KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)
SERIES: 9th regular-season meeting. Bucs lead the all-time regular-season series 6-2, with wins in six of the past seven games. It marks the first time the Bucs have ever traveled to Buffalo for a game. Five of the past seven meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.
PREDICTION: Patriots 24-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez displayed a lot of poise in his first career start, but this will be his first experience with the Patriots' 3-4 scheme that disguises coverages and where pressure is coming from. New England has experienced a lot of personnel turnover on defense, allowed 4.7 yards per carry to Buffalo and is now without injured ILB Jerod Mayo, so RBs Thomas Jones and Leon Washington have the opportunity to lead the charge offensively. Patriots QB Tom Brady threw 53 passes against the Bills, and it could be more of the same with Jets NT Kris Jenkins' ability to dominate the interior of the trenches. With Jets CB Darrelle Revis capable of shutting down his half of the field, look for WR Wes Welker to be very active in the slot.
FAST FACTS: Brady has 199 career touchdown passes. ... Jones has 17 touchdowns in his past 17 games.
--G Stephen Neal was a late addition to the injury report Thursday with a bad back, which left him limited during practice. Neal will likely be a game-time decision Sunday in New York.
--WR Wes Welker was again limited in practice Thursday with a knee injury and his status is in doubt for Sunday's game against the Jets. Welker won't be as effective in the slot if he can't run full-speed, so the Patriots need to monitor his situation closely.
--WR Matthew Slater has been back on the practice field, which is a positive step, but he's still limited with an elbow injury. The odds are Slater will miss his second consecutive game, but move closer to returning in Week 3.
--QB Tom Brady is still on the injury report due to a right shoulder ailment suffered in the preseason, but he has participated fully in practice this week and will start Sunday in New York.
--LB Adalius Thomas, an important key to the defense, has been limited all week in practice with a foot injury suffered in the season opener. With Jerod Mayo likely out for 6 to 8 weeks, the Patriots need Thomas' veteran presence to help steer the ship.
--NT Kris Jenkins again was limited in practice Thursday because of a lower back problem. Both he and coach Rex Ryan have indicated it isn't serious, but this is something the Jets must monitor closely, considering how important he is to this defense.
--RT Damien Woody practiced full after being limited Wednesday because he was sick.
--ILB David Harris was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his 11-tackle performance against Houston.
--QB Erik Ainge missed Thursday's practice because he was sick, which likely means Kellen Clemens again will be the No. 2 quarterback on Sunday.
--RB Shonn Greene (rib) again practiced full and is expected to play Sunday. He was inactive because the shorthanded Jets needed more reserves on defense, but with DE Shaun Ellis back, that shouldn't be a problem this time.
--WR Brad Smith carried for 15 yards on a reverse for his one offensive touch versus Houston. Most of his work on offense will come in multiple-WR sets or gadget plays.
The Patriots know enough about New York head coach Rex Ryan to expect some of his hard-nosed, tenacious personality to rub off on the Jets, which is why Laurence Maroney and his teammates are bracing for a physical game Sunday at the Meadowlands.
"I can see it now," Maroney said. "It's going to be one of those to where you dream about playing in. One of them rough games where you know you're going to have to play all 60 minutes and it's going to be a physical game."
Maroney will probably feel the brunt of Ryan's defense on two fronts, both as a running back and blocker on blitzes. Ryan is a lot like Bill Belichick in that he wants to try to confuse opposing offenses with multiple packages, so Maroney may spend a lot of time in the backfield making sure his quarterback doesn't get mauled.
"Stand up to the blitz," he said. "It's a lot of what they call blitz protection. Going up there and hitting the linebackers in the mouth and being physical. It's going to be a physical game, and we've got to be ready for it all 60 minutes."
Though Ryan is new to New York, the Patriots are familiar with work. Ryan served as Baltimore's defensive coordinator last season when the Ravens almost pulled off the upset to spoil the Patriots' perfect season.
Baltimore led late in the game, but the Patriots rallied for a 27-24 victory on a night when the offensive line had trouble with pass protection and Brady had little or no time to throw the ball.
"The players that they have on the field can all rush and they can all cover," Brady said of the Jets' defense, "and I think that's the challenging part. You really don't know who's rushing at times. You don't know who's covering.
"All of them can do (both). Sometimes they don't have any d-linemen on the field. They have all, basically, linebackers and secondary guys. You've got to really be aware of what we're doing in our protection. Don't get rid of the ball quick. That's what we've got to do."
Houston knew in mid-April it would be facing the Jets on opening day. But the extra preparation the Texans had didn't seem to help them in Week One, but then Matt Schaub isn't is a four-time Pro Bowler with two Super Bowl MVP trophies the way Tom Brady is.
"I'm glad that wasn't me that I was watching on film, I know that," Brady said with a laugh when asked about the Jets' performance against Houston.
The Jets blanked the Houston offense in a 24-7 victory. Schaub was 18-for-33 for 166 yards and one interception for a 55.9 passer rating.
"It's a challenging scheme because they blitz everybody," Brady said. "They blitz linebackers, safeties, corners, I mean, everybody comes. You never know where they are coming from. They're all kind of milling around at the line of scrimmage (before the snap) and they end up coming."
Brady looked a bit rusty at times in playing his first full game since the Super Bowl loss to the Giants, but he also looked like vintage Brady at the end, with two touchdown passes in the last three minutes Monday night to sink Buffalo in a come-from-behind victory.
Of course, Brady won't be the only quarterback facing a confusing, complex defense Sunday. New England coach Bill Belichick's defensive machinations have flustered many veteran quarterbacks, let alone someone such as rookie Mark Sanchez, who will be making his second NFL start.
That defense has had numerous personnel changes this year, including the loss of standout second-year linebacker Jerod Mayo (knee), who is out this week. But as Sanchez noted, the philosophy remains the same.
"I know that this is a well-coached group, a disciplined group," Sanchez said, "a team that has great technique up front, in the secondary, their linebackers, they all play well together. And that's why you don't see guys acting out like individuals, doing their own thing on this defense. They play well together. And they give quarterbacks fits. It's important for me to be smart with the football and be on my game."
Former Patriot Kevin O'Connell, who faced that defense in practice last season as New England's scout-team quarterback, has given Sanchez and Ryan as much advice as he can.
Brady admitted the Patriots may have to change some things because of that, but added, "at the end of the day, it comes down to how well you can execute."
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