By Danny Picard
FOXBORO -- The last time the Patriots and Jets played, both Deion Branch and Santonio Holmes were among the missing. Neither of the Super Bowl MVPs were on the field when New York beat New England, 28-14, in Week 2.
Branch, of course, wasn't even a Patriot; he was with the Seattle Seahawks at the time. Holmes was serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
Eleven weeks later, Branch is back with the team that he won Super Bowls with in 2003 and 2004 (and earned himself a Super Bowl MVP trophy in 2004 in the process). And Holmes, who earned his hardware as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is playing again after serving his suspension.
Both add a new dynamic to their current rosters, different from what each defense saw in Week 2.
Patriots fans know what Branch brings to the table. His return to New England's offense has re-united him with Tom Brady and has, in a sense, rejuvenated his career. Since the bye-week trade that brought him back to the Pats, Branch has made 33 catches for 433 yards and three touchdowns in seven games.
Holmes, acquired in the offseason from Pittsburgh, has played seven games for the Jets this season. He has 32 receptions for 491 yards and four touchdowns.
The numbers between Branch and Holmes couldn't be more similar. Their skill sets are the same, too, says Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington.
"Explosiveness, making the Jets offense even that much more dynamic," said Arrington about what Holmes brings to New York's offense. "Because he's fast, he's quick, and he's good after the catch. He adds a lot of explosiveness to the offense."
Holmes adds a great deal to New York's passing game, if not for his skill set then for the fact that the Jets already had a top-notch wide receiver in Braylon Edwards the last time the two teams went at it.
Patriots players believe the two are different, similar to how Branch is different to Randy Moss, the down-field threat that Branch replaced earlier in the season, when Moss was traded to the Minnesota Vikings.
"You know Braylon, he's a taller guy," said Arrington. "He's more of a jump-ball kind of guy. He's definitely more of a target in the red area. Not that Santonio isn't, but like I said, they just use Edwards' height, and he'll jump and go get the ball.
"Santonio, he definitely stretches the field . . . Santonio, man, not only is he fast, he's quick, and like I said, he's good after the catch. He's also a Super Bowl MVP. He's not that for nothing."
Branch isn't a Super Bowl MVP for nothing, either.
"That whole situation with Randy Moss there kind ofsurprised me," said Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. "I would never think they would trade the type of caliberplayer Randy is, and what he brings to their offense. But they broughtDeion Branch in, and I think they did that because hes familiar with Tom Brady andtheir offense. I mean, the guy was a Super Bowl MVP, so hes comfortable in thesystem he knows.
"Their receiving corps is still good," added Revis. "They still got WesWelker. They got Deion to come in and fit right in. And they got Brandon Tate, aswell. And they got two good tight ends that can catch the ball and rungood routes."
Branch and Holmes will play Monday night at Gillette Stadium. Neither were available in Week 2. Their impact on the divisional race will be on display, in a similar fashion.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard