One might think we're ready to pay back the Patriots at home on Sunday afternoon. After all, their offense has sputtered as Tom Brady introduces himself to his young wideouts and tight ends on a weekly basis. And their defense has been decimated by injuries to key personnel.
"A defense has three levels," argues Hall of Famer Dan Dierdorf, who'll call the game with Greg Gumbel for CBS. "They lost their best player on Level 1 in Vince Wilfork. Now they've lost their best guy in the second level in Jerod Mayo, and the best guy they have in the third level, Aqib Talib, is hurt. This is a Patriots team that is kind of limping into MetLife Stadium. I'm sure the Jets' confidence is very high."
But the Jets had better not be cocky. They have their own injuries and absences to cope with, and these after all are the Patriots, winners of five in a row in the rivalry.
"As players, if you play this game long enough, you can respect the way they win," LB Calvin Pace said. "It's not pretty all the time. You look out there and they have a bunch of guys you don't know. But they find a way."
Here are 10 things to look for in Sunday's Jets-Pats game.
1. Sea of Green — We're undertaking what is believed to be the most extensive greening of our home stadium in franchise history. Head coach Rex Ryan encouraged all fans to wear as much green as possible and every ticket holder will get a "Jet Up! Green Out" towel upon entry. Remember to drink the green beer responsibly, enjoy the Green Day music appreciatively, and wave the towels only to provide maximum distraction to the visiting team.
2. Odd Man In — Like clockwork, in our odd-numbered games (all wins), Geno Smith has looked vet-sharp (56-of-87, 64.4%, 766 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs, 101.0 rating). In the even-numbered games (all losses), he's looked like the rookie he is (57-of-103, 55.3%, 704 yards, 1 TD, 7 INTs, 51.6 rating). Geno has shown remarkable resilience and improvement after the losses, and he's eager to "get it odd" against the Patriots again. "I think every single guy felt bitter after that loss, on the road that Thursday night," he said. "We're anxious to have another opportunity to try and get a victory for the organization."
3. Corner Health — Ryan said other than WRs Santonio Holmes and Greg Salas, all players practiced Friday and it's "all hands on deck" Sunday. That means No. 27, top draft pick Dee Milliner (hamstring), will be available for the first time in four games. "Dee's been in big spots before, so that's not new to him," Ryan said. "I know he wants to get back out on the field. We'll see how he is. I'm confident in the young man." Also, CB Kyle Wilson has passed all the tests and will be available after last week's concussion vs. Pittsburgh.
4. Gronk Sighting — Rumors are that TE Rob Gronkowski will make his long-awaited season debut after offseason back and forearm surgeries. Bill Belichick wouldn't confirm anything this morning, but "Gronk" wore the scout team's black jersey last week impersonating Saints TE Jimmy Graham for the Pats' first defense (which then held Graham catchless), and he's listed as questionable for the Jets in this afternoon's report. In his five games against us, he's had 20 catches for 248 yards (12.4-yard avg.) and four TDs.
|First Downs Gained/Game||17.7||19.7|
|First Downs Allowed/Game||16.3||19.2|
5. Mangold's New Dance Partners — C Nick Mangold has played 17 games as a pro against New England since he arrived in 2006. Each game he's hooked up with Vince Wilfork. Now that Vince is on IR, what will Mangold do? "You watch the film, but you rely on your experience," he said, "and now there are guys in there who you don't have experience with, so it's going to be a challenge for us up front." Rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, both 300-pounders, have rotated in for Wilfork, listed at 325 (yeah, right), while DT Tommy Kelly also was playing NT in the Pats' 3-man fronts, but he's out for this game as well.
6. Jets on Edge — LDE Rob Ninkovich has been a rushing and coverage thorn in our side for several years. RDE Chandler Jones got his first two sacks against the Jets on back-to-back second-quarter pass plays in Game 2. Geno has been sacked an average of 3.5 times a game. Everyone involved in pass protection but especially LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson and RT Austin Howard will need to bring their A-games when Smith drops back to pass.
- Look for the Pick —** We don't want to be pessimistic, but the trends aren't favorable that we'll have an interception in this game. We have just one, by Dawan Landry, the fewest after six games in a season in franchise history. And Brady has thrown 164 passes since his last interception by a Jet, Antonio Cromartie at New England in 2011. So if you see an INT by Cro, or David Harris (who picked off TB in the 2010 playoffs), or by any other Jet, savor it and look for it again and again, on the videoboards and later on SportsCenter. It will be a rarity.
8. Fifteen-Minute Men — Ryan made a point about New England that's been made many times but bears repeating. "You get behind this football team as we did [in Week 2] and try to rally back — it's about as tough as it is. They close out games extremely well. Hopefully we're not in that situation." The rivalry's track record underscores this observation: Since 2002, the team that leads after three quarters always wins the game. The Pats have won 19 of these meetings, the Jets six. Look for the team that's up after 45 minutes to prevail.
9. Inspiration from 80 — The last Jets team that violated that end-of-third-quarter rule was the 2000 squad, which roared from a 19-7 fourth-quarter deficit to a 20-19 MNF triumph, thanks to two late TD catches by Wayne Chrebet. Who better to be on hand Sunday as the Jets' "pilot" than No. 80? Chrebet will lead the Green & White on the pregame walk along the Jets Runway into the stadium and serve as honorary captain for the coin toss and other inspiring duties.
10. The Cribbs Factor — The new No. 16 in green, Josh Cribbs, was asked if he still has his speed. "Oh, yeah. I'm going to get the job done," he replied. "I'm not going to get walked down." Cribbs is ready to go at WR and on punt returns if, say, Jeremy Kerley gets a large dose of offense, but Job One appears to be taking over KO returns from Clyde Gates and Mike Goodson, both of whom went on IR this week. Cribbs' standings in NFL history: 22nd in PR average (11.0), 31st in KOR average (25.9), tied for 1st in KOR touchdowns (8), 5th in all kick-return TDs (11). Said Ellis Lankster of the man he'll block for on returns, "He's still the same. He hasn't lost anything."
|JETS-PATRIOTS RIVALRY FACTS||Record/Score|
|Regular-Season Series Record||Patriots 54-51-1|
|Last Game||Patriots 13-10, 2013|
|Last Jets Win||Jets 28-21, 2010 PO|
|Regular-Season Record @Jets||Jets 27-25|
|Last Game||Patriots 49-19, 2012|
|Last Jets Win||Jets 28-14, 2010|
|Postseason Record||Patriots 2-1|
|Last Game||Jets 28-21, 2010|