Le'Veon Bell is always going to be a focal point of the New York Jets offense, but he should play an even more important role Sunday against the New England Patriots with his team forced to start its third-string quarterback.
The Jets won't have starting quarterback Sam Darnold because he's battling mono, and backup Trevor Siemian won't play again this season after suffering an ankle injury Monday night. That means Luke Falk likely will start versus a Patriots defense that's given up just three points over the first two weeks of the season.
Bell was one of the NFL's best running backs during his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after sitting out the entire 2018 season because of a contract dispute, he took his talents to New York. The 27-year-old running back has rushed for 128 yards and zero touchdowns in his first two games with the Jets, but he also has tallied 16 receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown.
Bell's patient running style often causes problems for opposing defenses, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is well aware of the talent the star running back brings to the field each week.
"He's a very explosive player," Belichick said Wednesday during a media conference call. "Yeah, if (the hole is) there, he'll hit it. If not, he does an excellent job of setting the blockers up and making the defenders commit, and then finding space and going. You don't see him running into the back of his blockers and running into a pile and things like that. He makes guys commit, and then he finds space and is able to get to it. He's an excellent player."
Bell played three regular season games against the Patriots as a member of the Steelers, and his team lost each time. He didn't play too poorly, though, racking up 276 yards (4.46 yards per carry) and one touchdown, as well as 19 receptions for 181 yards.
Belichick was asked if he sees any differences from Bell after skipping a season, and the Patriots could come up with any.
"Yeah, he looks pretty good. He looks fresh," Belichick noted. "Yeah, looks good. Catches the ball well, is very good in the open field, he's a strong in-line runner."
The Patriots have beaten the Jets six consecutive times, and oddsmakers -- based on the spread of 22.5 points in favor of the New England -- are expecting another one-sided matchup. If the Jets are going to end that losing skid and earn a potential season-altering win, Bell has to make a huge impact in both the passing and rushing attacks Sunday.
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