Patriots-Jets: Game Preview

A look at the key matchups, predictions, what to watch and more.

New York Jets (6-3) at New England Patriots (6-3)

KICKOFF: Thursday, 8:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/13/08
SURFACE: FieldTurf
STADIUM: Gillette Stadium
WEATHER: Weather Underground Forcast
TV: NFL Network

SERIES: since the series between the AFC East rivals began in 1960. New England defeated the Jets earlier this season in their first road contest by a 19-10 score. The Patriots have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Jets (including one playoff game). The Patriots have swept the season series with the Jets in four of the last five seasons. New England is 20-10 against the Jets since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994. New England’s 49 victories over the Jets (including two playoff wins) are the second most over any single opponent, trailing only Buffalo (55 all-time wins).

PREDICTION: Patriots 27-24

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jets come to Foxboro hungry for a win, but with three ailing wide receivers they could have troule matriculating the ball down the field. Don't let teh injury report fool you, the Jets are one of the many teams who typically maniuluate the report to make injuries appear different than they actually are. After dismanltling the St. Louis Rams using a stout defense, New York hopes to continue that trend against a lesser polished quarterback in Matt Cassel. The Jets need to force turnovers as their own quarterback, Brett Favre has thrown 12 interceptions on his own, with just 16 touchdowns. The Patriots need to find a way to keep Jets defensive lineman Kris Jenkins at bay. Jenkins may only have 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the year, but he's been a huge part of the Jets' resurgence.

FAST FACTS: The Patriots lead the all-time series with the Jets by a 49-48-1 mark (including playoffs), climbing above the .500 mark with their 19-10 win at New York on Sept. 14. Prior to then, the last time the Patriots were above .500 in their all-time series with the Jets was in entering the 1967 season, when they led the series 7-6-1.

PREVIEW

Patriots:

GAME PLAN: The Patriots must stop Thomas Jones, or else Brett Favre will have an opportunity to light up their secondary. Favre is prone to mistakes, as evident by the fact he led the league in interceptions heading into Week 10, but it's difficult to put pressure on him or force him into bad throws if you can't stop the run.

Jones has been solid for the Jets, so it's imperative the Patriots' front seven -- mainly the defensive line -- continues to play the way it did against the Colts and Bills. Likewise, the secondary needs to take advantage of its opportunities to help swing the field position in New England's favor. The Patriots lost that battle against Buffalo, but got away with it thanks to superb defense and ball-control offense.

The biggest problem on offense for the Patriots is their performance in the red zone. They've run the ball well despite injuries and Matt Cassel hasn't made too many mistakes, but everything falls apart once they get inside the 20-yard line. That has to change Thursday, because the Jets are too good to let hang around.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Patriots LB Jerod Mayo vs. Jets RB Thomas Jones. Mayo has been the team's most consistent defender since Week 1. Jones, meanwhile, is New York's best ball carrier and is a threat to chew up significant yardage to keep the chains moving. With a secondary that's still struggling to remain above water, the Patriots can't afford to let Jones run wild.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick vs. Jets QB Brett Favre. This untraditional pairing features one of the NFL's most noteworthy gunslinger quarterbacks in Favre matching wits with the league's resident defensive genius in Belichick. Favre has had mixed results against Belichick in the past, but even at the ripe old age of 39, he still has a few bullets left in his arm.

Patriots RT Nick Kaczur vs. Jets DE Shaun Ellis. The Patriots worked Kaczur back into the lineup against Indianapolis upon his return from an injury and gave him his job back at right tackle. He'll have his hands full against Ellis, who is still a dangerous pass rusher despite his role in Eric Mangini's 3-4 defense. Kaczur needs to keep Ellis at bay to allow Matt Cassel to maintain his level of comfort in the pocket, which has been the key to his success of late.

INJURY IMPACT: CB Jason Webster will continue to get significant playing time in the secondary as Lewis Sanders and now Terrence Wheatley continue to nurse injuries. Webster has some versatility, though he is primarily an outside corner.

--LB Pierre Woods will be the center of attention Thursday with Adalius Thomas likely out for the season. Woods will most likely start in Thomas' place and play a number of roles in New England's sub-defense packages in addition to his duties on special teams.

--WR Wes Welker is as reliable as they come these days, particularly with Randy Moss slowed by what appears to be a mild, yet lingering, foot injury. Moss hasn't missed any games, but he was limited for one day in practice last week, while Welker continues to be the No. 1 target underneath for Matt Cassel.

Jets:

GAME PLAN: The Jets rushed for 5.0 yards per carry in the first meeting, but still lost. The key sequence in that game occurred in the second quarter when three Thomas Jones runs after a first-and-goal at the 3 failed to produce a touchdown. A successful night for Jones would provide not only redemption for the offensive line, but a chance for Brett Favre to work some play-action. Favre, who was interception-free for the first time since opening day in the Jets' win over St. Louis on Sunday, must continue to avoid mistakes against the savvy and opportunistic New England defense. However, that defense has been depleted further by the loss of LB Adalius Thomas (forearm injury), so Favre should have time to throw. Now that the Jets have more of an idea of what Matt Cassel's tendencies are, they can't allow him to use the short passing game as effectively as he did in the first meeting. WR Wes Welker (seven) and RB Kevin Faulk totaled 11 receptions, and the Jets must find a way to stop those screen passes, which helped set up four field goals in New England's win.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Jets CB Darrelle Revis vs. Patriots WR Randy Moss. Revis helped limit Moss to two receptions for 22 yards in the first meeting, but he has 23 catches over his last four games as Matt Cassel has quickly discovered that Moss can make any quarterback look good. Moss is catching more intermediate balls than deep ones, however.

Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery vs. Patriots CB Ellis Hobbs. Cotchery was limited to one reception against St. Louis but the Jets would like to make him a more integral part of the offense against the Patriots. But while Cotchery totaled 12 receptions in the Jets' two losses to New England last season, he only had one reception for 20 yards in the first meeting this year.

Jets ILB David Bowens vs. RB Kevin Faulk. Bowens, a veteran who used to play outside, will start his third straight game in place of injured David Harris (groin surgery). Bowens is an excellent pass rusher, but not as good in space as Harris, so the Pats likely will try to exploit him on second and third downs.

INJURY IMPACT: LB David Harris (groin) will sit out again this week, which will hurt the Jets' intermediate pass coverage. He again will be replaced by savvy veteran David Bowens, an excellent pass rusher who isn't as good at playing in space as Harris. New England may be able to exploit that with screens to Kevin Faulk, or passes to tight end Benjamin Watson.

SS Eric Smith, who left the game against Kansas City on Oct. 26 with some apparent post-concussion problems, won't play again this week. But there's really no drop-off to Abram Elam, who has now started thrice in Smith's place and has demonstrated coverage skills to go along with his ability in run support. His first career interception went for a 92-yard touchdown in the win at Buffalo, and his strip sack led to Calvin Pace's 50-yard fumble return for a score against St. Louis.

Jay Feely likely will fill in again for Mike Nugent (thigh) on placekicks, although Nugent and Feely have been having a kicking competition in recent practices. It could come down to a game-time decision Thursday night.

Backup TE Bubba Franks (hip) didn't practice Tuesday and is expected to miss his third straight game. Without Franks, the Jets have been using 305-pound lineman Robert Turner as an extra tight end in running situations, because rookie Dustin Keller's blocking still is suspect, although he is improving.

SCOUTING REPORTS

Patriots

The Patriots haven't made any bold moves yet, though there is almost a definite certainty linebacker Adalius Thomas will be placed on injured reserve with a broken arm, opening up the possibility for another roster move later in the week.

Thomas' presence will be missed. Without him at outside linebacker, the Patriots will rely on Pierre Woods to fill the void. The third-year pro has risen from the ranks as an undrafted rookie and paid his dues on special teams before emerging as a key contributor in training camp this summer.

Woods has gotten significant playing time this season on sub-defense packages, though it remains to be seen what his role will be going forward. The Patriots might not ask him to play every down like Thomas did, perhaps leaving the door open for some shifting of personnel in the near future. The Patriots aren't particularly deep at linebacker, but they do have options. One possibility is activating rookie Vince Redd from the practice squad and using him as a situational pass rusher.

Notes:

--As expected, LB Adalius Thomas has been listed as out for Thursday's game with what has been reported as a broken arm. Thomas is expected to miss the rest of the season.
--CB Terrence Wheatley is also out with a wrist injury after hurting himself two weeks ago against Indianapolis. Wheatley is another candidate for injured reserve.
--DE Ty Warren is questionable with a groin injury sustained in Sunday's win over Buffalo. Warren would be a huge loss since he has played well the past two weeks as part of the resurgence of the defensive line.
--RB LaMont Jordan is doubtful with a calf injury and appears further from returning to the field than he did a week ago. Jordan reportedly suffered a setback last week and may not be available for a while.
--CB Lewis Sanders is also doubtful with a hamstring injury and will likely miss his third consecutive game as the Patriots continue to patch together their secondary.
--RB Sammy Morris appeared during the start of Tuesday's walkthrough and is listed as having limited participation during that session, perhaps signaling he is closer to returning to the everyday lineup after suffering a knee injury against Denver.

Jets

Veteran CB Ty Law, who played one season for the Jets in 2005 and had a career-high 10 interceptions, re-signed with the club Monday and hopes to play against New England. The Jets have been looking for veteran help in their secondary. Rookie RCB Dwight Lowery was benched at Buffalo after being beaten several times, and then committed two penalties against St. Louis. Third-year player Drew Coleman has struggled trying to cover opposing slot receivers. Law could be used in nickel and dime situations, but Lowery is expected to start again.

Veteran QB Brett Favre has been asked to be more of a game manager in recent weeks. The Jets are trying to minimize some of the mistakes he has made through questionable decision-making. Favre has thrown 12 interceptions, and had at least one in seven consecutive games before playing a turnover-free game in the rout of the Rams.

Notes:

--LB David Harris (groin surgery) isn't expected to return until later in November at the earliest.
--CB Ty Law was signed to a one-year deal, and he could play at New England in extra DB situations.
--CB-KR Justin Miller was waived to make room for Ty Law. Miller was sidelined for several weeks because of a dislocated toe suffered in the third preseason game and appeared in only one regular-season game this year.
--SS Eric Smith, who was removed from the Kansas City game because of lingering effects from his second concussion in three weeks, hasn't played the last two games and won't play this week.
--K Mike Nugent (thigh), who was injured opening day and has missed eight straight games, practiced on a limited basis Tuesday and is getting closer to returning. In fact, he and Jay Feely have been competing for the job in practice. Feely answered with a 4-for-4 performance on field goals against St. Louis, including a 55-yarder.

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