bradshaw (neck) is slated to start this week, Andre Brown has stepped up and earned his share of looks. Tom Coughlin has come out and said that he expects Brown to stay involved in the offense. The popular fantasy football pick up has had an outstanding two weeks, piling up for 220 yards and 3 TDs in Bradshaw’s absence. There is also the belief that the RB with the “hot hand” could be the one that gets the bulk of the carries. Brown is running as well as any back in the league when he’s gotten the looks, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he edges out Bradshaw on Sunday night in workload. Bradshaw also has a history of being hurt, and as a Giants fan, it’s good to know that there are two explosive backs on the roster.
These two teams could not hate each other more. Philly might have the most abrasive and brutal fans in the league. On a cold winter day, one of their fans threw a snowball at a Giants coach, and hit him in the head. Now this would be considered playful and cheeky if there wasn’t a D-volt battery packed inside. They knocked the coach out. But the Giants are a tough road team, and are willing to sacrifice an assistant coach for a win. They have a better record on the road than at home over the last five seasons. It will be interesting to see if the Giants, who sacked Cam Newton only twice, can apply pressure to Vick, a similar style QB. If they can get to Vick, who has made many bad decisions this season, it could be a long day for Philly. With all rivalry games, I expect this one to come down to the wire. Of course, I like the Giants, and their clutch QB Eli Manning to pull it out.
San Francisco 49ers @ New York Jets – 1:00 PM EST, Sunday
Players to Watch
Mark Sanchez (New York Jets, QB)
Personally, I think the normally cruel New York media has given Mark too much credit in years past. When the Jets made the AFC Championship game a few years ago, it wasn’t Mark that got them there; it was the defense and running game. This year, the focus is more on the passing game, as the Jets are tied for 16th in the league in rushing yards, and average just 3.3 yards per carry. So far we’ve seen both sides of Mark Sanchez, he’s made some errant throws, and some quality strikes this year. He started off with a great game against Buffalo, followed by lack luster performances against Pittsburgh (138 yards passing) and Miami (2 interceptions, 46.7 completion percentage). The inconsistency does not seem to be leveling out as he matures in the league, which has got to worry Jets fans. Against arguably the best defense in the league, we’ll see which Sanchez shows up.
NaVorro Bowman (San Francisco 49ers, LB)
Last time I made a defensive pick in “Players to Watch”, it was disastrous, but I feel better about this pick. Bowman has turned into an absolute machine in the last two seasons, and is leading the league in tackles heading into Week 4. That’s saying something when playing next to Patrick Willis. Bowman also leads the 49ers in interceptions. Personally, I think this guy is No. 1 on the charts for Defensive Player of the Year. Look for him to be covering a ton of ground on Sunday, and making Mark’s day a living hell. Over 10 tackles for Bowman is as good as guaranteed.
The 49ers are coming off a shocking loss to the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t think anyone saw that coming, but maybe this will give the Jets confidence. While Percy Harvin found a lot of space last Sunday to help the Vikings, the Jets don’t have anyone with his speed and ability. I don’t think they can exploit the heady 49ers starting cornerbacks on the outsides; they’ll have to look in the slot. Jeremy Kerley has shown that he can be an effective slot receiver, and maybe open up looks for others. On the flip
side, the Jets have lost Darrelle Revis, the best cover corner in the game; to a season ending ACL tear. While this loss is surely devastating, the Jets have to fight on. Kyle Wilson, the 3rd year corner from Boise State, will have his hands full. He’ll be starting alongside Cromartie on Sunday. In an interesting move, the Jets are also giving running back Joe McKnight a crash course in cornerback. McKnight, who has publicly said he is not a fan of the move, will probably not be ready for this week in a defensive capacity. This match up seems one sided, but we’ve seen weaknesses in the armor of the 49ers, maybe the Jets can take advantage of it.
News and Notes
- I only have one bit of news today. The referee strike is over! Rejoice!
- Twenty bucks says the novelty of these refs wears off by the end of Week 5, and we go back to hating and blaming them again. At least they won’t blow games though.