What to watch for on 'Thursday Night Football'


Remember the Jets-Patriots games that used to pull fans in weeks ahead of time? The ones that seemingly counted as the first and last game on Rex Ryan's schedule every year? The Jets coach has bigger things on his mind this time around, but that's what might make this matchup beautiful once again. Rex Ryan needs an opus to save himself and his season, and there's no better place to have it than on prime time television against the one coach he loves to beat more than any other.

Here's what to watch for:

1. Geno Smith has a little less firepower to deal with on the Patriots' defense, but at this point, the problems might be in his own head. It hasn't been a good couple of weeks for Smith, between missing a team meeting, getting benched and then blaming his problems on the people who sell newspapers. Ryan isn't the only one with his long-term career on the line. Smith needs to be looking toward next year, especially if the Jets continue to slide up the draft board.

2. The Patriots are fun to watch again. Over the past two weeks, Tom Brady and Co. have racked up 901 yards of total offense after failing to reach that total in the previous three games combined. Rob Gronkowski looks full speed again, too, after hauling in 13 receptions for 194 yards and a touchdown.

3. James White, the Patriots' fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin in the 2014 NFL Draft, could get carries in a game for just the second time in his career Thursday now that the Patriots' best change of pace back, Stevan Ridley, is out for the season with a knee injury. White, who rushed for more than 4,000 yards at Wisconsin and 45 touchdowns, might end up being the best back in his class.

4. Interactions with Darrelle Revis will be interesting to watch. Though the dynamic cornerback made his return to MetLife last season, it wasn't in a Patriots uniform, which is just about the closest he can come to blasphemy in Rex Ryan's eyes. Will his final move be enough to put a chill in the air between two former best friends?

5. Will this be the breaking point week for the Jets' secondary? Rex Ryan has kept it together despite some serious internal frustration from himself and members of his coaching staff regarding the level of talent he has out on the field. Losing out to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a few other top cornerbacks to run Ryan's scheme hurt badly, and now they have to face one of the best passing attacks in football.

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