The Jets' home opener today against the Patriots at the Meadowlands will be about the quarterbacks — few Green & White games this season won't be about the QBs one way or another.
But in another sense this game is about more than the relocated Brett Favre and the rehabilitating Tom Brady. For the Jets it's about all their new guys and what they're bringing to the table in this, their first "real" game before their new home fans.
No player is better positioned to see that than right tackle Damien Woody.
"Trust me, those guys are not feeling sorry for themselves," Woody said of the Patriots after they lost "Super" Tom Brady for the season in the opener — the same Brady who used to put his hands under Woody's butt to receive snaps in 2001 and '02. "They've almost put themselves in an underdog situation again, which they thrive off of.
New England coach Bill Belichick, Woody said, "is working that angle. I guarantee he's working that angle. He might not say it, but he's working it."
And with so many of players besides Brady still around from last seasons' 18-0 team heading into Super Bowl XLII, what does that make the Jets' task?
"Those guys'll be ready to go, and we've just got to be ready to go," he said. "This is definitely going to be a tough game."
And then Woody added, "It should be a real fun contest."
That's because Woody is now wearing the green and white. He likes his new teammates, the way they pulled together to get off to their 1-0 start at Miami. And he likes his new fan base — the one he used to hate.
"There's going to be unbelievable energy out there," said Woody, who got his first taste of Jets home fans in the two home preseason games. "The people have been waiting for this game, have circled this game for a while. Now that it's finally here, I'm sure everybody's going to be pumped up."
Fellow imported lineman Alan Faneca can't agree more. Faneca had a first-hand glimpse of what happens when the Jets fans aren't fired up when he and the Steelers came to North Jersey along with many of their black-and-gold-clad fans who got tickets for the game. "They travel well," he said of Pittsburgh's fan base.
But Faneca, has felt the force of his new supporters, and as an expert on the effects a crowd can have on an NFL team (his Steelers were 44-17-1 from 2001 through last season), he, too, can't wait to kick things off for his first official home game as a Jet.
"Getting out in front of the home fans, there's kind of that connection for the first time," said Faneca. "It's exciting running out on the field, hearing your home crowd. That'll be nice. The fans can carry you a long way. To get that home crowd advantage, that's why it's so hard to go on the road and steal a win."
The Patriots will also be trying to steal the Jets' thunder — and win their eighth straight at the Meadowlands — in front of "Fireman Ed" Anzalone. The fireman, who has done his own rehab from injuries suffered in a fire last year, returns to the stands for the first time since the 2006 season finale against Oakland. Woody remembers how he and his then-teammates felt about the "J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!" chant.
"All I remember is him being on somebody's shoulders, orchestratin' to the crowd," Woody said. "And I wished I could just throw a rock and knock him off the guy's shoulders.
"I used to hate it. But I'm on the other side now, so it's a whole different ballgame. I can't wait to see the crowd come to life."
The crowd, of course, will stay alive for as long as the Jets take care of business. They have their own series of weapons now to combat the still formidable household names dressed in red, white and blue. The Jets who've been here for a while and the Jets who arrived this calendar year have the same thought that Woody had this week.
"I'm a member of the New York Jets now," he said. "I've got one goal, and that's to win a football game."
Here are some more reactions from the new veteran Jets who will be making their regular-season debuts in front of a new set of home fans beginning around 4:15 p.m. today:
Favre:"This is my first Jets-Patriots game. The Patriots really have had the upper hand on everybody in this division for quite a while. They've really dominated everyone, not just in this division. We'd like to change that."
LB Calvin Pace: "It's going to be a fun situation. The fans are crazy here — the passion they come with and the expectations. That's something I haven't been a part of since I've been in the NFL. Every time I go out there and I hear the eruption, it's crazy, man."
FB Tony Richardson: "Without a doubt it's a big milestone. A home opener is very, very special. I like the Jets fans. I know how loyal they've been, and we obviously want to go out there, put on a good show for them and win the game as well. Yes, it's exciting and we're looking forward to it."
TE Bubba Franks: "The home opener's always a big game. It's also a divisional game, and that makes it even more important. We look at this as another game and we shouldn't approach it any differently. One thing I do know, if you want to consider yourself a good team and be able to go deep in the playoffs, you have to win your home games, and maybe even split the ones on the road. But the home games are the most important."
Finally, here is the take of Kris Jenkins, the nose tackle who came over from Carolina in trade in February, on how exciting Sunday's game against the Pats' Matt Cassel-led offense will be:
"Do you see excitement on my face? It's my job. I beat people up for a living. That's not excitement, that's a fight. You get excited for game shows. This is football. I'm focused on what I do. I love this.
"This game is special. It's special because it's Game 2. It's special because it's the New England Patriots. It's special because it's another division game. I'm not saying it's not special. But my approach is just different than a lot of people think it is. I always approach it like it's a street fight."
Enough said. For all the Jets new and old, let's get it on.