SERIES: 97th meeting. Jets lead all-time series, 48-47-1. Eric Mangini's flight to New York added new spice to the Patriots' AFC East rivalry with the Jets that spans all the way back to the AFL's infancy. Both sides have enjoyed runs of success in the series, including New York's 17-2-1 stretch in the late '60s and early '70s, but the Patriots have had the upper hand of late, winning 10 of the last 12 meetings. Mangini's rebuilding efforts for Gang Green hit a milestone last November with a 17-14 win over New England at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots got revenge in the season opener by blasting the Jets, 38-14, in a game that will forever be remembered as the prelude to "Spygate" and for elevating the hatred between the two franchises to an all-time high.
PREDICTION: Patriots 52-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jets can only hope the forecasts for possible snow ring true, and that RB Thomas Jones can provide them some small edge. If the Patriots have shown any defensive vulnerability, it has been to a physical ground game that can be hammered for four quarters. That would also help protect QB Kellen Clemens from New England's complex blitzes. ... The popular thought is the Patriots will eventually have to run the ball more consistently to finish off their undefeated run in cold winter conditions. But Brady continues his assault on a bevy of passing records because the Patriots will take what defenses give them -- and week after week that continues to be passing lanes. The Jets have just 22 sacks this season, so it's doubtful they can pressure Brady into getting rid of the ball quicker than he wants.
FAST FACTS: Brady is within four TDs of tying Peyton Manning's single-season record of 49 set in 2004. ... The Patriots clinch home-field advantage with a win or a loss by Indianapolis.
--WR Laveranues Coles (ankle) was limited in practice Thursday but is expected to play against New England.
--WR Jerricho Cotchery (finger) was limited in practice Thursday but will play against New England.
--QB Kellen Clemens (thigh) is on the injury report for the first time since becoming the Jets' starter. He practiced full Thursday and will start at New England.
--NT Dewayne Robertson was not in the starting lineup against Cleveland, although he played more snaps than Sione Pouha, who got his first start of the season.
--WR Justin McCareins (thigh) was limited in practice Thursday. He was hurt against Cleveland but was able to return to that game. He is expected to be available at New England.
--The Patriots have placed DL Mike Wright on injured reserve with a foot injury, putting an end to his 2007 season.
--The Patriots signed TE Stephen Spach to fill the roster spot opened up by Wright going on IR. Spach played in 13 games over two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
--QB Matt Cassel, WR Chad Jackson, OL Ryan O'Callaghan and LB Chad Brown, DB Ray Ventrone and CB Tim Mixon wore black jerseys at practice Thursday, indicating they were named practice players of the week for their work leading up to the Steelers' game.
--G Stephen Neal (shoulder) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. Neal missed last week's game against the Steelers.
--S James Sanders (ankle) had limited participation in Thursday's practice. If Sanders can't go on Sunday, former starter Eugene Wilson would likely get the nod.
--TE Benjamin Watson (ankle) had limited participation at practice on Thursday. Watson hurt his ankle against Pittsburgh and if he's out on Sunday, the Patriots will likely use more multiple receiver sets.
Facing Bill Belichick's complex defensive schemes is a difficult task for any quarterback, let alone a second-year player making only his seventh NFL start.
That's the challenge facing Kellen Clemens when he leads the Jets (3-10) against host New England (13-0) on Sunday.
"It's a great challenge," Clemens admitted. "Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to watch the last four times that we've played them, three times last year and one time this year, and have been a part of a game."
Clemens relieved an injured Chad Pennington in the Jets' 38-14 season-opening loss to the Patriots, and went 5-for-10 for 35 yards in the fourth quarter. He was sacked once after Pennington had been dropped four times in that game.
Clemens was asked what is the toughest thing about facing New England's defense.
"Well, take your pick, really," said Clemens, who has a passer rating of 61.1. "They're very talented across the board, and that goes not only for their personnel on defense, but their defensive coordinator (Dean Pees) and coach Belichick do a great job of putting together a scheme each week that is difficult on offenses. They are very talented all the way across the board."
Clemens has been a part of the offensive game-planning process since coming to the Jets, but this will be his first start against the Patriots. But coach Eric Mangini tried to downplay his inexperience.
"He played some last time (against New England)," Mangini said. "He's played against defenses like that quite a bit through training camp and all the time that he's been here. He's faced some similarities in Cleveland with that defense."
Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel, like Mangini, is a former defensive coordinator under Belichick. Clemens had trouble solving that defense, and didn't get the Jets into the end zone until 2:59 remained in the game.
Mangini said that the Patriots' defensive scheme "is game-plan specific, so there's always going to be something that's different than what you faced the last time, something that's different than what they've shown versus other people. You have to be able to adjust to that."
New England's defense leads the NFL in overall and passing yardage allowed, quite a feat considering the Patriots are almost always ahead of their opponents on the scoreboard. The Pats have 34 sacks this season and could blitz the inexperienced Clemens often.
Clemens was asked if he has improved since becoming a full-time starter.
"Yeah, I've improved," he responded. "Obviously, there have been mistakes I've made, the pick last week (at the goal line against Cleveland) being one of them. My approach every week is the same. I take a couple of things out to practice each day that I want to improve on so that I can, hopefully, be in a position on Sunday to help this team win. That's been my approach. It's paid off in some areas and obviously there have been some other areas where I still have work to do."
Sunday certainly will provide Clemens and the Jets with a measuring stick.
Jabar Gaffney -- nicknamed Jab by his teammates -- has taken an unusual path to becoming one of quarterback Tom Brady's favorite targets. The Houston Texans originally selected him with the first pick in the second round of the 2002 draft. Gaffney caught 171 passes in his four seasons with the Texans -- including a career-high 55 receptions in 2005. And even though he was coming of his most productive year as a pro, Houston parted ways with Gaffney, releasing him shortly after the 2005 season.
"It's like, 'why am I not playing?' I was sitting home watching the games on TV but I knew it would just be a matter of time before I got another shot," Gaffney said about being out of football. "I'm so happy that the Patriots called and now I'm here in a great situation."
In need of pass catchers, the Philadelphia Eagles snatched up Gaffney and expected him to make an impact as a slot receiver. However, things didn't work out for Gaffney in Philadelphia and the Eagles released him just before the start of the 2006 season. Gaffney was out of football for a month until the phone rang one day in October. Being short on receivers themselves, the Patriots brought Gaffney in for a tryout and signed him on October 9.
"I don't know what happened with that whole situation," Gaffney said about getting cut by the Eagles. "I was shocked. A lot of people were shocked. It all worked out for the best though because now I'm here and everything is going well."
Gaffney didn't look like he was going to last very long in New England, catching just 11 passes for the Patriots during the regular season in 2006. But he exploded in the playoffs, hauling in 21 balls for 244 yards and two touchdowns, including back-to-back 100-yard receiving games.
With the Patriots brining in Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Kelley Washington this offseason, Gaffney went from starting receiver to just trying to earn a roster spot. After an impressive performance in training camp, Gaffney not only made the team, he became the new version of David Givens in New England. Gaffney has shown a penchant for making big plays at crucial moments with game-winning touchdown receptions against Philadelphia and Baltimore. He was also on the receiving end of a double-pass versus the Steelers to put the game away.
"Yeah, you like to be in that situation. Growing up that's every kid's dream to be in that situation and come through and make a play to help your team win," Gaffney said about his late-game heroics. "It just so happens that my number has been called the past couple of weeks and I've been able to come through for the team."
Gaffney enjoys being one of Brady's go-to guys with the game on the line.
"It's nice to know that Tom has confidence in me and the coaches have confidence in me," he said. "They put me in those situations to go out and catch the ball late in the game and hopefully they'll continue to put that kind of trust in me and I'll continue to make plays."