KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Randy Cross
SERIES: 90th meeting. The Jets lead the regular-season series 47-41-1. However, the Patriots have won four straight meetings and six of the last seven.
2005 RANKINGS: Jets: offense 29th (30th rush, 27th pass); defense 11th (30th rush, 4th pass). Patriots: offense 11th (29th rush, 4th pass); defense 31st (21st rush, 31st pass)
PREDICTION: Patriots 23-13
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Patriots are hoping for a better pass rush than they generated last Sunday, especially in going against 6-foot-1 QB Brooks Bollinger. The Jets have implemented more shotgun formations and rollouts to take advantage of Bollinger's athleticism, but he still needs to get a big game from RB Curtis Martin to have a realistic shot at moving the offense consistently. The good news for Bollinger is that when he does take shots downfield, he'll be taking them against a beat up and beleaguered Patriots secondary. Offensively, New England desperately needs to rediscover its running game. RB Corey Dillon's status is uncertain, but the Patriots can't constantly subject QB Tom Brady to the Jets' strong pass rush led by DEs John Abraham -- working on rookie LT Nick Kaczur -- and Shaun Ellis.
FAST FACTS: Jets: Martin has become the fourth player to top 14,000 career yards and the third to top 3,500 carries. ... CB Ty Law, who played for New England from 1995-04, faces his former team for the first time. Patriots: Have been outscored 108-30 in the second quarter, including 77-13 over the past seven games. ... Are 22-6 against the AFC East since the start of the 2001 season. ... K Adam Vinatieri needs six points to pass Gino Cappelletti (1,130) as the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
GAMEPLANS & STRATEGY
GAME PLAN: The Jets should be able to move the ball against a banged-up New England defense, especially if Curtis Martin's right knee feels better than it did after it was dinged early in the New Orleans game. The Jets tried some play-action passes, but the Saints' defense didn't bite very often. Look for the Jets to keep trying that tactic.
The Jets forced no turnovers against the Saints, who entered the game with the worst turnover margin in the NFL. Perhaps the Jets' defense can make some big plays against New England QB Tom Brady, who threw an uncharacteristic four interceptions against Kansas City last week. The Jets also need to control New England's hobbled running game.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Jets NT James Reed vs. Patriots C Russ Hochstein. Reed needs to handle Hochstein, who will be making only his third NFL start since replacing starter Dan Koppen, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
--Jets LT Adrian Jones vs. Patriots DE Richard Seymour. Seymour, who has missed four games this season with a knee injury, forced a fumble against the Chiefs that the Patriots recovered.
--Jets LCB Ty Law vs. Patriots WR Deion Branch. Teams have been staying away from Law's side, but the Patriots sometimes used Law and other first-team defenders on the scout team during his tenure there, so New England QB Tom Brady should have some inside knowledge of Law's tendencies.
GAME PLAN: The Patriots would like to re-establish the ground game, which faltered last week after getting the job done in their brief two-game winning streak. They also could use a pass rush, which was virtually non-existent against the Chiefs, despite their two sacks. The Jets rank 29th in the league in sacks allowed per pass play.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Patriots NT Vince Wilfork vs. Jets C Pete Kendall. Wilfork had played much better of late, but the entire defensive line took a step backward in Kansas City as the Chiefs won the line of scrimmage. Kendall has battled back spasms since moving over from left guard when Kevin Mawae was lost for the season. At 6-foot-5, Kendall has 3 inches on Wilfork, who nevertheless outweighs him by 45 pounds (325 to 280).
--Patriots RCB Ellis Hobbs vs. Jets WR Justin McCareins. Although Laveranues Coles has more catches (53 to 30), McCareins is the Jets' big-play threat. Given the Patriots' troubles preventing big plays this season, McCareins (6-2, 215 pounds) could be dangerous, especially since he has a size advantage against Hobbs (5-9, 188).
--QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder) still is hoping to return this month, but has been ruled out for this week's game against New England.
--CB David Barrett (eye) is expected to see action for the first time since suffering a scratched cornea against San Diego on Nov. 6. It doesn't appear that he will start, however.
--RB Curtis Martin (knee) missed a second consecutive day of practice Thursday, yet still is listed as probable. He hasn't missed a start or a game since Oct. 11, 1998.
--CB Justin Miller will continue to return kickoffs, coach Herm Edwards said, but he will not go back to returning punts, at least not yet. Miller has been starting on defense in place of the injured David Barrett.
--NT Sione Pouha (calf), a backup who is part of the defensive line
rotation, returned to practice and was upgraded from questionable to
--QB Tom Brady's four-interception game against the Chiefs dropped him from fourth place to eighth in the NFL passer-rating standings. He still leads the league in passing yards with 3,030.
--RB Corey Dillon (calf) practiced for a second straight day Thursday. Although he remains questionable on the injury report, Dillon is anxious to return after not getting a carry for the past three games.
--RB Kevin Faulk could play this week for the first time since hurting his foot on Sept. 25. He practiced Wednesday and Thursday.
--WR David Givens practiced for a second straight day Thursday and is targeting Sunday's home game against the Jets for his return from a knee injury. Givens, the team's No. 2 receiver, has missed three straight games.
--WR Deion Branch is 15th in the league with 756 receiving yards. He remains on pace for his first 1,000-yard season.
--WR Troy Brown has just one catch in two games since he played both offense and defense in Miami in Week 10. Brown was inactive against New Orleans two weeks ago with a foot injury.
--NT Vince Wilfork is second on the team in tackles with 70. He had 57 as a rookie last season.
A LOOK INSIDE:
The maturation of Brooks Bollinger as an NFL quarterback continues, one week after his best and most consistent game as a starter.
Yet Bollinger himself knows that one important rite of passage still is missing from this gridiron coming-of-age story.
"I know I've said this repeatedly," Bollinger said Thursday, "but I want to win a football game. Last week is over, that's last week. I've played better than I have previously, but I'm not good enough to win. I look at it as there were some positive things in it, but as a whole, I need to play better. Last week is gone and I'm trying to do whatever I can this week to get us in the right column."
Well, the left-hand column, actually. It certainly won't be easy for the Jets (2-9) to get a victory when they visit the Patriots (6-5) on Sunday for the first of two meetings between the teams in a four-game span. Not only are the Jets on a six-game losing streak, but they've had plenty of problems with New England in recent years.
The Patriots have won six of the last seven meetings between the teams, including sweeps in 2003 and 2004. Of course, Bollinger wasn't the quarterback for any of those games. This will be the fifth start for Bollinger, who threw for a career-high 251 yards against New Orleans and committed no turnovers, two weeks after throwing four interceptions against Carolina.
"He was standing a lot more," center Pete Kendall said when asked to
compare Bollinger's performance to his previous games. The offensive line allowed only one sack against the Saints.
"We were able to keep him up a little bit better," Kendall added. "We were able to run the ball a little bit better. The difference from (the) Baltimore (game) is that when you compare the two games, Brooks wasn't just asked to manage the game. He took some chances down the field. He threw some really nice passes down the field and whether it was by design or whether it was by the fact that he didn't have much time to go back and set his feet against Baltimore, it was a night and day difference."
Bollinger would like to take some more downfield shots against a
banged-up New England secondary, and he also is likely to run more of the rollouts and bootlegs that were successful against New Orleans.
The perception is that the Patriots defense is hamstrung by injuries. The reality is that the under-performing unit can't use that as an excuse anymore. Not that it ever did, according to linebacker Mike Vrabel, the team's leading tackler.
"It's never been about the injuries," Vrabel said. "I don't think there's ever been a guy, at least that I'm aware of, who's going to say, 'Well, if we had so-and-so back or if we had Tedy (Bruschi) from Day 1 or if Richard (Seymour) wouldn't have gotten hurt ...'
"Guys get hurt, guys go down. And you just step in and play. It's never been about the injuries. It's been about the performances of the 11 guys that are out there. And I've been one of those guys. So, I put it on me to play better, and I know the other guys will say the same thing."
The New England secondary will never be whole, having lost six defensive backs, including heart-and-soul strong safety Rodney Harrison, to season-ending injuries.
Yet the defensive line, which starts three former No. 1 draft choices in Seymour (2001), Ty Warren (2003) and Vince Wilfork (2004), has been intact for the past three games, ever since Seymour returned from a knee injury that cost him more than a month. And the linebacking corps is healthy, too, although Bruschi and Vrabel have been paired inside for only the past five weeks.
In fact, only two defensive players -- outside linebacker Willie McGinest (finger) and safety Michael Stone (ankle) -- missed practice either Wednesday or Thursday, and McGinest's injury is not thought to be serious. That's a good sign for a team that has burned through 22 different starters on defense, including 12 in the secondary.
The Patriots have made some strides defensively, allowing 16 or 17 points in three of their last five games. And they tightened up in the red zone last week in Kansas City, forcing the Chiefs to kick four field goals, all in the second quarter. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Kansas City scored on six of its first seven possessions and rolled up 420 yards of offense en route to a 26-16 win.
"I think if you're going to give up 400 yards a game, you'd better be pretty good in the red zone," Vrabel said. "That's been our saving grace. It wasn't enough last week because obviously we lost. But we can do it. You just can't do it some games and then not some (other) games. You can't be good against the run one week (and not the next). It's (about) consistency."