Look for Ellis to mix up his rush and keep Light off balance
Division foes make for interesting postseason partners. These teams are very familiar with each other, not only because of their rivalry, but also because of the many ties between the organizations, from coaches to players. They split their regular season series with a total of ten points deciding the two contests, and while the Patriots are held up as the epitome of postseason pedigree, the Jets have shown that they will not be intimidated by this group, having qualified for the playoffs in four of the last six seasons.
The Pats enter the game on a hot streak, winning in dominating fashion against an improving Tennessee team to close the regular season with a three-game winning streak. They are hopeful of the healthy return of TE Ben Watson and DT Vince Wilfork and can rest easy in the comfort of Tom Brady's 10-1 career postseason mark.
But the Jets were one of the teams that handed New England one of three home losses this season, giving the Pats the worst home record of any team in the playoffs. And Chad Pennington, while not in the same league as Brady in postseason experience, has a 2-2 record in career playoff games. New York enters the game winning five of their last six and has been playing for its playoff lives for the past month. This game will not be too big for them.
Match up 1
OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson vs. DE Richard Seymour
Seymour is an experienced veteran who has a whole array of pass rush moves to throw at Ferguson who continues to have his rookie struggles. Ferguson is quick enough and athletic enough to hold off the outside speed rush, but he lacks the bulk to anchor against bigger, stronger pass rushers, particularly in the 3-4, who can re-direct their rush across his face. Seymour will set Ferguson up to the outside and turn his pass rush inside once he gets Ferguson leaning.
Match up 2
DE Shaun Ellis vs. OT Matt Light
Ellis has the bulk and power to bull rush to the inside and the quickness and speed to beat blockers off the ball and create pressure on the QB with his outside pass rush. Light is tough and quick and has the ability to stay with Ellis, but will get caught guessing as to where and how Ellis will attack. Look for Ellis to mix up his rush and keep Light off balance.
Match up 3
RB Corey Dillon vs. LB Jonathan Vilma
The Jets have struggled against the inside run all year as their interior linemen have gotten pushed off the ball, leaving the undersized Vilma trying to shed bigger, stronger blockers in order to make plays on the ball. Dillon is a powerful runner between the tackles who finds a seam and attacks it. He will make yards after contact and break arm tackles with ease. Vilma will have to anticipate where Dillon will be running, fill the gap, shed the blocker and make sure that he squares his shoulders before meeting up with Dillon or he will get run over repeatedly.
Things to Look For:
Teams: The Jets lead the series 48-44-1…New England had won seven straight before the Jets victory in Foxboro in November…The Patriots won the only postseason meeting between these teams in the 1985 Wild Card game at the Meadowlands…Both teams had better road records than home records this season…The Pats have won their last three games and scored 40 points in two of those games…The Jets have won five of their last six contests, and six of their last eight…Patriots are 35-9 at home since 2002, including playoffs, the best home winning percentage in the league...New England has won 16 of 18 at home when the kickoff temperature is below 34 degrees. Game time temp is expected to be in the upper 40's.
Chad Pennington: Pennington started all 16 games in a season for the first time in his career and threw for a personal best 3,352 yards in 2006…Jets are 2-0 in postseason play when Pennington throws for at least two TD, and 0-2 when he doesn't…Pennington has a 7-3 record as a starter, including playoffs, when he posts a passer rating of 100 or more.
Laveranues Coles: Coles finished 3rd in the AFC with 91 receptions.
Jerricho Cotchery: Cotchery had 82 catches on the season, a career-high. It is the first time the Jets have had two WR's with at least 80 receptions.
Leon Washington: Washington's 650 rushing yards were the 4th most by a rookie in Jets history…he is averaging over 100 total yards from scrimmage per game over the last two weeks.
Kevan Barlow: Barlow had 75 rushing yards and a TD in the Jets win at New England in November.
Cedric Houston: Houston has scored four of his five rushing TD's this season on the road.
Chris Baker: Baker has scored five of his last six TD away from the Meadowlands .
Justin Miller: Miller led the NFL in KOR average this season and had a 62-yard KOR against the Pats this year.
Mike Nugent: Nugent has connected on 18 straight FG attempts.
Dewayne Robertson: Robertson has 2 ½ sacks in three career games against the Patriots.
Bryan Thomas: Thomas led the Jets with 8 ½ sacks this year. He had a total of 6 ½ in his first four seasons as a pro.
Jets Defense: The team is allowing just 12.8 points per game over the last 8 weeks…Jets defense has intercepted Tom Brady at least once in each of their last three meetings.
Tom Brady: Brady has a 10-1 postseason record and owns the lowest playoff INT percentage in league history.
Corey Dillon: Patriots are 22-3 when Dillon rushes for a TD and 15-0 at home when he gets at least 15 carries.
Laurence Maroney: Maroney had just under 1,000 total yards this season and is 2nd to Justin Miller in KOR average.
Asante Samuel: Samuel tied for league-high 10 INT this season…he has 5 INT in the team's last three home games…Pats are 12-1 when Samuel picks off a pass.
Friday Injury Report Jets Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), RB Kevan Barlow (thigh), CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (jaw), CB Andre Dyson (knee), FB James Hodgins (knee), C Nick Mangold (knee), OL Brandon Moore (ankle), S Kerry Rhodes (knee) & DL Dewayne Robertson (knee)
Probable: *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *RB Cedric Houston (calf), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *DB Eric Smith (foot) & *DE Bryan Thomas (shoulder)
Patriots Out: S Rodney Harrison (knee)
Questionable: WR Bam Childress (ankle), RB Kevin Faulk (knee), CB/S Chad Scott (back), TE Benjamin Watson (knee) & NT Vince Wilfork (ankle)
Probable: *QB Tom Brady (r shoulder), *CB Ellis Hobbs (wrist), *DL Richard Seymour (elbow) & LB Mike Vrabel (back)
*Denotes players who participated in practice