Brett Favre won't have to worry about Pats LB Adalius Thomas this time around as he's out with a broken arm. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Forget about all the prior must-wins this season. The opening game at Miami, on the road at Buffalo, they’re afterthoughts. In fact, the first match up against the Patriots, well you might as well forget about that one as well. This is the big one. This one is as must-win as it gets at this point.
It should come as no surprise that the Jets heading up to Foxboro for Thursday night’s AFC East showdown with the Patriots are not the same Jets that lost to New England 19-10 during week 2, a game the Jets could have won. Given the way Gang Green has been coming alive of late—winning three in a row and four of its last five—the second installment of this season’s New York-New England saga could very easily go in the Jets’ favor.
“Both teams are 6-¬3 and a lot has happened since then for both sides,” Brett Favre said at his press conference Tuesday.
While a win won’t elevate either team worlds away from the rest of the division, a loss won’t bury either team. Favre pointed out that there’s a lot of football after this game.
“The bottom line is we have both put ourselves in a position to take over first place. As I said Sunday, there's still a lot of football left after this game. You can't, for both teams, put all your eggs in one basket. It's an important game. We feel better about our team right now, but I don't want to say we didn't feel good about our team the second week.”
After a solid road win at Buffalo two weeks ago and a trouncing of the Rams Sunday 47-3, the Jets certainly have more of a swagger going into Gillette Stadium, a place the Jets last won at almost two years ago to the day. November 12, 2006, New York beat the Pats on the road 17-14, but would later fall to New England 37-16 in the postseason at Gillette Stadium. That was the last time Gang Green played in the month of January, so it’s no secret that nothing would be better than going into New England and during primetime in front of a national audience send a message to the AFC East perennial powers.
“You want to keep having these types of games as the season goes on, but in order to do that, like we talked about last week with the Rams, you've got to win the game that's in front of you,” head coach Eric Mangini said.
To add another twist to the rivalry that has former co-workers coaching opposite each other and the infamous Spy-gate scandal, the Jets recently signed CB Ty Law, who played for New England from 1995-2004 where he won three Super Bowl championships. Law also played for the Jets during the 2005 season.
It adds experience and depth to the Jets’ secondary, which ranks 20th in the NFL against the pass. Law, from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, joins CB Darrelle Revis, also an Aliquippa product. The two know each other from their youths, and have remained close over the years.
Mangini said there is a chance that Law will play Thursday, and Law is optimistic about getting some action, but he does not expect to start right away.
“I’m anticipating going out there and playing the game and I’m preparing to play,” Law told reporters. “We’ll see what happens.
“The only thing you can do is go out there and wing it so that’s what I’m going to do because I can’t say that I am going to come in here a day and pick up the whole system.”
While Thomas Jones will tell you this game is big, he’s quick to point out that it is just another game on the schedule.
“We look at it as another game on our schedule,” Jones said. “It’s a big game. It’s a divisional game, just like all divisional games are big. This late in the season every game counts.
“In November and December you have to win those games. We’re not looking at it as trying to surpass the Patriots, we’re looking at it as a game on our schedule that we want to win.”
Wanting to win and winning are two different things. After a short week of preparation for both sides, this one will certainly come down to who wants it more.
Jets Offense vs. Patriots Defense
Lately the Jets have been meshing well offensively, as displayed by Thomas Jones’ career day (149 yards, three touchdowns) against the Rams, and Brett Favre having not squandered the Jets’ chances with “hitting-on-20” interceptions. Of course, the New England Patriots rank 12th in stopping the run as opposed to St. Louis’ 30th place ranking. As for Brett, he’s going to have to play mistake-free football and then some so keep Gang Green in the game. The less Favre is sacked, the better as he was hardly touched against St. Louis. The Patriots only have 16 sacks this season, a stat that should help Favre rest easy. While a lot of points don’t guarantee the Jets a win, they’re 1-2 when scoring less than 26. New England has held opponents to just under 18 points a game, a number that makes it hard for any team to win with.
Jets Defense vs. Patriots Offense
It’s a shame the Jets can’t have another shot at the Matt Cassell that started in New York back in September. He has thrown for more than 200 yards in each of his last three games. The last time he failed to reach 200 yards passing, he more than made up for it by throwing three touchdowns against Denver, but with statistical analogies, you can make any player look bad or good. In his last three games, Cassell has thrown three interceptions and only one touchdown. He was also sacked six times against Denver, but enough of Cassell. The Jets defense has been playing well, forcing turnovers and even scoring touchdowns. If Kris Jenkins can continue to pressure Cassell the way he was all over Trent Edwards and the secondary holds its ground, the Jets can give New England fits.
K Jay Feely has been solid for New York, as he was a perfect 4-for-4 with his field goal attempts against St. Louis. He also tied a Jets franchise record with a 55-yarder. The real weapon for New York in the teams department, however, is Leon Washington, who can change the field-position game on a single return. Pats’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski has only missed two field goals all season, both of which between 40-49 yards.
Key to Victory
Neither New York nor New England have overly high-powered offenses. Defense will play a big role, which leads me to believe whichever team can come up with one or two more big plays—i.e.: Favre deep ball, pick-six, etc.—will walk away victorious.
Prediction: Patriots 27 Jets 26
Game time is at 8:15PM local time with TV on the NFL Network. Local radio is on 1050 AM ESPN and 103.9 WRCN Long Island. Be sure to log on to JI after the game for a complete recap!
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