The Jets will try to get Pats QB Tom Brady to have another game like he did against Miami last week. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
During this giving season, the Jets should feel obligated to thank the NFL schedule makers for setting their second meeting with the New England Patriots at the Meadowlands this Sunday. The Patriots will have a short week to prepare for a confident Jets team that is focused on ending a three-game skid against their hated division rivals.
The buzz around Weeb Ewbank Hall earlier this week surrounded QB Chad Pennington’s rift with the media but that temporary distraction has quickly been dispelled. The Jets are solely focused on worsening the Patriots’ misery following their stunning upset loss to a hapless Miami Dolphins team on national TV Monday night.
While Sunday’s clash certainly appears to have all the makings for a Jets victory, head coach Herm Edwards cautioned the Pats could show up an angry team looking for redemption.
``They are going to bounce back. That's what they do,” Edwards said of this week’s opponent. “That's why they are a great team. We'll get them at their best. We know it.''
Both teams should perform at their optimum levels with so much at stake this Sunday. The Jets (10-4) are looking to clinch a playoff berth while the Patriots will attempt to rebound and keep firm on the No. 2 playoff seed in the AFC.
Pennington recognizes how pivotal Sunday’s game will be.
“We know they are going to be at their best and we know they are going to come in here and be ready to play and ready to fight as hard as they can,” Pennington said. “That is why it is such a great match up.”
For the Jets, the game will also feature a favorable match up between their receiving corps and a decimated Patriots’ secondary, which has suffered a nearly insurmountable number of injuries to the position over the past two months. The situation has reached a peak after Patriots’ starting WR Troy Brown has been lining up as a nickel back over the past several weeks. Brown is expected to face-off with Jets’ veteran WR Wayne Chrebet in a match up that could ultimately play a major role in Sunday’s outcome.
"Everybody is making a big deal out of that," Edwards said. "It's not a big deal.”
For Pats’ fans, it could be a big deal, especially if Chrebet is able to take advantage of Brown, who was beat for the game-winning 21-yard TD reception by Dolphins WR Derrius Thompson late in the game.
However, fellow WR Santana Moss seemed unfazed by the rash of injuries the Patriots have dealt with and refused to offer sympathy to them.
“There really isn’t anything to talk about in that secondary,” Moss said. “They have some guys down but that doesn’t really matter to us.”
Come Sunday, Jets’ fans will not recognize several of the Patriots defenders assigned to chase and cover Gang Green’s receiving corps. As of yesterday, the following Patriots’ injury report features five members of the secondary. They are CB Ty Law (doubtful), DB Dexter Reid (doubtful), CB Randall Gay (questionable), CB Asante Samuel (questionable) and DB Je’Rod Cherry (probable). Veteran CB Tyrone Poole (knee) had been placed on Injured Reserve earlier this year.
That leaves the Patriots dangerously thin against the likes of WRs Justin McCareins, Moss and Chrebet, who figure to breakout against several no names. Those expected to man the Patriots secondary include DBs Eugene Wilson, Guss Scott, Earthwind Moreland and WR/CB Troy Brown. The lone veteran of the group still available is S Rodney Harrison.
On paper, it appears to be an overwhelming advantage to the Green & White. However, Pennington echoed his coach’s sentiment earlier this week that the Pats’ coaching staff will try to devise a scheme to protect their weaknesses on defense.
“I think that is a trap to say we have a chance to really spring one on these guys,” Pennington said. “They know how to play defense. When you play against zone teams or against teams that want to play more zone, you have to guard against trying to go for the big play all the time. That is what they are trying to make sure they don’t give up. They are doing a great job of reading patterns and getting in receivers’ faces and knocking them off their timing.”
Additionally, the Pats’ front seven feels the extra pressure of shouldering the burden with the secondary in shambles.
”Lately I think (the coaches) have been putting more pressure on the defensive line to get after the passer and that's what you want, for them to put it on your shoulders,'' said Pats DL Richard Seymour. “But it's a team effort. Those guys have to do the job in the secondary, and we have to do our job up front. It's a total team effort. “
Likewise, the Jets are expecting a total team effort to earn a victory and to continue their journey toward their ultimate goal.
”I feel like everyone is excited,” Pennington said. “Last year we didn’t have this feeling. When you have a chance to have this feeling and now we are excited because we have a chance to go back to the postseason and play for what we all talk about- and that is that ring, that is the Super Bowl trophy.”
But first, the Jets will need to deal with a Patriots team that is looking to avenge their embarrassing loss to the Miami Dolphins on Monday.
“Our confidence isn't shaken,” Seymour said. “We still feel we can go out and shut teams out. We're capable of doing it; it's just a matter of going out and getting the job done. We’ll definitely be a very determined football team (this Sunday),” Seymour said.
That might be true, but the Patriots will have to deal with a rocking Meadowlands Stadium littered with fans bleeding Green & White.
The Jets’ players can sense the fans’ energy and are prepared to present them with a priceless holiday gift this Sunday.
”We think it is important to protect your home field advantage and play well for the fans,” Pennington said. “The fans have been great all year and we want to play well for them.”