Unless you've lived under a rock or on Mars for the past year, you know what’s at risk on Sunday when the Jets travel to Foxboro to battle the Patriots. New England will continue its attempt at history while also trying to get revenge on their former defensive coordinator while the Jets will try to shock the world and be spoiler.
The New England Patriots will look to continue their pursuit of perfection on Sunday as they look to improve to 14-0, but that is not the biggest story line heading into Sunday’s matinee. The story of this game has to do with the head coaches. Once best friends, now Jets head coach Eric Mangini and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick are greatest enemies.
Whether he likes it or not, Mangini has been given full credit for turning in his mentor for what everybody has been calling Spygate. Since Belichick was found guilty of the crime he had to pay a $500,000 fine and Patriots owner Robert Kraft had to pay a $250,000 fine. Along with the fines, the Patriots were forced to give up their first-round draft pick.
Now 13 weeks have gone by since the incident and it’s been a story of two different teams. The Jets have been a total disappointment, for a team that made the playoffs a year ago. When these two teams last met Chad Pennington was the team’s starter, but unable to tally win he was replaced by rookie QB Kellen Clemens.
The Patriots have been anything but a disappointment. Fired up by the Spygate controversy the Patriots have rallied around their Coach to start 13-0. Now they are looking to be the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to go undefeated.
All week the Jets players have been asked questions about how it would feel to stop the Patriots from going undefeated or how it feels to be the biggest underdog (Patriots are favored by 24 points) in league history. And all week the Jets players have said all they aren’t worrying about that stuff, they just want to win.
“We’re really not looking at like that. We’re just trying to get a win period. We just want to finish this season off they way we want to,” said Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery. “We know what type of team they have over there. Everyone knows what type of team they have over there. But right know we are just focusing on getting a win and getting a win is just the most important thing.”
Keys to Success
Jets Offense v Patriots Defense
Kellen Clemens will have to put some points and keep up with New England’s high powered offense. But that is easier said then done. In the first meeting between these two teams, RB Thomas Jones struggled to get going. If the Jets can get the ball in the Jones’ hands early and often, it will keep the Patriots offense on the sideline. When the Jets are throwing the ball, Clemens always has to make sure he knows where Patriots CB Asante Samuel is at all times. Samuel is tied for third in the NFL with six interceptions.
Patriots Offense v Jets Defense
There is a reason why Tom Brady will win the MVP. There is a reason why the Patriots are at the top NFL of the offensive categories. There is a reason why they are 13-0. The reason is they are the best offensive team in the league. WR Randy Moss has had a rebirth in New England. Moss and Brady breaking touchdown records every game. They are doing things that no other player has done in the history of the game. Despite the improvement shown by the Jets defense after the bye, there is no stopping this high-powered offense of the Patriots.
Jets Special Teams v Patriots Special Teams
The play that really ended the game for the Jets when these two teams met was when Patriots CB Ellis Hobbs took the opening second half kickoff back 108 yards for a touchdown. It was the play that took the air out of their tires and wind out of their sail. Since then the Jets kickoff coverage has dramatically improved. Last week Browns KR Joshua Cribbs was made a non-factor. Special Teams coordinator Mike Westhoff will not allow Hobbs to break another long return.
Along with a sound coverage game, both kickers are enjoying Pro-Bowl seasons. K Mike Nugent has been the Jets best player. He has hit 14 straight field goals. Meanwhile for the Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski he has only missed three field goal attempts.
Patriots WR Randy Moss v Jets CB Darrelle Revis
When two teams met to open the season CB Darrelle Revis was a rookie who showed up to training camp 21 days late. Now Revis has 13 weeks of experience against some of the best receivers the NFL has to offer. This week Mangini will ask his rookie to shut down Brady’s favorite target. For the Jets to have any success Revis will have to limit the damage Moss does. Look for Revis to do a lot of things he did against Terrell Owens. He will be very physical with Moss by jamming him at the line of scrimmage. It is important for Revis to set the tone early.
The Bottom Line:The Patriots are undefeated for reason. They are strong in every aspect of the game. Offense, defense and special teams New England is sound. Many people think Belichick will run up the score on the Jets to get at them for Spygate. While he probably wants to do, I don’t think that will happen. This will be a closer game than many people will anticipate. But in the end the Patriots are undefeated for a reason. They will find a way to win.
Prediction Patriots 30, Jets 24
What to Watch For
With his first quarter interception last week Jets S Kerry Rhodes has recorded an interception in four straight games. Rhodes, who has five interceptions on the season, will look to make interceptions in five straight games but it won’t be that easy. Patriots QB Tom Brady has only threw five interceptions in 476 pass attempts.
Even though he was playing with broken index finger WR Jerricho Cotchery returned to lineup last week against the Browns. Cotchery caught two passes over 25 yards and so far this season he has caught 11 passes over 25 yards. He is third in the NFL in that category only trailing Colts WR Reggie Wayne and Cowboys WR Terrell Owens.
If the Jets want to win on Sunday they can’t take many penalties. That has not been a problem in the Eric Mangini era. Since 2006 the Jets are the least penalized team in the NFL. This season the Jets are the least penalized team in the AFC. In 13 games Gang Green has only been called for 48 penalties for a mere 369 yards.
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),
New England Patriots
DL Mike Wright (foot-placed on IR)
Did Not Participate in Practice
G Billy Yates (foot)
Limited Participation in Practice
G Stephen Neal (shoulder), S James Sanders (knee), LB Mike Vrabel (thigh), TE Ben Watson (ankle)
Full Participation in Practice
QB Tom Brady (shoulder)