By Bob Bonett
Jets Staff Writer
December 13th, 2007
The Jets will need a miracle to repeat their win in Foxboro last season which was the last time the Pats were defeated there.
The Jets will need a miracle to repeat their win in Foxboro last season which was the last time the Pats were defeated there.
Much ado has been made about the external stories surrounding the Jets and Patriots Sunday match-up. From eye-popping lines that have the Patriots favored by over 20 points, to the lingering effects of SpyGate and of course New England’s quest for perfection, the actual on-the-field action of Sunday’s contest has been largely ignored.

The players for the Pats are not surprising at all. QB Tom Brady has been nearly perfect in the pocket, throwing 45 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions.

Randy Moss, a left-for-nothing wide receiver in the offseason, has surprisingly bounced back from an abominable stint in Oakland to the tune of over 1200 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns in only 13 games.

And, of course, the Patriots’ defense has lived up to its perennial mantra as one of the league’s best units, allowing only 222 points on the year despite spending a great amount of time on the field due to the league’s top scoring offense—which has put up 503 points, well on pace to overtake the all-time NFL mark.

“We’re playing the best team in ball right now, and we want to beat the best team in ball right now,” LB David Bowens said. “The coach’s history, all that stuff doesn’t matter, it is all about the guys playing the game.”

Yet, with all of these statistics pinning the 3-10 Jets has glaring underdogs, New England has seen themselves slip lately. Their rushing game has been exposed for what it is—an average running back-by-committee system that can be stopped. A rush defense that is susceptible to allowing substantial yardage. And perhaps the hangover effect of trying to become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to venture through a season undefeated.

As a result, New York’s locker room is confident, albeit cautiously, headed into the much-anticipated divisional match-up, for a couple of reasons.

“If we don’t have the coach’s back, why are we here,” S Rhodes said, alluding to the media circus surrounding head coach Eric Mangini and Pats’ coach Bill Belichick.. “I’m pretty much positive other guys in the locker room feel the same way.

For the Jets to have a shot at scoring the improbable win, consistency will be a must. As put on display last week, QB Kellen Clemens has the potential to look impressive—24 completions, 286 passing yards—and the potential to look scarily mediocre—two interceptions, zero touchdowns, 59.6 quarterback rating.

In addition, the Jets’ defense will need to repeat the efforts they put up against Pittsburgh and Miami. In arguably their two biggest stands of the year, the Jets first stymied Pittsburgh’s two headed monster of Willie Parker and Ben Roethlisberger with blitz packages and terrific run defense, and then surrendered just two field goals to Miami while displaying consistency against a solid ground game.

“We can’t just let Brady run free back there,” Rhodes said. “It all starts with him. He’s there man in the middle. He makes all the calls, makes all the checks. We have to confuse him a little bit.”

Thus, a few match-ups have began to catch steam in the media. For example, Laurence Maroney’s chance at a breakout game against an inconsistent run defense, CB Darrelle Revis against Moss, and the big-play ability of Rhodes and Abram Elam. And all of this will circle around the performance of a solid New England line.

“They do a real good job of working together,” Mangini said. “A lot of those guys have been together a while. They are good, hardworking, smart players that are consistent.”

Thus, as Sunday nears, as media outlets across the country countdown to a Belichick revenge-sponsored bloodbath, the fact of the matter is that the on-the-field play is what will determine who wins this bitter rivalry on Sunday. And while signs may point to validating a New England blowout, chips falling in the right place could put the Pats in for a surprise this weekend.

Insider Tidbits

Line dropping?

Perhaps the most anticipated NFL line of all time—at least for Gang Green fans—opened by giving the Jets 25 points against the 13-0 Patriots.

However, while prognosticators believed that the line may creep toward 30, surprisingly it has actually dropped. Whether it is due to the forecast or the fact that rivalries often produce upsets, New York is now “only” a 23.5-point underdog.

Speaking of the weather…

While The Guy from Boston may have sounded misinformed on his video rant by predicting a 48-point victory for New England this weekend, he did bring up a very interesting angle—the possibility of severe winter weather Sunday.

As evidenced a few weeks ago when the Steelers snuck by Miami 3-0 in terrible field conditions, weather undoubtedly causes teams to play on a more level playing field. And as of now, forecasters call for rain, snow and wind to all plague Foxboro Sunday.

Moss and Owens made in same mold

Each one year removed from controversial seasons, Cowboys’ WR Terrell Owens and Moss have each emerged as two of the league’s top pass-catchers. According to Mangini, Moss and Owens are similar in numerous ways.

“They are both outstanding and they both have the ability to go up and get the football with their size and their ability to judge the ball in the air,” Mangini said. “A lot of times there will be two or three guys in the area and they will come down with the ball.”

The Jets’ secondary will look to hold Moss in check this week after the Pats’ No. 1 option torched New York for 183 yards and a touchdown on opening day.

Practice Notes

Despite heavy sleet and cold temperatures, the Jets practiced outside today with the regular loud music in the background. Despite slippery conditions, Ben Graham handled punting drills without problems.

Injury Report (as of Wednesday) New York Jets

Limited Participation in Practice

TE Chris Baker (back), WR Laveranues Coles (ankle), WR Jerricho Cotchery (finger), TE/LS James Dearth (foot), Justin McCareins (thigh) DL Dewayne Robertson (knee)

Full Participation in Practice

QB Kellen Clemens (thigh), TE Joe Kowalewski (shoulder), WR Brad Smith (back)