The tandem of Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles is a very explosive duo at receiver. The two combined for 173 receptions, 2,059 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. Both players topped the 100-yard mark against the Patriots back in September and scored on long touchdown receptions. They will provide another tough test for the New England secondary this Sunday.
Cotchery has turned into a Patriots killer this season. In two games versus New England, he's caught 12 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Cotchery can go over the middle and make the tough catch in traffic, as well as get deep and make a big play for the Jets offense. He may not be a household name quite yet but Cotchery is sure to garner attention from the Patriots defense. If Pennington gets time to throw, Cotchery and Coles will cause matchup problems for the New England secondary.
Asante Samuel is having the best season of his career but with Rodney Harrison out, the New England safeties will have a tough time with the Jets speedy receivers. Because of this, look for the Patriots to put a lot of heat on Chad Pennington. Outside pass rushers Rosevelt Colvin and Tully Banta-Cain have been quiet for most of the season but they should be able to take advantage of a young Jets offensive line. The pass rush will need to take Pennington out of his comfort zone so he doesn't have time to sit in the pocket and pick New England's defense apart.
The Patriots sacked Pennington four times in their first meeting and the Jets quarterback can expect more of the same on Sunday. Pennington has been hot over the last month of the season and if New England can't find a way to pressure him, Coles and Cotchery are good enough to exploit a New England secondary missing its leader.
--FB Quadtrine Hill was signed to fill the final spot on the team's practice squad and was wearing No. 41 at practice on Wednesday.
--S Rodney Harrison was the lone player not present for the media-portion of Wednesday's practice. Harrison is out this week for the Patriots first-round playoff game with the Jets.
--RB Kevin Faulk missed last week's game in Tennessee. He remains questionable (back) for this Sunday's matchup with the Jets.
--LB Mike Vrabel is a new addition to the Patriots injury report. Vrabel is probable (back) for Sunday's game.
--NT Vince Wilfork and TE Ben Watson have missed the Patriots' last three games and are both still listed as questionable for this week. Watson is hobbled by a knee injury and Wilfork with a bad ankle.
--WR Bam Childress was added to the active roster late in the year but was inactive last week against the Titans. He's questionable (ankle) for Sunday's playoff game.
GAME PLAN: The Jets have one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL, so there's no reason why Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney shouldn't approach 200 yards on the ground. The Patriots ran for 143 yards last time out and still lost. Eric Mangini knows Tom Brady well and all the Jets defensive players said after their win in November that the key to beating New England is to rattle Brady. It's hard to rattle the quarterback when he's handing the ball off for chunks of yards at a time. New England should be pretty balanced on offense this Sunday but they need to commit to the running game early and stick with it. The Jets dominated the Patriots physically in their last meeting but don't expect that to happen again on Sunday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots NT Vince Wilfork vs. Jets C Nick Mangold - Wilfork has missed the Patriots last three games but should be ready to go for this one. If he is, Wilfork better be 100 percent healthy because Mangold had his way with the big nose tackle the last time they met. The Jets ran for 117 years, with most of their success coming right up the middle behind Mangold. Wilfork will be looking for redemption this Sunday.
--Patriots WR Reche Caldwell vs. Jets CB Drew Coleman - This is probably the biggest mismatch for the Patriots in this game. Starting cornerback Andre Dyson is out and rookie backup Drew Coleman will have to try and slow down Brady's favorite target. Caldwell had nine catches for 90 yards in the last meeting and even bigger numbers could be in store for him on Sunday. Expect Brady to go after the rookie early and often as the Patriots exploit the Jets biggest weakness on defense.
INJURY IMPACT: With Harrison out, the Patriots lose a big part of their defense. James Sanders has played very well filling in at safety this season, but it's going to be hard to replace the Harrison's leadership and experience in the postseason. The veteran is the emotional leader of the Patriots defense and leaves a huge void when he's not on the field. Harrison not only comes up with key interceptions and is strong in run support, he also directs other players where to lineup on the field. He's so savvy that he has a good idea of what the offense is going to do before the ball is even snapped. A team just can't replace that kind of leadership, regardless of who steps in for him. Harrison is like an extra coach on the field and as we've seen over the last two years, losing him for any period of time is a real blow to the Patriots defense.
RCB Hank Poteat has become entrenched at his position, but suddenly the left side is a question mark. LCB Andre Dyson started the first 15 games before suffering a knee injury against Miami. He was inactive against Oakland and didn't practice Wednesday.
--CB Andre Dyson (knee) didn't practice Wednesday and although he's listed as questionable, doubtful would be a better description.
--C Nick Mangold (thigh) didn't miss a play Sunday despite being injured, and should be able to go Sunday.
--WR Laveranues Coles (jaw) was limited in practice Wednesday, but will play.
--RB Cedric Houston (calf) isn't on the injury report this week, and figures to get plenty of work Sunday.
--SS Kerry Rhodes (knee) is listed as questionable, but should play. He had a strip sack in the first game between the teams.
GAME PLAN: Leon Washington had only 10 carries in the two regular-season meetings but should be a much bigger factor this time. He had yet to emerge as a force at the time of the Week Two meeting, and a muddy track in Foxborough on Nov. 12 led to Kevan Barlow getting the bulk of the carries. Chad Pennington needs to find Jerricho Cotchery, who totaled 12 receptions in the two games.
On defense, the Jets must stop the two-headed rushing monster of Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon, which is something they didn't do in September, as Dillon (80 yards) and Maroney totaled 145 yards on the ground. They did a slightly better job on those two in November, limiting Maroney to 37 yards, but Dillon garnered 98. Tom Brady could burn a New York secondary that very likely will be missing Andre Dyson.
Jets ILB Jonathan Vilma vs. Patriots RBs Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon. Maroney and Dillon totaled 145 yards rushing against in the first meeting and 135 in the second. Vilma had a better second half of the season as he became more comfortable in the Jets' 3-4 scheme.
INJURY IMPACT: CB Andre Dyson (knee) could very well be out, which would be a big help to New England's offense. WR Laveranues Coles (jaw) is improving and should be a bigger factor as a receiver than he was against Oakland, when he had just two catches. New England SS Rodney Harrison (knee), who missed the second 2006 game between the teams, is out, which obviously will help the Jets' passing game.