Winning on the road is one of the most difficult tasks in the world of sport and very few athletic events are more affected by fans than the game of football. With so many passionate followers in each NFL city, to refer to a game on one's home field as simply an "advantage" is an understatement.
Eric Mangini led his players to victory last weekend in Tennessee in his first bid as a head coach. The coaching veteran, now in his 12th NFL season, knows that winning on the road is minimized if you can't win at home as well.
"Obviously to go on the road and win I think that is important," Mangini said. "But I also think it is extremely important to be able to win at home. To have that advantage is definitely a positive thing."
This Sunday, the merciless Patriots are due to invade Jets' territory. The defending AFC East champions come to New York with a bushel of recent success, knowledgeable veterans, a Hall of Fame coach, and a lot of off-field hype. Mangini respects the Pats, but he wouldn't mind making things a little noisy for his opponent.
"I think it is important to have that home-field advantage," Mangini said. "It can be an asset throughout the year, and with the group of fans that we have, it is a real asset. All of the Jets' fans I have ever talked to have been extremely knowledgeable, and there have been some good conversations. I'd like to keep that up."
The Jets play at a stadium within the Meadowlands Complex and Mangini is not overly concerned with its name.
"I don't think the name (Giants Stadium) matters that much," said Mangini. "I think it matters how we play there and the environment. The name on the outside - loaded up with Jets Fans - doesn't affect things too much."
Players are gearing up to play in front of their loyal fan base. Jets' fans are both knowledgeable and passionate, and those qualities are appreciated by safety Erik Coleman.
"We're excited to play in front of our home crowd. Our fans will love to see us go out and play well as would we," said the third-year starter. "They are an energetic bunch and they make it hard for opposing offenses to come in here and run their game plan when they get fired up."
Running back Derrick Blaylock, who started at running back last weekend, says it would be nice to win at home but reminds us that winning anywhere will be sufficient.
"It is a home game, so we're going to be in front of our fans," Blaylock said. "We don't want to get into Coach Mangini vs. the Patriots. It would be good to win at home, but we have to come out and play football and play like we can play. It's a division game, so that says it all right there."
Veteran center Trey Teague (ankle) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Patriots, but he is anything but down. "I've missed some games before in my career," said Teague. "I can draw on that experience. You have to stay involved mentally and prepare like you are going to play in games. Even last week - when I wasn't going to play - I was preparing like I was going to play. That mindset has gotten me to this point where mentally I'm as good as I can be. Getting on the field is the next step."... Kicker Mike Nugent has seen his fair share of media members this week.. The second-year kicker, who missed a couple of field goals and an extra point in Tennessee, is thinking ahead. "Guys have always told me, 'you're just as good as your next kick and you're only as good as your next play.' No matter what happens on the first one - it doesn't matter anymore. It only matters what happens on the next one."... Running back Kevan Barlow, who scored the team's first touchdown of the season last week, was full of praise and excitement for the upcoming home opener. "I'm excited for Coach Mangini; I know he was in New England for a long time. We're going to go out there and play hard for him," Barlow said. "New England is a great team. Belichick is probably the best head coach to ever coach. I know he's going to be excited to go against his guy. We're going to go out there and play hard."
Thursday Injury Report Jets Doubtful: OL Trey Teague (ankle)
Questionable: *CB David Barrett (hip), *OL Pete Kendall (thigh) & WR Tim Dwight (thigh)
Probable: *LB Matt Chatham (foot) *LB Trevor Johnson (neck), *S Kerry Rhodes (ankle) & *S Derrick Strait (chest)
Patriots Questionable: S Atrell Hawkins (thigh), LB Tedy Bruschi (wrist), WR Chad Jackson (hamstring), T Nick Kaczur (shoulder), & HB/TE Garrett Mills (flu)
Probable: *QB Tom Brady (R shoulder), S Rodney Harrison (flu) & WR Doug Gabriel (hamstring)
*Denotes players who participated in practice