KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
VENUE: Gillette Stadium
WEATHER: Foxboro, forecast
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
PREDICTION: Patriots 27-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: Patriots QB Tom Brady is on a record pace for passing yards and had some success outguessing Rex Ryan in 2010. He completed 72.6 percent of his passes with four touchdowns on Dec. 6 but was sacked nine times in three meetings. The Jets aren't generating the same type of push this season. With OLB Bryan Thomas, a stronghold of the run defense, out for the season, rookie RB Stevan Ridley (8.2 yards per carry) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis can be a factor as the Jets try to loosen up the man coverage downfield. The marquee matchup is WR Wes Welker (40 receptions, 616 yards this season) and CB Darrelle Revis, but how the Jets handle the Patriots' tight ends could be more telling, especially if Aaron Hernandez returns from a knee injury. The Jets' offense has been spinning its wheels in two games without All-Pro C Nick Mangold, but he could be back Sunday.
FAST FACTS: The Patriots are averaging 7.5 yards per play (1st in NFL) while allowing 7.2 per play (32nd). ... The Jets allowed 38 first-half points to the Patriots in two regular-season games in 2010 and just three in the Jan. 16 playoff game.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
It appears center Nick Mangold will renew his rivalry with Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork on Sunday when the Jets visit New England.
Mangold has missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain, but he has practiced on a limited basis the last two days. Coach Rex Ryan said Mangold is "ready to roll" for Sunday's contest, and when asked if he would play, Mangold said, "I plan on it."
Mangold's presence should benefit a New York running game that is ranked 30th in the NFL through four games. The Jets were fourth in the league in that category last season, and they averaged 4.1 yards per rush in their upset playoff win over New England in January, helped by Mangold often winning the one-on-one matchup with Wilfork. A strong running game also would control clock and keep Tom Brady and the high-powered New England offense idling on the bench.
It also should help the Jets that they are facing a Patriots defense that is allowing 4.8 yards per carry. But Mangold said those statistics can be misleading.
"When you look at a team," Mangold said, "you can't get sucked in by numbers. You have to look at them on film and see what they're doing, and know also that this is a huge rivalry and the game is always a fantastic matchup and (the atmosphere) seems to" elevate the performances.
When asked about improving the ground game, veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson said, "Part of it is doing it a little bit more, being more balanced, and part of it is ... execution, understanding what we're up against, executing the play exactly. On offense, it's tough because if one person, and I'm sure you (media) guys have heard this, if one person doesn't do their job, then (the play) breaks down."
So there figure to be fewer missed assignments with veteran Mangold making the line calls, as opposed to undrafted rookie Colin Baxter, who had started the past two games.
"Having (Mangold) back is a sense of comfort for all of us on offense," said Tomlinson, who has 59 yards on 20 carries. "I can't tell you how easy he makes our jobs on offense. We don't have to do as much. Nick makes all the calls, and he gets people in the right places. ... So we really enjoy having him back. We hope it stays that way and he continues to be healthy."
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said, "I think everybody here knows how we are capable of running the football. This is the first-quarter mark of the season. We're four games into it, coming off a very poor performance, and again, we're not panicking, we're working, and I think that's all you can do. You roll your sleeves up, you get back to work, you point out the things that need to get corrected both as players and coaches, and you realize that you've got to move on and move forward, and that's what we're doing."
The New York Jets' offensive line has been banged up this year due to an injury to the irreplaceable Nick Mangold. The lack of protection has showed in recent weeks, specifically with quarterback Mark Sanchez committing a myriad of physical and mental errors in each of the Jets' last two games.
While most players prefer to line up against their opponents' best, New England Patriots' nose tackle Vince Wilfork wouldn't mind seeing Mangold miss another game -- anything to get this Patriots' pass rush off and running.
"He's probably one of the best offensive linemen in the game," Wilfork said of Mangold. "He's definitely a leader on that team for them. I'm pretty sure that they would love for him to play because I think he gives them a spark. It's absolutely a difference when he's in and when he's not in.
"I think they need that leadership and everything around that. I expect for him to be in there to get things going and everything and get his team off to a good start. Whoever they have in there, it's going to be up to us to go out and execute."
The Jets have their problems and so do the Patriots, who are currently ranked dead last in the league in total defense (yardage allowed).
Facing a Jets team that's struggling to score points and turning the ball over at an alarming rate, this could be the week for the Patriots to get back on track.
"(We) still have work to do," Wilfork said. "We've done things well. We've done some things not so well. I think the things that we've done well have to continue to get better. The things that we have to get better at, we have to do a real good job of going out there and correcting them.
"We're inconsistent at times and it's cost us. A handful of plays in each game really cost this team from being a really good defense. We understand that. We have to keep getting better, we have to keep striving forward, and we have to keep moving forward and keep getting better."
HOT TOPIC:Can the Patriots Stop Anybody?
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--LB Calvin Pace (abdomen) returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. He will play Sunday, coach Rex Ryan said.
--WR Plaxico Burress (elbow) practiced full Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. He will play Sunday, coach Rex Ryan said.
--RB/KR Joe McKnight will continue to be the team's primary kickoff returner, special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said. McKnight had a 107-yard touchdown, the longest play in club history, against Baltimore in his first game as the primary kickoff return specialist. The Jets had been using CB Antonio Cromartie in that role.
--QB Mark Sanchez threw 20 passes to WR Santonio Holmes in practice Thursday, coach Rex Ryan said, squelching the notion that there was any bitterness between the two. Sanchez seemed upset this week with critical comments made by Holmes after Sanchez's four-turnover meltdown in the loss at Baltimore.
--NT Kenrick Ellis is "in the discussion" to be active Sunday, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. Ellis has been a healthy scratch for all four previous games.
--DT Albert Haynesworth was limited in practice Thursday due to a back injury and will likely be a game-time decision Sunday against the Jets.
--WR Julian Edelman missed practice with an ankle injury. He'll more than likely play Sunday, but will probably be a game-time decision.
--S Patrick Chung was limited in Thursday's practice with a hand injury. He recently had surgery, but should be available in Sunday's game.
--LB Jerod Mayo missed practice Thursday due to a knee injury sustained in Sunday's win. There's a strong chance he'll miss Sunday's game based on the fact he's been unavailable at practice.
--RB Danny Woodhead missed practice due to an ankle injury, but should be available Sunday, albeit in a limited role.
Cincinnati Bengals (2-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)
New Orleans Saints (3-1) at Carolina Panthers (1-3)
Tennessee Titans (3-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2)
Arizona Cardinals (1-3) at Minnesota Vikings (0-4)
Seattle Seahawks (1-3) at New York Giants (3-1)
Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-1)
Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) at Indianapolis Colts (0-4)
Oakland Raiders (2-2) at Houston Texans (3-1)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) at San Francisco 49ers (3-1)
San Diego Chargers (3-1) at Denver Broncos (1-3)
New York Jets (2-2) at New England Patriots (3-1)
Green Bay Packers (4-0) at Atlanta Falcons (2-2)
Chicago Bears (2-2) at Detroit Lions (4-0)
Preview courtesy of The Sports Xchange
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Cromartie Dares Brady To Throw His Direction - Jets DB says he hopes Patriots QB throws the ball in his area
Mayo's Absence Will Be A Problem - Losing Jerod Mayo for any time could seriously impact the Patriots questionable defense
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