The Patriots don't have any roster shakeups this week, but the return of OL Dan Connolly will add some much-needed depth up front.
Despite the fact they scored at will in their Dec. 6 rematch against the Jets, the Patriots will still need to work on establishing the run against New York's front seven.
With Danny Woodhead, a former Jet, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis splitting carries, the Patriots have more than one way to attack New York's defense.
At this point, there won't be many surprises, so whatever the Jets saw on Dec. 6 is likely what they'll see Sunday
GAME PLAN: The strategy is simple -- the Patriots must force Mark Sanchez to beat them. Sanchez is a capable quarterback and has shown plenty of poise in close games, but his performance depends on the efficiency of his running game.
The Patriots need to keep the Jets in unfavorable third-down situations (third-and-7, etc.) and the key to that is stopping veteran RB LaDainian Tomlinson.
Offensively, it's hard to find fault with how the Patriots operated in their 45-3 win on Dec. 6, but what they do this weekend depends on the adjustments the Jets make. The Jets got beat on a lot of short-yardage plays, so they might force Brady to go deep in order to beat their coverage.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Patriots LB Jerod Mayo. This is the matchup that will determine how the game unfolds. If the Patriots can stop the run, they'll be able to take their chances with the game in Mark Sanchez's hands. This opens up plenty of possibilities for the Patriots' defense.
Jets CB Darrelle Revis vs. Patriots WR Wes Welker. This is what the Jets should do. Welker has killed them in the past and the Patriots no longer have a deep threat, so the Jets should lock Revis on Welker and force another receiver to beat them.
Jets S Eric Smith vs. Patriots TE Ron Gronkowski. The Jets need someone to step up and fill the void left by the injury to Jim Leonhard. His absence definitely played a factor in the Dec. 6 loss. Smith has to come up big and he needs to be a force over the middle against New England's tight ends, because they'll be a major part of the game plan.
INJURY IMPACT: The Patriots are in decent shape, even with DL Mike Wright officially on injured reserve. The imminent return of OL Dan Connolly adds some flexibility up front. The only major drawback would be having to play without LB Tully Banta-Cain and TE Aaron Hernandez. Deion Branch's knee injury could slow him down, but he'll be strong enough to play despite the setback.
The loss of right tackle Damien Woody to a season-ending Achilles' injury means career backup Wayne Hunter returns to the starting lineup. So look for the Jets to give Hunter some help and supplement the offensive line by often using backup lineman Rob Turner as a blocking tight end, even in passing situations.
The Jets won't demote nickel back Drew Coleman, because he is an excellent blitzer. However, he struggles in coverage and New England QB Tom Brady has exploited him in previous games.
GAME PLAN: The Jets hope to run the ball effectively, as they did at Indianapolis last week, thus taking some pressure off Sanchez and setting up some play-action passing. A fast start on both sides of the ball would be a significant help, as they had to abandon their offensive game plan in the most recent meeting with the Patriots because they were down 17-0 in the first quarter. Even if the Jets don't sack New England QB Tom Brady that much, they must get in his face often to keep him from getting comfortable in the pocket, as he did last time. The defense also needs to shut down slot receiver Wes Welker and RB Danny Woodhead, a former Jet. Both played very well in the Patriots' 42-point victory.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Jets CB Antonio Cromartie vs. Patriots WR Deion Branch. Cromartie allowed three receptions for 64 yards to Branch in the previous meeting, including a 25-yard touchdown on a fourth down in which the Jets were caught in an all-out blitz with zero coverage. Cromartie also allowed a TD catch by Brandon Tate in that game. Cromartie's derogatory comments about New England QB Tom Brady have been well-publicized, and Brady often takes inspiration from such smack talk.
Jets WR Braylon Edwards vs. Patriots CB Devin McCourty. Edwards was limited to two receptions for 39 yards by the rookie corner in the previous matchup, and McCourty also picked off an underthrown deep ball intended for Edwards. Edwards often uses his 6-3 height to his advantage on fade routes, something McCourty must guard against. The 5-10 former Rutgers standout had seven interceptions this season.
INJURY IMPACT: RT Damien Woody (Achilles' tendon) is out for the rest of the season, which means Wayne Hunter, who started the last three regular-season games in place of Woody after Woody underwent surgery on his right knee, will return to the starting lineup. Hunter, a career backup, played well in those three starts, but doesn't possess nearly as much game experience as Woody does, so the Pats could try to fool him by disguising some looks.
S Eric Smith returned against the Colts and played very well after missing the last three games because of post-concussion effects. Converted CB Dwight Lowery started that game, but Smith may take over as the starter this week. If WR/KR Brad Smith (groin) isn't 100 percent by game time, look for CB Antonio Cromartie to handle kickoff returns. Cromartie's 47-yarder last week set up the game-winning field goal.