Eric McHugh: Favre in the Patriots’ back yard

Eric McHugh

Even though it didn't look it Thursday night amid all the zeros - no touchdowns until garbage time, no yards for Chad Jackson on his lone catch, a spiffy 0.0 passer rating for beleaguered backup Matt Cassel - the Patriots still possess the deadliest offense in the AFC East, by far.

And Tom Brady is still the division's quarterback alpha dog.

But at least now he has an adversary who's in the same league, figuratively speaking.

Were you sick of Brett Favre a month ago? Well, he's not going anywhere. In fact, he's in the Patriots' backyard, following his trade to the Jets.

While the Patriots' jayvees (no Brady, no Randy Moss, no Wes Welker ... not to mention no Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel or Ellis Hobbs) were slogging through an unwatchable 16-15 loss to the Ravens in the preseason opener, it was hard not to fast-forward ahead to Sept. 14, when Brady and Favre will go mano-a-mano at the Meadowlands in a Jets home opener like no other.

Of course, that subject was strictly taboo in the home locker room after this game.

"Don't fall for those Brett Favre questions!" fullback Heath Evans jokingly called out to rookie Matthew Slater.

There were a few Favre queries, all predictably batted down at the line of scrimmage.

"I knew that was coming," linebacker Victor Hobson, a former Jet, said with a grin. "I don't have any comments on that one."

Pressed on whether he thought Favre would be a good fit in with his old club, Hobson acknowledged, "I think so. I think he'll be a good fit wherever he goes, to tell you the truth."

Really, did these franchises need any more story lines? No, but the Jets sure needed a strong-armed quarterback. Now they've got one. They've also got a pulse - something they also desperately needed after last season's 4-12 collapse. Oh, and their co-tenants, the Giants, won the Super Bowl, meaning Gang Green was slipping off the radar screen in their own building.

No more. In fact, the Jets are hot. They're trendy. They're must-see TV. Maybe that will be good for the Patriots, who could use the white-hot spotlight trained elsewhere for a while after last season's year-in-a-fishbowl. And you know the psychology majors in Foxboro will be playing up the everybody-wants-to-see-Favre-in-the-Super-Bowl angle.

No matter what you think of No. 4 at this point - wronged football god? flip-flopping drama queen? - you have to admit that he makes the AFC East vastly more entertaining.

Does he make it infinitely more difficult for the Patriots to win? No. Favre is an upgrade over Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens, but the rest of the Jets' skill position talent is a cut below what he had last season in Green Bay, particularly if RB Thomas Jones can't get untracked.

In Favre's favor - he'll be throwing at a Patriots secondary that's missing Asante Samuel but does feature free agent corner Fernando Bryant, who spent the last four seasons butting heads with Favre in the NFC North as a Lion. Told that Favre seems to be following him, Bryant just broke into a smile. "Ah, no comment," he finally said. "We pretty much just worry about what we're doing right now."

Favre has won three of five career meetings with the Pats, including Super Bowl XXXI, and his numbers against them are quite good - 999 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs and a 90.9 passer rating. However, the Patriots knocked him out the last time they met. Favre was 5-of-15 for 73 yards in a 35-0 Pats blowout in Lambeau Field in 2006.

But here's where the past is really relevant: Since 2003, in regular-season games only, Brady has completed 63.1 percent of his passes with 151 TDs, 60 INTs and a passer rating of 95.7. Here are the cumulative QB totals for each of the other three AFC East teams during that span:

Jets - 61.8 percent, 82 TDs/75 INTs, 80.4 rating.

Bills - 59 percent, 81 TDs/78 INTs, 75.7 rating.

Dolphins - 55.3 percent, 86 TDs/96 INTs, 69.5 rating.

That's pretty dramatic, no? Beyond Brady, the AFC East has been a QB wasteland over the past five years, populated by the likes of Jay Fiedler, A.J. Feeley, Joey Harrington, J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, Brooks Bollinger and a deteriorating Drew Bledsoe. Only Bledsoe (2002) has thrown as many as 20 TDs in a season, and Cleo Lemon paced the Dolphins last year with a mighty six (as many as Brady threw in his visit to Miami last season).

Favre is a fresh new (old) face. Week 2 can't come soon enough.

As that football sage Terrell Owens once observed, get your popcorn ready.

The Patriot Ledger