The last time the Jets played in a nationally televised game, they came away with an impressive 24-17 win over the playoff-bound Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football. It was their only win of the year against an opponent with an above-.500 record.
The Jets figured they showed the nation something that night and figure they can do it again Saturday night against the New England Patriots at the Meadowlands, a game televised on ESPN.
With the Jets out of the playoff chase, their only option is to play spoiler and do their best to dash New England's hope of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
"If we're going down we might as well take someone with us," quarterback Chad Pennington said.
Said nose tackle Jason Ferguson: "That's really the important thing. We're playing for pride and not trying to let everyone know we're rolling over because we haven't even thought we are out of it."
There's a fine line between the Jets (6-8) and the Patriots (12-2) if you look at their records. While the win-loss totals are miles apart, the margin of victory -- and loss -- is much closer.
The Patriots have won eight games by 9 points or less and six by a touchdown or less. On the other side, the Jets have taken six losses by nine or less and five by a touchdown or less; and they haven't lost a game by more than 11 points all season. Of the Jets' six wins, five are by a touchdown or less.
When the two played each other at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 21, the Patriots pulled out a 23-16 win. Add it all up and you're looking at a handful of plays in each game that the Patriots made to become prince, and a handful the Jets couldn't to make them paupers.
"That's why they're going to the playoffs right now and we're not. They made those one or two plays," strong safety Sam Garnes said.
It may be wishful thinking, but during the drive home after practice, players have to be wondering if just making a small percentage of those plays could mean the difference between 8-6 and a shot at making the postseason, and their current 6-8 record. The Jets were that team the last two years, fighting off slow starts only to make the playoffs with runs in the second half of the season.
"I guess it's just our turn to be in the barrel," Pennington said. "This year it jumped up and bit us."
SERIES HISTORY: 87th meeting. Jets lead series 47-38-1 and have a 26-16 advantage in games played in New York.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--As always, the Patriots are loaded with ex-Jets players. Six former Jets players -- four on defense -- are now wearing Patriot uniforms. DEs Rick Lyle, Bobby Hamilton and Anthony Pleasant, LB Roman Phifer, TE Fred Baxter and WR Dedric Ward. LB Don Davis, a rookie free agent with the Jets in 1995 training camp, is also playing for New England.
--RB Curtis Martin is the only former Patriots player on the Jets roster and he's had a history of big games against his former team. In 11 games against New England, Martin has rushed for over 100 yards in six and 99 yards in one other.
--Players sleeping in the locker room before games have always been part of NFL lore. There was even that urban legend about New England quarterback Tom Brady napping before the Super Bowl two years ago. But Jets DT Chester McGlockton has been making it a habit during the practice workday during the open media sessions, when about a dozen or so reporters are allowed in. At least a few times in the last week, the 6-foot-3, 350-pound McGlockton has been seen lying on the floor napping in front of his locker minutes before position meetings were to start. On one occasion, McGlockton was snoring so loudly that it interrupted in interview being conducted about five or so yards away.
--The Jets haven't had a defensive TD since DE John Abraham ran in a fumble recovery in the fourth game of the 2001 season against Buffalo. The Patriots have four defensive TDs this season alone.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Number of current players named to the Four-Decade Jets team, yet the team is 6-8.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think all good coaches know how to change. Bill Belichick does that. He knows how to change. He's going to change with the players he has. He's going to use them and put them in positions where they can make plays. That's what coaching is about, it's about using the guys that you have and making sure you give them the best avenue to be successful." -- Jets coach Herman Edwards on how the Patriots have been able to maintain their high level of success despite so many injuries and changes in their personnel earlier in the season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Jets won't admit it but their defense performs a lot better when they blitz more often and play aggressively, taking some chances along the way. This is where head coach Herman Edwards and defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell differ in their philosophies. Edwards is more the aggressive gambler while Cottrell likes gap control.
While it's true the Jets don't have the speed to be a true blitzing team -- especially not with John Abraham out -- they still need to at least show opponents that they'll try and blitz. That may be what the Jets will have in mind for their final two games. Safety Sam Garnes and corner Ray Mickens have been called in to blitz more in recent weeks and they've usually gotten some penetration so look for that to continue.
--QB Vinny Testaverde says he doesn't want to come back to the Jets if it means being the third QB. The Jets view Brooks Bollinger as the backup to Chad Pennington but would like to bring the 40-year-old Testaverde back for salary cap reasons as well as veteran insurance. Testaverde, who thinks he proved while subbing for the injured Pennington that he can still start in the NFL, would rather retire than be the third QB. If he retire before June 1, he will count a whopping $7.5 million against the cap. After June 1, he would count $3.5 million in 2004 and $4 million in 2005. Either way, the space taken up would be very detrimental to the Jets offseason plans.
--WR Wayne Chrebet is optimistic about returning to the Jets next season but said the final decision is up to the doctors. Chrebet is currently on the injured reserve with post-concussion syndrome, sustained when he took a severe blow to the head against the Giants on Nov. 2. Chrebet had been suffering from headaches and other symptoms for a month after the injury and has only recently resumed workouts. Chrebet said he feels much better but still wouldn't be able to play this season. Chrebet will probably start training camp with the Jets next summer and re-evaluate his situation then.
--LB Sam Cowart remains probable for Saturday's game against the Patriots with a left thigh contusion. Cowart has been practicing all week and will play.
--Coach Herman Edwards was given the Jack Horrigan Award by the Pro Football Writers Association. The honor is given to the NFL member who writers believe is the most cooperative with the media.
--DE Alan Harper was activated from the practice squad and added to the 53-man roster.
--LB Mark Brown was activated from the practice squad and added to the 53-man roster.
--P Mike Mariscal was signed to the practice squad and could be competing for the starting job next season. Current starter Dan Stryzinski is last in the NFL with a 30.7-yard net average.
--WR Rob Turner was signed to the practice squad.
GAME PLAN: Last week, the snow pretty much evened everything out and hid how slow the Jets really are on defense. They might hope for snow again Saturday night but barring a last minute nor'easter, the Jets will have to do it themselves this week.
The running game really broke out last week against the Steelers so that's what they'll keep doing this week until the Patriots show they can stop it. They're expecting a tight game so field position will be key for the second week in a row and the Jets will make an emphasis on special teams.
Defensively, the Jets must continue blitzing. It's the only time they ever have any real success on defense.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Jets C Kevin Mawae vs. Patriots DT Ted Washington. It's always been a battle between these two players since Washington was with the Bills. Weighing in at at least 375 pounds, Washington is the biggest tackle Mawae and the Jets have gone up against, which could be trouble for the Jets running game -- which succeeded last week against the Steelers.
INJURY IMPACT: All the key injured players for the Jets have long ago been placed on IR. It may be the healthiest the Jets have been all season based on the availability of the active roster.
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