Where: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California
OAKLAND – The Oakland Raiders were a trendy preseason choice to wind up in the conference championship game, but they are in desperate need of a victory to keep from falling out of contention in the AFC West. Riding a four-game losing streak, the struggling Raiders face a daunting task when they host the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.
Oakland plugged a void this week with the signing of four-time All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman, a tackling machine who moves across the Bay after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers on Friday. “A lot of experience, a lot of leadership, a lot of physicality,” star outside linebacker Khalil Mack said of Bowman. “You’re talking about a guy that, all you’ve got to do is turn the ball back to him. He’s going to be there. And that’s what we’re ready to do.” Kansas City became the last team in the NFL to lose, dropping a 19-13 decision at home to Pittsburgh on Sunday, but it has won five in a row against the Raiders. I think the positive is we’ve got a short week to try to get this bounce back and get this taste out of our mouth, if there is a positive,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said.
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS, NFL Network. LINE: Chiefs -3. O/U: 47
ABOUT THE CHIEFS (5-1): Kansas City averaged nearly 33 points through its first five victories, but its offense was bottled up while its 27th-ranked run defense was shredded for 194 yards. Kareem Hunt rushed for a season-low 21 yards but had five receptions for 89 yards to become the first rookie in league history to amass at least 100 scrimmage yards in each of his team’s first six games. Multi-threat receiver Tyreek Hill injured his neck in Sunday’s game and it was feared he might have a concussion, but the team pronounced him good to go. Smith threw for 246 yards and a TD last week, failing to post a 100-plus passer rating for the first time.
ABOUT THE RAIDERS (2-4): Derek Carr returned to the lineup after missing one game with a fractured bone in his back, but had another mediocre game and has four interceptions in his past three contests after tossing only six picks in the entire 2016 season. The vertical passing game has been a staple in Oakland since the franchise’s inception, but deep threat Amari Cooper has a combined nine receptions for 51 yards during the four-game skid. Marshawn Lynch has not provided the expect jolt to the ground game, rushing for two TDs and an averaging 42.8 yards rushing. Only three teams in the league have fewer than the Raiders’ 11 sacks.
1. Smith is 9-1 with 19 TDs and four interceptions in his last 10 games versus Oakland.
2. Carr has lost five in a row to the Chiefs, but he has 14 TD passes in his last six home games.
3. Hunt, the league’s leading rusher, has 885 yards from scrimmage — the third-highest total ever by a rookie through six games.
PREDICTION: Raiders 23, Chiefs 22
Ezekiel Elliott (21)
Ezekiel Elliott (21) avoids tackle and suspension
Ezekiel Elliott (21)
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2-3) AT TENNESSEE TITANS (2-3)
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Nissan Stadium. TV: ESPN, Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters (field reporter).
SERIES HISTORY: 45th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 31-13. Indianapolis has won 16 of the previous 17 meetings, including the last 11. The Colts’ last loss occurred on Oct. 30, 2011, as Tennessee posted a 27-10 home victory. The Colts have registered wins in their last five trips to Nashville, including a 34-26 victory on Oct. 23, 2016, and are 11-4 at the Coliseum/LP/Nissan Stadium. Indianapolis and Tennessee have both been members of the AFC South since the start of the 2002 season. The Colts have swept the home-and-home series 10 times. Tennessee has recorded one series sweep (2002).
KEYS TO THE GAME: Indianapolis has to be able to establish a consistent running game. The Colts want to set the tempo and keep Tennessee’s high-octane offense off the field for as long as possible. The Colts need to play smart offensively and stay away from ill-timed penalties, scoring touchdowns instead of field goals.
Defensively, Indianapolis has to be able to control the Titans’ mobile quarterback, Marcus Mariota. They need to keep him in the pocket and not allow him to create plays on the outside or with his legs. That was a major issue two weeks ago in the loss to Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in Seattle. The Colts’ improved run defense will also be severely tested by Tennessee.
The Titans have to hope they can get Mariota back on the field. The extra day might give Mariota’s injured hamstring enough time to heal to allow him to play. Without Mariota, the Titans’ offense ground to a halt against the Dolphins.
Even against a porous Colts defense, the Titans will have to find ways to move the football better than they did in Miami. The key to that might be to use more toss sweeps and counters instead of pounding up the middle with DeMarco Murray, which did not work last week. The Titans also have to find some threat of the pass, even if Matt Cassel is under center again.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Colts QB Jacoby Brissett vs. Titans pass defense. Brissett has completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 997 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also has thrown three interceptions, two in overtime games. Brissett is a mobile quarterback who can move the chains with his legs (he has three rushing TDs). Tennessee comes into the game ranked 24th in the league in pass defense and 18th against the run.
–Titans TE Delanie Walker vs. Colts S Malik Hooker. Walker is a seasoned veteran and the Titans’ best pass catcher, even after 12 years in the NFL. Hooker, a rookie, could wind up matched against Walker for at least part of the day, which could be an advantage for the Titans.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Colts CB Rashaan Melvin. He may have bounced around the NFL a bit since entering the league, but Melvin seems to have found a home in the Indianapolis secondary. The former Northern Illinois standout has proven to be a steadying influence. He played well as a spot starter in 2016, especially later in the season. Melvin has carried that play into this year. His two interceptions are second on the team to rookie S Malik Hooker. Melvin also is fourth on the team with 24 tackles and has a team-leading eight passes broken up.
FAST FACTS: Colts RB Frank Gore had 121 scrimmage yards (71 receiving) in the last meeting. He has four rushing TDs in his past three games at Tennessee. … Colts WR T.Y. Hilton had seven catches for 177 yards last week and has gone over 150 yards in two of his past three games. He has 230 yards and two TD catches in the past two meetings and has a TD catch in four of the past six vs. the division. … Colts rookie S Malik Hooker is tied for second in the NFL with three interceptions. … Colts K Adam Vinatieri converted all four field-goal tries, including the winning 51-yarder in OT, last week. He has 24 winning FGs in the final minute of the fourth quarter or OT and 10 OT winners, both the most in NFL history. His 2,411 points are third in NFL history. … Titans QB Marcus Mariota has averaged 296.3 passing yards, with six TDs and two interceptions, in the past three meetings. He has thrown at least two TD passes in four straight AFC South games. … Titans RB DeMarco Murray aims for his fourth straight meeting with a TD. He has 264 scrimmage yards and three TDs in the past three meetings. … Titans LB Derrick Morgan has three sacks in past two meetings. He has six sacks in the past seven vs. the division. … Titans LB Erik Walden had 23 sacks in four seasons with Indy (2013-16).
PREDICTION: These are two of the league’s three worst scoring defenses, surrendering a combined 60 points per game. But neither team has been scoring well. Mariota could fix that for the home team and end the 11-game losing streak.
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
EAST RUTHERFORD – Snap back to reality.
The New England Patriots beat the New York Jets 24-17 on Sunday in front of 77,562 at MetLife Stadium to claim sole possession of first place in the AFC East for the first time this season.
The Jets (3-3) had their three-game winning streak snapped and are in last place.
Things seem … normal again.
But the ending of this one was far from ordinary.
After New England scored 24 straight points, the Jets nearly closed the deficit to three midway through the fourth quarter when tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins appeared to score his second touchdown of the game.
But after a review, referee Tony Corrente announced the call was overturned, ruling Seferian-Jenkins lost control of the ball before he crossed the goal line, resulting in a fumble out of bounds in the end zone, giving the Patriots possession.
“The final shot that we saw was from the end zone that showed the New York Jets’ runner, we’ll call him a runner at that point, with the football starting to go toward the ground. He lost the ball,” Corrente explained to a pool reporter. “It came out of his control as he was almost to the ground. Now he re-grasps the ball and by rule, now he has to complete the process of a recovery, which means he has to survive the ground again. So in recovering it, he recovered, hit the knee, started to roll and the ball came out a second time.
“So the ball started to move in his hands this way … he’s now out of bounds in the end zone, which now created a touchback. So he didn’t survive the recovery and didn’t survive the ground during the recovery is what happened here.”
Seferian-Jenkins said he believed he scored but took responsibility for juggling the ball.
“I’ve got to have better ball security and run through those defenders,” he said. “I let my team down.”
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was in on the tackle and immediately went into spin control — in the ear of the referees and his own coach.
“The first thing Malcolm told me was the ball was out,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. “That’s why ball possession is so important.”
Chandler Catanzaro kicked a field goal on the Jets’ next possession to make it 24-17 with 3:40 to play, and New York got the ball back on its own 27-yard line just inside the two-minute warning.
Josh McCown’s 32-yard pass to wide-open wide receiver Robby Anderson on fourth-and-12 kept the drive alive, but the Jets didn’t have any timeouts at that point and they went spike, incompletion, sack, incompletion on the final four plays to seal it.
“We had other plays in the game that we could have made to make up for that,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said about the fumble. “I’m not gonna blame this game on one play.”
New England (4-2), which has won the AFC East 13 of the last 14 years, won its 11th straight road game and has won six of its last seven against the Jets.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, after sitting out the Patriots’ win in Tampa two Thursdays ago with a bruised left thigh, scored two touchdowns, his first multi-touchdown game since the 2015 season opener.
The Patriots took the lead for good on Gronkowski’s 33-yard touchdown catch from Tom Brady to make it 21-14 with 11:22 left in the third quarter.
Gronkowski, who had six catches for 93 yards, caught a pass over the middle, outran Jets safety Marcus Maye and high-stepped into the end zone.
“Every time you come into New York, it’s gonna be a dogfight,” Gronkowski said. “They’re physical and they don’t back down. … Every win’s not pretty.”
The 40-year-old Brady, who had been sacked 16 times and hit a total of 32 times through the first two games, wasn’t sacked by the Jets and was hit four times.
Brady threw an interception for the second straight game — the first time he has done that since 2015 — but broke a tie with Peyton Manning and Brett Favre for the most regular-season wins in NFL history with 187.
Brady, who finished 20-of-38 passing for 257 yards, has 212 wins including the postseason, which was already an NFL record (Manning is second with 200).
“When you win a game like this, 24-17, there were some good plays we made but a lot we left out there,” Brady said. “We could have won 50-0 and it would be the same thing.”
Early on, it appeared the Jets might be able to spring the upset.
New York took a 14-0 lead with 12:18 left in the second quarter on Jeremy Kerley’s 31-yard touchdown catch from McCown, who finished with 354 passing yards. He became the sixth straight quarterback to have a 300-yard passing game against New England to start the season.
The Jets entered the game with only seven first-quarter points this season, but marched 88 yards in 13 plays on their opening drive, with Seferian-Jenkins making his second touchdown catch in as many weeks.
Kerley set up the Jets at the 1-yard line with a 30-yard catch on third-and-6, his longest reception of the season.
The Jets scored only three points the rest of the way, though many people thought it should have been more.
“You don’t want to be panicking (because) we’ve been in that situation before,” Gronkowski said. “You can’t score 14 points in one drive.”
That’s the reality of the situation.
NOTES: Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski missed his first field goal of the season, a 47-yard attempt in the second quarter, wide right. It was his first miss on a kick of less than 50 yards since last season’s game at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 27, when he missed a 39-yard attempt. … Patriots RB Mike Gillislee lost a fumble for only the second time in his five-year career. His other one was also at MetLife Stadium, in a 2015 season-ending win over the Jets when he was with the Buffalo Bills. … Patriots WR Chris Hogan was injured in the second quarter on a hit by S Marcus Maye, but returned to the game. … Patriots S Devin McCourty, a New Jersey native, had his first interception of the season and 20th of his eight-year career. … Jets CB Buster Skrine had a fumble recovery and an interception in the first half, and it was the first time he has had one of each in a game in his seven-year career. … Jets LB Darron Lee, the second-year man out of Ohio State, had the first forced fumble of his career. … Jets DE Leonard Williams hobbled off in the third quarter, but returned to start the fourth. … Jets WR Robby Anderson was injured on the last play of the game and his status was not updated postgame.
NEW YORK GIANTS (0-5) AT DENVER BRONCOS (3-1)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Sports Authority Field at Mile High. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (field reporter).
Von Miller (58)
SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 6-5. The Broncos have won the last two meetings by a combined score of 87-29, including a 41-23 thumping at MetLife Stadium in 2013. The Giants are 1-4 against the Broncos in regular-season road games.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Giants’ offense has no choice but to pick up the pieces after last weekend’s devastating turn of events that claimed four of their five receivers. However, they’re facing a Broncos defense that has very few weaknesses and is coming off a bye week.
With the new receivers — Tavarres King, Ed Eagan and Travis Rudolph — set to get a crash course in chemistry with quarterback Eli Manning, two players who might find themselves with bigger roles are tight ends Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison.
Engram is third on the team with 200 yards on 19 receptions. Because of his versatility, don’t be surprised if he lines up more as a receiver. Ellison has six receptions for 50 yards for the Giants, who have underutilized him in the passing game. Regardless, Ellison has shown he can run very sharp routes and has been reliable when the ball has come his way.
The Giants’ defense has been a leaky unit, both against the run and the pass, so it’s important that it try to take the Broncos’ skill players out of rhythm early.
Given the Giants’ injuries at wide receiver and their inability to generate an explosive passing game the last time they had to play without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., it would seem that the Giants’ only shot at an upset would involve a heavy dose of Engram, an unexpectedly potent ground game against the Broncos’ league-leading run defense and the Broncos self-destructing with turnovers.
That’s why protecting the ball is key to the Broncos’ efforts. They let the San Diego Chargers back into a Week 1 game that should have been a comfortable win because of fourth-quarter giveaways. If the Broncos avoid pitfalls of their own making, they should have enough firepower on both sides of the football to soundly beat the battered Giants.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Giants RT Bobby Hart vs. Broncos OLB Von Miller. The MVP of Super Bowl 50 probably will spend the majority of his snaps across from Hart, who struggled against the Chargers’ speed rushers last week in his return from an ankle injury. Hart has allowed 13 pressures, including two sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Miller, meanwhile, has four sacks in his last three games.
–Giants TE Evan Engram vs. Broncos LB Brandon Marshall, S Darian Stewart and S Justin Simmons. With the Giants’ receiving corps decimated by injuries, Engram could represent the Giants’ best threat of an upset. The Giants use the 240-pound Engram in space, and he has the capability to cause mismatches, although he finished last week without a reception. After limiting Chargers tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry to just 17 yards on two receptions in Week 1, the Broncos have surrendered 228 yards and two touchdowns on 22 receptions to tight ends in the last three games.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
NEW YORK GIANTS (New York did not conduct a practice on Friday. The Friday practice report is an estimation.)
–Out: LB Jonathan Casillas (neck), DE Romeo Okwara (knee), RB Paul Perkins (ribs), C Weston Richburg (concussion), WR Sterling Shepard (ankle), DE Olivier Vernon (ankle)
–Questionable: S Landon Collins (ankle)
–Out: WR Cody Latimer (knee), QB Paxton Lynch (right shoulder)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Giants WR Roger Lewis. With Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Harris and Sterling Shepard all set to miss the game, Lewis suddenly finds himself at the top of the receiver depth chart. The 6-foot, 203-pound Lewis, who has earned a game day uniform every week more for his work on special teams than in the offense, has eight receptions for 102 yards and one touchdown this season. The score came in the second quarter last week after Shepard and Marshall were injured. Lewis’ biggest vice thus far has been his inconsistency. This is a golden opportunity for him to solidify his spot on this team.
FAST FACTS: Giants QB Eli Manning has 1,594 passing yards, 17 TDs and seven INTs in his past six vs. the AFC. In his past two on the road, he has 654 yards, five TDs and two INTs. … Giants rookie TE Evan Engram aims for his fourth straight road game with at least four receptions. He ranks third among NFL rookies with 200 yards and fourth with 19 receptions. … Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul has 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two recoveries in his past five AFC road games. … Giants S Landon Collins aims for his fourth game in a row vs. the AFC with at least seven tackles. Since 2016, he is the only player with 150 tackles (161) and five INTs (5). … Denver QB Trevor Siemian has six TD passes in his past two games vs. the NFC. In his past six home games, he has 1,485 passing yards, 12 TDs and four INTs. … Denver RB C.J. Anderson has 585 scrimmage yards (97.5 per game) and six TDs (four rushing) in his past six games vs. the NFC.
PREDICTION: It’s hard to see the winless and almost receiver-less Giants summoning enough offense against the league’s No. 1 defense.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (3-2) AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (5-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Arrowhead Stadium. TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson (field reporter).
Kareem Hunt (27)
SERIES HISTORY: 32nd regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series, 21-10. The Steelers have won four of the past five, including a 43-14 victory in Pittsburgh last season. Steelers are 10-6 all-time at Arrowhead, but the Chiefs have won three of the past four regular-season meetings there. The Steelers and Chiefs have twice met in the playoffs, with the Steelers winning the most recent meeting in January.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Steelers beat the Chiefs twice last season and the formula was the same for both games — wear them down with the running game. Le’Veon Bell ran for 144 yards in the Steelers’ 43-14 regular-season victory at Heinz Field and 167 yards in their 18-16 playoff victory at Arrowhead Stadium. The Steelers are going to have to see more of the same from Bell if they want to beat the only remaining undefeated team in the league, because Pittsburgh’s passing game isn’t clicking.
The Steelers’ defense will have to limit the Chiefs’ running game. Rookie Kareem Hunt leads the league with 609 rushing yards. The Steelers are coming off another bad performance against the run; they gave up 231 to the Jaguars, including 181 to rookie Leonard Fournette.
The Steelers also have to deal with Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who is third in the league in passing yards and has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Steelers’ top-rated pass defense will be tested by Smith and his diverse receivers.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt vs. Steelers run defense. Hunt leads the league with 122 rushing yards per game, and the Steelers rank 28th with 137 yards allowed per game. The Houston Texans used an effective run blitz to slow Hunt for a time last week, but the Steelers have shown a weakness against the run this season. Kansas City could not establish a run game last season in two losses against the Steelers, averaging just 74 yards per game. Hunt can be a weapon in the passing game, too, with receiver Chris Conley out for the season and tight end Travis Kelce recovering from a concussion.
–Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. Chiefs CB Marcus Peters. Brown leads the league in receptions and receiving yards and has to win his share of one-on-one matchups with Peters because other Steelers receivers haven’t been getting open.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
–Questionable: G Ramon Foster (back)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
–Out: WR Chris Conley (achilles), G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (knee), C Mitch Morse (foot), S Steven Terrell (concussion)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Steelers WR Martavis Bryant. So much was expected of Bryant this season after he missed last season on a suspension, but Bryant is struggling to recapture his 2014 and 2015 form. Through five games, Bryant has 15 catches for 204 yards and one touchdown. He is coming off a game in which he caught five passes for just 21 yards, and he has only one game with more than 50 yards. The Steelers need Bryant to start making the big plays that made him one of the NFL’s top game-breakers.
FAST FACTS: Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger completed 22 of 27 (81.5 pct.) for 300 yards, five TDs and no interceptions in the last regular-season meeting. He has won six of seven career meetings (including playoffs). In six regular-season meetings, he has 13 TD passes and three INTs. … Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 157 yards in Week 5. He leads the NFL with three 100-yard games. He has 13 career games with at least 10 catches and 100 yards, tied for sixth in NFL history. He leads the NFL with 40 catches and 545 yards. … Steelers LB Ryan Shazier had eight tackles and an interception last week. He is the only player in the NFL with 45 tackles (45) and two INTs. … Pittsburgh rookie LB T.J. Watt is one of two NFL players with at least three sacks (3) and an interception in 2017. … Chiefs QB Alex Smith is one of three in NFL history (Steve Bartkowski and Roman Gabriel) with 11 TD passes and no INTs in the first five games. He leads the NFL with 76.6 completion percentage and 125.8 rating. … Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt rushed for 107 yards in Week 5. He leads the NFL with 775 scrimmage yards — the third-highest total by a rookie in the first five games in NFL history. He joined Adrian Peterson as the only rookies in NFL history with 100 scrimmage yards in each of the first five games. Hunt leads the NFL with 609 rushing yards and is tied for second with six TDs. … Chiefs WR/PR Tyreek Hill returned a punt 82 yards for a TD last week. He has five TDs of at least 75 yards since entering the league in 2016, the most in the NFL. … Chiefs LB Justin Houston had 1.5 sacks last week. Since entering the NFL in 2011, he has 19 games with at least 1.5 sacks, tied for second.
PREDICTION: The Chiefs lead the league at 32.8 points per game and should still be able to score even without Kelce and Conley.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jets have scored just seven first-quarter points through five games this season; so, even if they can put up a field goal or two early, it should allow them to maintain a balanced offense at least through the first half.
If they fall behind and have to start passing on most downs, that’s where Josh McCown begins to make mistakes. New England will mix more zone looks into the plan. McCown has shown the ability to keep plays alive at times with his legs. He also has had the benefit of a complementary running game that’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry heading into this matchup with a struggling Patriots run defense that’s allowing five yards a rush. New England must tackle better regardless of whether DT Alan Branch, who was a healthy scratch a week ago, returns to the mix.
If the Patriots can keep New York from big plays — a big if for a New England defense that has allowed 21 pass plays longer than 20 yards and six runs longer than 10 yards — it should give Tom Brady and Co. more than enough time to build a lead and control the flow of the game. But if the big-play problems persist, this could turn into another dogfight in the long rivalry.
Defensively for the Jets, it’s extremely simple: Hit Brady, or else. Brady has been hit 32 times in five games, but even at 40 years old, he rarely makes mistakes — he has one interception and two lost fumbles this season. The Jets have five interceptions during their three-game winning streak, but getting one off Brady will be a tall task.
The Patriots are going to throw the ball, early and often. Brady has attempted at least 35 passes in each game this year, leading the NFL’s No. 1 offense and No. 1 passing attack. There’s probably little reason to change the approach against a Jets defense that starts a pair of rookies at safety and has tallied just seven sacks in five games. Brady should get TE Rob Gronkowski back on Sunday and have the versatile corps of targets to spread the Jets out both vertically and horizontally.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Jets QB Josh McCown vs. Patriots pass defense. All five quarterbacks who have faced the Patriots’ 32nd-ranked pass defense this season have thrown for 300 yards, and they have combined to throw 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. The veteran McCown has been solid to open the year as the placeholder at quarterback for the Jets, helping to lead New York to three wins by completing 71.4 percent of his passes. Working with a solid running game, McCown has yet to top 250 yards passing and it will be interesting to see whether he finds as much room to work as previous opposing passers have against a pass defense that feels like it’s moving in the right direction even if the numbers don’t yet show it.
–Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Jets rookie Ss Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Brady has gotten off to a fast start, leading the NFL’s No. 1 passing attack while putting up numbers better than everyone not named Alex Smith. This week he takes on a Jets pass defense that has been middle of the road through the first month-plus, and he will likely target New York’s rookie safeties. Brady and the Patriots’ passing attack can challenge a pass defense and young safeties in so many ways, with Gronkowski, versatile WRs Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan, and pass-catching back James White. New York’s talented young defensive backs appear to have bright futures, but they could be in a for a day of learning against Brady and Co.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
–Out: CB Eric Rowe (groin)
–Questionable: RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
NEW YORK JETS
–Questionable: RB Bilal Powell (calf), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder, toe)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Jets K Chandler Catanzaro. He has had quite the last two weeks, as he hit the winning field goal in overtime against the Jaguars and set a franchise record with a 57-yard field goal against the Browns. He is 10-for-12 on field goals this season and hasn’t missed any of his eight extra points. He seems to be gaining confidence by the week.
FAST FACTS: Patriots QB Tom Brady aims for his fifth game in a row with 300 passing yards. In the past 13 meetings with the Jets, he has 3,500 yards (269.2 per game), 26 TDs and four INTs. He threw three TD passes and no INTs in the last meeting. … Patriots RB James White ranks first among NFL RBs with 29 catches in 2017. He has nine TD catches since 2015, tied for most among NFL RBs. … Jets QB Josh McCown completed 23 of 30 (76.7 percent) with two TDs last week. His passer rating has been over 100 in three of the past four games. … Jets WR Jermaine Kearse had a TD catch last week. He leads the team with 220 yards receiving and three TD catches. … Jets LB Demario Davis had a sack last week. He has eight-plus tackles in three of the past four meetings with the Patriots. He leads the team and is tied for the NFL lead with 46 tackles.
PREDICTION: The surprising Jets will push the Patriots but fall short in the end.