FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — There will be some excellent battles Sunday between the offense of the New England Patriots and defense of the New York Jets, but the prize fight — the real-life Mayweather–Pacquiao — will be on the outside between wide receiver Randy Moss and cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Each player is among the elite at his position, and they're both coming off career performances in their teams' Week 1 victories. Moss tied a career high with 12 receptions (his other 12-catch game came with the Minnesota Vikings in 1999) for 141 yards, and Revis limited Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson to four catches for 35 yards.
Revis will be tasked with blanketing Moss, who isn't as physical as Johnson, but has better hands and superior speed. Astronomically confident Jets head coach Rex Ryan likes Revis' chances against Moss, and Ryan went so far as to call the 2007 first-round draft pick the best cornerback in the NFL.
"I think everybody knows [Revis] is going to match up on Moss," Ryan said. "There are probably easier jobs than to play corner against [Johnson and Moss], but we're lucky to have a young man that I think is the best corner in the league. And that doesn't mean that Randy Moss won't catch any balls, because he caught 12 last week against a pretty good corner. The thing that's scary with Randy Moss is that some times with him when he's covered, he's still open because he's such a great athlete. In my opinion, he's one of the all-time great vertical receivers in the game. So this is going to be a great challenge to Revis, but it will also be a great challenge to Randy Moss as well."
Each player in the league has his welcome-to-the-NFL moment, and coincidentally, Revis had his against Moss. During the 2007 season opener at the Meadowlands — which served as Revis' first game as a rookie, as well as Moss' first game with the Patriots — Moss shoved Revis aside at the line of scrimmage before beating triple-coverage for a 51-yard touchdown reception. It was also the first time Moss celebrated by famously parting his hands.
Moss finished that game with nine catches for 183 yards and one touchdown, and in his four Patriots-Jets games, Moss has 19 receptions, 310 yards and two touchdowns. In those same four games, Revis has 12 total tackles (11 solo), one interception and two passes defended.
Revis, a 2008 Pro Bowler, has always drawn the opponent's most dangerous downfield threat. During a 2008 game against the Arizona Cardinals, who sport a pair of Pro Bowl receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, Revis recorded a pair of interceptions and returned one for his first career touchdown.
At 5-foot-11 and 204 pounds, Revis gives away five inches and six pounds to Moss, but the young cornerback might have the speed to stick with Moss. Revis ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the University of Pittsburgh's Pro Day in 2007.
Revis has obviously improved since getting victimized by Moss in 2007, and it helps considerably that the Jets have surrounded him with some other dangerous defensive backs in cornerback Lito Sheppard and safeties Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard.
"He's a very good player," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "He's kind of got all the skills. He's got all the tools. He's big, he's got long arms, he's fast, he's quick, he's a very fluid athlete, he catches the ball well, he's got very good route recognition, he can play inside, he can play outside, he matches up against small guys and does well, he matches up against big guys and does well. He's a very good player."