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Monday Night Football Preview: Jets Take on Little Blue in New Meadowlands Opener

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After playing in Giants Stadium for 26 seasons, the Jets will now take on their cross-town rivals in a brand-new $1.7B arena which can be called ‘home' by both teams. There has already been plenty of trash talking from both sides, and it's safe to say this game has more meaning to the players and personnel involved than a normal preseason affair usually entails.

Giants' QB Eli Manning is coming off a career-high 4021 yards and 27 TD's in 2009, while Jets' QB Mark Sanchez enters his sophomore season. It's hard for Jets fans to forget his maturation process during last season, when he was phenomenal in the postseason and showed exceptional poise for a rookie in big-game environments. We watched the young QB mature before our very eyes.

Following a near-historic run in 2009 where the Jets found themselves just one game away from the Super Bowl, the season begins on Monday Night Football, as the Jets and Giants will clash in the opener at New Meadowlands Stadium.

Join me after the jump, for a preview of what we can expect to see in tonight's game -- highlighting key matchups and players to watch.

How Much Playing Time for First Teamers?

HC Rex Ryan said Saturday that his starters on offense and defense will play a little past the first quarter in New York's preseason opener. On the other side of the ball, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said his starters will be on the field for only 15 to 18 plays.

New Faces

The game will debut for several new Jets' players. CB Antonio Cromartie, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, OLB Jason Taylor, WR Santonio Holmes, FS Brodney Pool and K Nick Folk all will be taking the field as Jets in 2010.

This matchup could be extra-important for WR Santonio Holmes, who will be serving a suspension through the first four games of the season, and needs to get acclimated to Schotty's system. However, Holmes has looked great in Cortland, and it seems as if there is good chemistry between him and QB Mark Sanchez.

Matchup To Watch:

CB Antonio Cromartie vs WR Hakeem Nicks -- This matchup is interesting, because it features an acting "CB1" vs "WR1." Initially, it would have been CB Darrelle Revis on WR Steve Smith, but Revis is holding out and Smith has a groin injury and will not be in action.

The Jets are hoping Cromartie can thrive in Rex's system, and are looking for him to return to his 2007 form when he had 10 INT's. Jets felt that if they could get his personal life issues squared away, the new team and environment would bring him back to form. Already, he has paid off his child support money that was owed, and settled down/just recently got married. It's safe to say that's had a positive effect on him, because has was one of the most electrifying players in Cortland. Will be great to watch him with the spotlight on tonight.

Player(s) to Watch:

OFFENSE --- John Conner- FB #38- "The Terminator"

As we saw while viewing ‘Hard Knocks,' both Rex and Mike T. feel they really got a steal in drafting Conner  after watching him in Cortland. He hits like a LB! Conner already seems to be becoming acclimated to Schotty's system, and is making/staying on his blocks. Furthermore, he has also really shined on Mike Westhoff's unit in kick coverage. He has explosiveness which gives him great closing speed to allow him to come up and make tackles.

There has been a lot of talk about this kid, and we really think he's going to be a star (which unfortunately could spell the end of Jason Davis' tenure as a Jet). If anyone saw the hit he put on Ben Renkart, you know what we're talking about! I actually feel bad for Renkart...

DEFENSE ---- Vernon Gholston - DE # 50 --- "The Bust"

The sixth pick in the 2008 NFL Draft still has yet to record a sack in his career, and has just 17 tackles in 30 career games. It's safe to say this will be a make-or-break season for him, and he will surely be motivated to succeed and give Jets' fans a reason to stop booing him whenever he takes the field. Gholston will be lining up at DE on Monday and this season, as the Jets brought in Taylor at OLB and chose to move Gholston upfront to give them some much-needed depth there.

Gholston played end in a 4-3 at Ohio State, so Rex is hoping the move will bring forth some production from the underperforming player.  

Injury Report:

Rex has ruled out linebackers Josh Mauga (concussion) and Brashton Satele (ankle) for Monday's game. On the other side of the ball, the Giants will be sitting a lot of guys.

According to NYDN, WR Steve Smith (groin), WR Sinorice Moss (groin), CB Corey Webster (glute), WR Tim Brown (groin/hamstring) and G Chris Snee (knee), TE Jake Ballard (hamstring), TE Scott Chandler (hip) and TE Kevin Boss (ankle/hamstring) all are out for tonight's game. Furthermore, CB Corey Webster is listed as questionable.

On Offense:

I expect the Jets to open it up for Sanchez and throw on the team that was third-to-last in passing touchdowns allowed last year --- especially when the first team is on the field.

The Giants allowed 40 points or more five times last season, and with S Kenny Phillips and CB Corey Webster (likely) out, I look for the Jets to employ a more potent air attack than we saw last season in Sanchez's rookie year.

On Defense:

It's hard to predict exactly what the Jets will be looking to do on defense, but we can expect them to play a lot of 3-4 with some 4-3 and nickel package mixed in also.

The secondary the Jets will be fielding is a completely different look than that of last season's, and it will be interesting to see if there is chemistry back there without CB Darrelle Revis on the field. With Revis currently holding out, recent acquisition CB Antonio Cromartie will take his spot at CB1.  First round drat pick CB Kyle Wilson and CB Dwight Lowery will likely rotate between CB2 on the outside & nickelback, with each taking some snaps at both positions.

Motivation:

Certainly one of the most important aspects in a preseason game, and I think it favors the Jets. Giants will be resting a lot more guys, and Jets have the pressure of putting ‘Giants Stadium' behind them, and also backing up their talk from 'Hard knocks.' The Jets have a lot to prove tonight.

When I look at the injury report, and see nearly every Jet in action, but a handful of Giants rested, it's clear what each team's motivation is. While it is a preseason game, IMO the Jets are gunning to win this game just a little bit more.

The Jets lead the all-time preseason series 22-18-1, and are currently on a three-game win streak.

Prediction: Jets 23, Giants 20

/// On that note, I think I'll leave it to Kris Jenkins to close this thing out...

"I mean I just love being able to hit Giants," Jenkins told Newsday’s Rod Boone.