The saga begins . . . again

197883.jpg

The saga begins . . . again

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

Jets Week, Vol. 3 officially starts Monday, but it wont take long for the hype to reach maximum velocity.

Actually, in the time it took for you to read that first sentence, it happened.

HYPE.

Lets get it going with a four mini-columns (some mini-er than others) on four story lines born from the Wild Card Weekend. Think of it as a quick refresher until the Jets re-open their mouths and crank up the machine. And away we go . . .

Its Not Put Up or Shut Up

Back in 2004, Curt Schilling sought out to shut up 55,000 New Yorkers.

On Sunday, the Pats will settle for silencing one New York coach.

But when it comes to quieting down Rex Ryan, you have wonder:

Is it even possible?

Since the playoff started, some in the New York media have called this postseason Put Up or Shut up time for Ryan. Basically, theyve questioned, and perhaps justifiably so, how anyone can take his act seriously if hes sent home early for a second straight year. No ones suggesting that hes coaching for his job, but instead, that if the Jets lose, Ryan will have no choice but to scale back the big talk.

To that, I say, Disagree!

Far be it from me to pretend like I can predict Rex Ryans behavior. I mean, when you're talking about the James Cameron of the foot fetish industry, you're talking about a serious wild card. Who knows what he might do? But with that being said, I dont think anything that happens this season will change who Ryan is. Even if the Jets go out and get killed on Sunday, youll have a better chance of convincing Bill Belichick to take the podium in a bikini top than you will of seeing Rex pipe down. Its just his way. Its all he knows, and its damn sure what he believes in.

And not only will he continue to talk, but hell continue to bring in players who fit that same mold, too. Basically, he has his vision for the Jets, and its instilled too deeply to just pump the breaks and hope for the best.

Its too late for put up or shut up. Now its sink or swim.

Dont mind LT. Hes just being LT.

The funny thing is, I remember late in the fourth quarter as the Patriots were talking and yapping about the game that night, and I said to a couple of guys, 'Guys, we'll be back. You guys got us tonight, but we'll be back.' And so for us, we're waiting on this opportunity.
Ladainian Tomlinson, after the Jets 17-16 win over Indianapolis.

OK, let me start with a disclaimer: In his prime, Ladainian Tomlinson was probably the deadliest running back Ive ever seen. I recognize that he was an all-time talent and is a Hall of Famer. Yada yada yada. End disclaimer.

But with all due respect to his greatness, is there anything funnier than LTs ever-expanding role as the Paper Champion of the Patriots Dynasty?

First, hes never beaten New England when it mattered most. A few times, he hasnt even showed up. In fact, besides Joey Porter, no other player in the league has been embarrassed by the Pats with more consistency.

On top of it all, LTs obsessed with this embarrassment. When hes trying to give his bulletin board material, its never: This is our game! Were the better team! Instead, its usually They were mean! They have no class! They ran up the score! They stole my friends dance!

Theres always something the Patriots have done to earn his disapproval, but theres nothing he can do about it except make passive aggressive threats about getting even for something that only he cares about.

Braylon has something to say (again)

All you hatin a people.... J-E-T-S. And let new England know we are coming.

Braylon Edwards via Twitter

So, Braylon Edwards is already talking his game. Fair enough. I guess thats about what youd expect. But heres my question: Do you think he remembers how close he came to fumbling away the entire season? Not that he should harp on it; after all, he did have the huge play down the stretch. But do you think there was any point where he thought, Damn you know what? I was one funny bounce away from letting everyone down . . . maybe I should just hold off on this ridiculous tweet and enjoy the moment.

Who knows? Maybe he did. Maybe his attitude isnt as entirely awful as it comes across. But either way, on the field, Edwards does create some scary match-ups for the Pats, and because hes such a royal pain in the ass, theres no one on that team who Patriots fans will be less excited to see in the end zone. He is salt to the wound.

Hell have to catch the ball first, though.

Spread Em.
The Patriots were favored by eight or more points three times in the regular season both games against Buffalo (-14.5 and -9 points, respectively) and in the Sunday night game against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers (-14). In those games, they were only 1-2 vs. the spread.

Why do you care? Because the Pats are favored by 8.5 points on Sunday.

At first that seemed a little high. I was thinking maybe somewhere around 6.5 considering the familiarity, the fact that Revis is healthy, Shonn Greenes running better, the Jets have a ton momentum and so on but after one week hiatus I guess its easy to lose sight of just how dominant the Patriots have been this season.

I'm sure we'll be reminded all week. You know Rex will probably bring it up a few times. You know that every analyst on every station is going to pick the Pats to win. You know that Mike Mayock's going to do a 20-minute film session breaking down Tom Brady's near perfect decision making. And after all is said and done, by the time Sunday rolls around, 8.5 might not feel like enough.

Either way, glad I'm not picking until Friday. And in the meantime, enjoy the hype.

From here, it's every man for himself.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Amendola ankle injury brings Patriots punt-return situation into focus

Amendola ankle injury brings Patriots punt-return situation into focus

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have a situation brewing when it comes to who on their roster is returning punts. 

To start Sunday's 26-10 win over the Rams, it was rookie second-round pick Cyrus Jones who was given the first crack. As he tracked Johnny Hekker's 44-yard boot in the first quarter, he quickly waived for a fair catch, then muffed it. Patriots safety Patrick Chung was in the right place at the right time to fall on the football and retain possession, but Bill Belichick and his staff decided to make a change the next time around. 

When Hekker took the field again, Jones was off, and Danny Amendola was on. 

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

The veteran receiver and return man secured a couple of tricky floaters, including 61 and 55-yarders off the foot of the player Belichick termed "a weapon" last week, but Amendola suffered an ankle injury late in the third quarter. He hopped off the field on one leg, went to the locker room and did not return. He was later spotted in the Patriots locker room wearing a protective boot and using crutches.

After Amendola went down, the Patriots had the option of using Julian Edelman -- one of the most productive punt returners in the history of the league -- but Jones was given another shot, returning the first Rams punt of the fourth quarter 11 yards. 

Jones has had difficulty securing punts since training camp, but one of the reasons he was drafted in the second round was because when he has the football in his hands, he has the quickness, vision and speed to turn in explosive plays. As a senior at Alabama, he returned four punts for scores. 

If Amendola is forced to miss time down the stretch, the Patriots could have a difficult choice to make: Continue to trust Jones despite his occasional lapses in ball-security, or turn to Edelman. 

The gut call may be to deploy Edelman, but there is a drawback to using him extensively in the kicking game. Even if he sees only a handful of additional touches per game as a returner, it's more wear and tear on a 30-year-old player who will be leaned on heavily with Rob Gronkowski out for the remainder of the season. Over the last three weeks with Gronkowski out for all but seven plays against the Jets, Edelman has 24 catches on a whopping 40 targets.

After Edelman, Jones and Amendola, there aren't many other punt-return options for the Patriots on the roster.

Chung may be the next man up. He returned one punt for the Patriots last year and returned 16 in college. Malcolm Mitchell (11 punt returns in college), Devin McCourty (5), Malcolm Butler (4) and Matthew Slater (1) all have some experience in that role, but not at the professional level. It might be asking too much for any of them to take on a new job at this point in the season. 

For a team so focused on field position and execution in the kicking game, how the Patriots handle their punt-return role moving forward bears watching. 

Other injury notes: Patriots corner Eric Rowe left the game in the second half with a hamstring injury and did not return. He indicated after the game that he wasn't sure when the injury occurred. He said he did not believe it was serious . . . Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower went down in the third quarter after absorbing a chop block from Rams running back Todd Gurley. He walked off the field under his own power, and after wearing a wrap on his right knee on the bench, he returned to the field for the next Rams offensive drive. The defensive captain was seen in the locker room after the game walking without any noticeable limp.