All along, Chad Pennington figured to be the starting quarterback in the New York Jets’ season opener. He just never expected to be on the opposite sideline.
Pennington’s fate flip-flopped when Brett Favre decided he would rather play football in New York than do corny Wranglers commercials on his Mississippi farm.
The Green Bay Packers shunned Favre, the Jets shipped Pennington to Miami and the NFL suddenly had a marquee game to promote. How boring would this Jets-Dolphins matchup be otherwise?
The Dolphins (1-15) and Jets (4-12) combined to go 5-27 last season. Now they meet Sunday in Miami and it’s a must-see game. Favre is back from a brief retirement. Pennington wants revenge on the Jets. Bill Parcells is still cranky and fat, and his ego is running the show in Miami.
But the Dolphins have short-term problems. Parcells dumped two of his best defenders, end Jason Taylor and linebacker Zach Thomas, and while Pennington is smart, he has the arm strength of Jamie Moyer.
While the Dolphins spent the offseason tearing everything apart, the Jets were building something positive. Coach Eric Mangini needed defensive help, so he brought in run-stopping nose tackle Kris Jenkins and drafted pass-rushing linebacker Vernon Gholston. They can help counter Miami’s strength, which is the running back attack of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
The addition of Favre was preceded by two key offensive line signings in Alan Faneca and Damien Woody. The Jets also have at least three quality receivers and a solid running back.
And Favre, despite his occasional brain cramps, still can play. He passed for 4,155 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, and he looked pretty sharp in the preseason.
The Jets have dominated this series (7-2 straight up and 8-0-1 against the spread) and that should continue as they cover as 3-point favorites to spoil the Dolphins debuts of Parcells and Pennington.
Four more plays for Week 1 (Home team in CAPS):
• BILLS (-1) over Seahawks: A stronger defense and the ability of running back Marshawn Lynch to carry the offense should be a winning formula for Buffalo. Seattle, which has injury concerns on offense, is 2-10 against the spread versus AFC opponents on the road. The Bills were 6-2 against the spread at home last season, failing to cover against the Giants and Patriots.
• SAINTS (-3) over Bucs: As usual, Tampa Bay is limited offensively and exceptional defensively. But the Bucs will have problems stopping a high-powered New Orleans offense. Drew Brees, who passed for 4,423 yards last season, is surrounded by playmakers. The Saints, focused on avoiding another disastrous start, appear to be NFC title contenders. The main concern is the Bucs have covered seven of the past nine meetings.
• Cowboys (-51/2) over BROWNS: The line value seems to be on the side of the home underdog. Cleveland was 7-1 against the spread at home last season, but faced only one team with a winning record. The health of quarterback Derek Anderson is a big question mark for the Browns. Dallas is better on defense, and Tony Romo’s quick-strike ability makes the Cowboys a good bet to cover.
• Vikings (+3) over PACKERS: In his first career start, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will feel the pressure. Meanwhile, expect Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson to punch some holes in the Green Bay defense.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.