NFL New England Patriots

5 Key Players For New England Patriots Tonight

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Five Key New England Patriots Players

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, tonight's game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots is very similar to the Pats' last contest against the Buffalo Bills. Bill Belichick is facing off against another rookie quarterback in Geno Smith who is almost as raw as E.J. Manuel. He will also have to find a way to coach a team without several top offensive weapons.

Except tonight might be even worse because Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will be without running back Shane Vereen, and will also likely be without tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola. That makes quarterback Tom Brady more predictable, as he seemed to be on Sunday against the Bills.

This game should be a low-scoring, defensive battle. Brady is great, but he is very limited without any sort of weapons around him. He barely beat a rebuilding Bills team, having to take advantage of several mistakes to get the win. Now he will face a team with a defense that has annually finished in the top-10 in the NFL.

Smith should struggle on the other side as well. He's a raw rookie quarterback going up against one of the best defensive minds in the game in Bill Belichick. Belichick has had a long history of stifling rookie quarterbacks, mostly because his defensive schemes change from week to week. Plus, the Patriots' defense is loaded with talent while the Jets' offense is devoid of it.

Let's dig deeper into this tilt and check out some of the key players for the Patriots in this game.

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5. Tommy Kelly, DT

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Kelly will be in matchup heaven tonight as he goes up against left guard Vladimir Ducasse. The veteran defensive tackle should able to produce a good amount of interior pressure in the passing game.

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4. Jerod Mayo, OLB

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Mayo will mostly tasked with covering tight end Kellen Winslow II, which is very important considering that he was Smith's favorite target against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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3. Julian Edelman, WR

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Edelman has to be open all day against the Jets tonight, as he is the only proven option in the passing game. He should be able to burn nickel cornerback Kyle Wilson on a consistent basis.

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2. Rob Ninkovich, DE

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Ninkovich will be matched up with two offensive linemen who struggle in pass protection, right guard Willie Colon and right tackle Austin Howard. Knowing this, the veteran defensive end should generate plenty of pressure, and perhaps force a key fumble.

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1. Tom Brady, QB

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Brady is the man that makes everything go for the Patriots. If he is able to get some of the younger players involved, particularly his young wide receivers, then the Pats' offense will be able to generate enough points to defeat the Jets.