Gameday: New season starts today

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Patriots vs. Jets on Sunday Night FootballPatriots vs. Jets is always a big game. But this year it's really, really big, especially for a New England team coming off consecutive losses:

After the Jets, New England's next seven opponents boast a mere 19 wins between them, good for a .333 winning percentage. It's the easiest remaining slate in the NFL.

So it's this simple: If the Patriots win Sunday -- sweeping the season series against the Jets -- they'll essentially have a two-game cushion on their chief rivals with a breezy path to January football. It would force the Bills to essentially maintain pace the rest of the way in order to take advantage of having won that first meeting of the season.

A loss? Well, that's far more daunting. Suddenly the Patriots would have lost three in a row and would find themselves in a dogfight the rest of the way, with the potential to be left scrapping for a mere wild-card spot (though that soft schedule would certainly aid that quest).

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Our five things to watch is topped by the need for Tom Brady to get back to being Tom Brady:

It has often been said that if Brady is one of the Patriots' biggest concerns, things should be OK. Brady said this week that he has to make better decisions, which is one reason for his high interception total (10, after throwing just four last season), and he's been putting in work after practice with some of his pass-catchers. According to ESPN Stats & Information, nine of Brady's 10 interceptions have come against a rush of four or fewer defenders -- a key stat considering the Jets rushed four or fewer against Brady 78 percent of the time in the past two meetings.

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