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'Thursday Night Football' Preview: What to watch for

The New England Patriots are lucky. They are the first NFL team since the 1950 Washington Redskins to face rookie quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks.

The Patriots also are unlucky. Their skill positions have been decimated, and it's only Week 2. Wide receiver Danny Amendola, tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Shane Vereen and tight end Zach Sudfeld are out.

Tom Brady did not look especially comfortable in the season opener with his young receivers, but he needs undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins to step up after a rough Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills. It all sets up an intriguing "Thursday Night Football" game between the Patriots and New York Jets in Foxborough, Mass., on NFL Network. The Jets appear to have a better shot at this game than a lot of people expected a few weeks ago.

Here are three things to watch for:

  1. New York's defensive line is dangerous. Even with Quinton Coples out, the Jets' big uglies up front created havoc in last week's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison was dominant last week. Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson had a fantastic first game. Outside pass rusher Antwan Barnes looks like a great free-agent pickup. The Jets have potential to have a very good front seven.
  1. Geno Smith's final numbers weren't bad in his first start, but there were plenty of concerning signs. The Jets rookie quarterback holds the ball forever, for one. He took five sacks and eight quarterback hits despite getting good pass protection overall. The positives for Smith: He has a cannon and doesn't make a lot of bad decisions on where to throw.
  1. The Patriots' defense had a nice first week against Buffalo. They shut down Bills running back C.J. Spiller and gave up fewer than 300 yards overall. The biggest concern on the Patriots is the pass rush. They used four down lineman for most of the game against Buffalo, including Chandler Jones at defensive tackle plenty. New free-agent pickup Tommy Kelly played a nice game, but New England needs more pressure coming from the edge.

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