New England Patriots (5-3) at New York Jets (5-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
VENUE: New Meadowlands
TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele
PREDICTION: Patriots 22-19
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jets have tightened up their run defensive since
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis rumbled for 136 yards in the Patriots' 30-21
victory in Week 5, and coach Rex Ryan always mixes up his scheme for
the rematch. Patriots QB Tom Brady should get RB Kevin Faulk back into
the mix to help work in more screen passes and alleviate the stress on
an offensive line that has allowed increased pressure of late. The Jets
have returned to using the ground game to set up the pass, but New
England is also last in the NFL allowing 314.0 passing yards per game.
QB Mark Sanchez will have open receivers and needs to be efficient
considering the Patriots' lack of a threatening pass rush.
FAST FACTS: Brady has thrown 10 interceptions in eight games compared
to four all of last season. ... The Jets are 5-1 with C Nick Mangold
this season and 0-2 when he doesn't play.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Patriots don't often lose back-to-back games,
so you can imagine the feeling in the locker room with the chance of
losing three in a row seeming like a realistic possibility.
Believe it or not, it's not all doom and gloom in
Foxboro following back-to-back losses to the Steelers and Giants.
"We're excited," said quarterback Tom Brady.
"We've got a great challenge. (When) you play a division team on the
road, I think everyone is very excited about the challenge and guys
came in ready to work and hopefully we get off to a good start."
Despite what Brady says, there has to be a bit of
trepidation as the Patriots to travel to New York, where they haven't
won in three years.
The Jets have been hot of late and these two teams
always seem to split the season series, which, by the law of averages,
means New York is due for a win on its home turf Sunday night.
Yet this road seems all too familiar. Whenever it
seems like the odds are stacked against New England, the team tends to
play its best. The only problem is that familiar script played out
primarily during the championship era. This is a different team with
different players, new attitudes and an entirely different ideology.
There aren't as many players in the locker room
these days with championship experience. Most of the Super Bowl
veterans have retired or moved on to another city. This year's team
needs to find its own source of motivation, not a borrowed storyline
from the past.
Can this team find it in time to salvage the
season? Three consecutive losses wouldn't be the nail in the coffin,
but it would create some space between them and the Jets. Don't forget,
too, that the Bills already have a game in hand in the season series,
which means the Patriots will need to beat them as well in order to
avoid a messy tiebreaker scenario.
Suffice to say, Sunday's primetime showdown with
the Jets is yet another big game, mostly because of playoff
implications, not just for standard rivalry purposes.
"I just think we need to do a better job at
everything," head coach Bill Belichick said. "There are a lot of
positive things but we just need to do better all the way around, in
all three phases of the game; there's room for improvement everywhere.
Each player, each coach, everything we do -- we just all have to do it
a little better."
That must start this weekend in New York, or else
the wheels could fall off what was once a promising season sooner than
expected. Thankfully, a familiar opponent looms on the horizon.
"I think we've played them a bunch of times over
the last few years and we know them probably better than anybody else
in the league," Brady said. "They kind of do what they do. There is
some game plan-type elements to each game. I'm sure they'll have some
for us this week. They're a tough team to prepare for. They've got a
lot of stuff, they've got a lot of really good players, good scheme.
They play well at home. It's a great challenge."
The Jets believe that missing two days
of practice so far this week because of a nagging lower-back injury
won't hinder Plaxico Burress when the Jets host the Patriots on Sunday
Burress isn't worried about the injury, which has
troubled him for more than a week and made his availability a game-time
decision for last Sunday's game at Buffalo. Burress had five receptions
for 79 yards as he played through the pain during the Jets' victory.
"It's feeling pretty good," Burress said of his
back. "I'm getting better each day and making progress and getting all
the rehab and everything I'm supposed to be getting. So I'll practice
(Friday)and everything will be fine."
If Burress misses practice time and plays Sunday,
that will be somewhat reminiscent of his 2007 season with the Giants,
when he often missed practice because of a sprained ankle, yet
performed very well in the games. But he doesn't expect his back to be
a chronic problem.
"It's not that kind of (thing). That was an
injury," Burress said. "I'm just working out soreness. I missed
(Wednesday) and (Thursday) and I'm not really looking at it that way.
I'll be out there (Friday) and I'll be ready to go on Sunday and we'll
go out and try to win a football game."
Offensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer doesn't
believe Burress' missed practice time will be a negative factor.
"I think he's been really into meetings,"
Schottenheimer said. "He's been great in that regard. And I think we're
to the point now where Mark (Sanchez) and he have a very good feeling
for one another, the me-to-you factor."
Burress said he and Sanchez are "in constant
communication, looking at a lot of film and going over some of the
looks and different things like that. (We're) just trying to get a feel
for what we see from a vision standpoint, at least on what (the
Patriots) want to do, and looking at some of the film on how they
played us the first time around."
As for Sunday's first-place showdown with New
England, Burress said, "This is what you sign up for. This is what you
love about this business."
--DL Kyle Love has played well at defensive tackle
in recent weeks, which could lead to more playing time now that Albert
Haynesworth is gone.
--Of the new players added this week, WR Tiquan
Underwood is the one who figures to make the most immediate impact. The
injury to Taylor Price might be more serious than the team is
indicating, thus creating a role for Underwood.
--RB Danny Woodhead appears to be back in the fold
offensively after disappearing for a couple of weeks with the return of
--RB Stevan Ridley has not been nearly as
productive in recent weeks as he was at the beginning of the year,
which has led to a lack of carries in the running game.
--WR Julian Edelman struggled in the kicking game
last weekend and doesn't figure to be a factor offensively in the next
few weeks. He might soon be replaced on kick returns, too.
--S Brodney Pool (sprained left knee) sat out
practice Thursday for a second straight day. His availability for
Sunday's game against New England is uncertain.
--RB-KR Joe McKnight (toe) sat out practice
Thursday for a second straight day. His availability for Sunday's game
against New England is uncertain. If McKnight can't play, CB Antonio
Cromartie will handle kickoff-return duties and rookie RB Bilal Powell
will be the third running back. Powell has yet to be active for a game
--C Nick Mangold's healthy return to the Jets'
lineup has made an obvious difference. The Jets lost both games he
missed because of a high ankle sprain, but are 5-1 otherwise.
--QB Mark Brunell is one of very few non-punters
handling holding duties in the NFL. Special teams coordinator Mike
Westhoff believes one of the reasons K Nick Folk is having a terrific
season is because of his good chemistry with Brunell and LS Tanner
--CB Darrelle Revis likely will cover slot
receiver Wes Welker a majority of the time Sunday, as Revis did in the
Jets' loss to the Patriots last month. Jets coach Rex Ryan says Revis
is one of the few NFL corners who can be equally effective both outside
- Jets Game Thread
Game Preview: Patriots vs NY Jets
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