PREVIEW: Patriots (9-5) @ NY Jets (3-11)

The New England Patriots (9-5) travel down the 1-95 corridor to play division rival New York Jets (3-11) for their second matchup of the season. The Patriots have a shot at the #3 seed in the playoffs if they can beat New York and Miami next week. The Jets are in position for a high draft pick if they don't win. Both teams have faced adversity in 2005, but the Jets are still dealing with it while the Patriots look forward to the postseason. Gameplans, Strategy and Personnel news inside.

New England Patriots (9-5) at New York Jets (3-11)

KICKOFF: Monday, 9:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/26/05
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: ABC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Michele Tafoya

SERIES: 91st meeting. Jets lead series, 47-42-1, not including a 26-14 Patriots playoff win in December 1985. The Patriots have won five straight meetings and seven of the last eight. In their current winning streak against the Jets the Patriots haven't allowed more 16 points in any game, winning by scores of 23-16 and 21-16 in 2003, 13-7 and 23-7 in 2004 and 16-3 earlier this season.

2005 RANKINGS: Patriots: offense 7th (24th rush, 2nd pass); defense 27th (6th rush, 30th pass). Jets: offense 28th (31st rush, 27th pass); defense 11th (28th rush, 3rd pass)

PREDICTION: Patriots 23-13

KEYS TO THE GAME: Patriots QB Tom Brady has owned this series, winning seven of his eight career starts against the Jets. But it might be New England's defense that has the home team most concerned. The Patriots have allowed a combined 10 points the past three games, a franchise record for a three-game stretch, and have held each of those opponents to under 200 total yards. Jets QB Brooks Bollinger is coming off his best career game in Miami last Sunday, but his offensive line will have a hard time against a Patriots front seven that has been obliterating pass protections and masking New England's deficiencies in the secondary. The Jets are banged up along their defensive line, but must take RB Corey Dillon out of the game plan. If he's running well and the Patriots are allowed to establish a balanced attack, the Jets' defense will be hard-pressed to keep the game competitive.

FAST FACTS: This will be the first meeting in which RB Curtis Martin hasn't played for one of the teams since 1994. Patriots: Have won the past five meetings by an average of 9.4 points. ... Have held eight of their past 10 opponents scoreless in the first quarter. Jets: Bollinger has thrown no interceptions in eight of his 10 career games. ... WR Laveranues Coles needs six receptions for his fourth consecutive 70-catch season.


PATRIOTS: Staying healthy is the No. 1 goal, of course, but the Patriots likely won't compromise their ability to win by resting their stars against the Jets. That might come next week against Miami. The Patriots want to maintain the momentum they have built up during this current hot streak, in which they've won three straight and five of six. They have generated terrific pressure on opposing quarterbacks lately and would like to keep that going by getting after New York's Brooks Bollinger. Offensively, they want to re-establish the running game, which took a step backward last week against the Buccaneers.

JETS: QB Brooks Bollinger should be a little better prepared than he was for his first game against New England, now that he at least has seen the shifting schemes of coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini up close. Of course, they likely will change up their tactics to try to further confuse Bollinger. He needs to keep looking for TE Doug Jolley, because a productive tight end helps make coordinator Mike Heimerdinger's offense work better.
On defense, the Jets need to try to take away Corey Dillon so they can put more pressure on the coolly efficient Tom Brady, who passed for 271 yards in the first meeting with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Jets' run defense could be vulnerable if two starters - Shaun Ellis and Dewayne Robertson - are again out with injuries.


Patriots WRs Deion Branch and David Givens vs. Jets CB Ty Law - In a game with no real significance, this matchup at least will be mildly interesting. In the first meeting, Law remained on the defensive left side of the formation, and Branch and Givens flip-flopped back and forth with each matching up with Law about half the time. Brady generally steered clear of Law three weeks ago, preferring to attack elsewhere in the secondary.

Patriots NT Vince Wilfork vs. Jets C Pete Kendall - After a slow start to the season, Wilfork has been playing lights out lately - a big reason why the Patriots' run defense has shot up to No. 6 in the league rankings. Kendall, still filling in for Kevin Mawae, who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 6, had his hands full against Wilfork in the first meeting. It doesn't figure to get any easier this time.

Jets NT James Reed vs. Patriots C Russ Hochstein. Hochstein will be making only his sixth NFL start since replacing starter Dan Koppen. The Pats rushed for 146 yards in the first meeting.

Jets LT Adrian Jones vs. Patriots DE Richard Seymour. Jones allowed two sacks against Miami DE Jason Taylor last week but kept Seymour sackless in the earlier meeting between the teams.

Jets TE Doug Jolley vs. Patriots FS Eugene Wilson. Jolley has become a viable part of the offense, and the Pats must be aware of him.


PATRIOTS: The Patriots are as healthy as they've been all season. Since Seymour returned from a knee injury in Week 10, the only changes in the starting lineup on defense have come at strong safety, where Artrell Hawkins and Michael Stone have alternated. Offensively, the lingering questions concern Nick Kaczur's health - Tom Ashworth has done a good job filling in for the rookie - and the state of the tight ends. This week's nearly empty injury report was a pleasant surprise.

JETS: MLB Jonathan Vilma had a season-low six tackles against Miami, as a banged-up defensive line had its problems. That will be a concern again Monday night against New England, as both DT Dewayne Robertson (thigh) and DE Shaun Ellis (hamstring) have yet to practice during the last two weeks. Both missed the game at Miami and both are listed as questionable this week. ... RB Derrick Blaylock, who has missed nine games with a broken foot, is listed as probable and figures to be in the mix on offense, at least to a small extent.


--QB Tom Brady leads the league in completions of 25-plus yards. He has a career-high 32 such plays, four more than Carolina's Jake Delhomme, who ranks second.
--K Adam Vinatieri, who was denied a third trip to the Pro Bowl, is tied for 19th in the league in scoring with 86 points. In 2004, he led the NFL with a career-high 141 points. Vinatieri has made only eight field goals (in 10 attempts) over the last eight games.
--P Josh Miller lost out on the AFC Pro Bowl nod to Buffalo's Brian Moorman. The two are tied in gross average (45.5 yards), and Moorman owns a slight edge in net average (38.8-38.3). Miller has fewer touchbacks (4 to 9) than Moorman and has put one more punt inside the 20.
--LB Tedy Bruschi recorded his fourth career multiple-sack game against the Bucs. The Patriots are 22-2 in regular-season games in which Bruschi has at least one sack.
--LB Larry Izzo, who failed to receive his fourth career Pro Bowl invitation, is third on the Patriots in special teams tackles with 15. He trails Don Davis (23) and Matt Chatham (17).
--RB Corey Dillon has scored four touchdowns (three rushing) in three games since returning from calf and ankle injuries that had limited him to one offensive play over the previous three games.
--WR Deion Branch (two catches for 27 yards against Tampa Bay) had his quietest outing since the Chargers limited him to a 6-yard reception in Week 4. Branch had caught exactly five passes in six straight games before facing the Bucs.
--LT Matt Light's placement on the season-ending injured reserve list likely means that either rookie Nick Kaczur or veteran Tom Ashworth will start there for the remainder of the season. Kaczur, who filled in for the first nine games after Light was hurt in Week 3, has recovered from a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the last two weeks.

--RT Scott Gragg (back) didn't practice Thursday, but is listed as probable. He started and played in pain throughout the game at Miami.
--WR Harry Williams (knee) practiced Thursday and is listed as probable. The rookie has seen action in one game; on special teams at New England.
--DE Shaun Ellis (hamstring), who missed the Miami game, hasn't practiced this week and is questionable.
--DT Dewayne Robertson (thigh) is questionable. He missed the Miami game and missed practice Thursday.
--S Oliver Celestin (ankle) didn't practice. He is listed as questionable.
--LB Mark Brown (neck) practiced and was upgraded to probable.


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