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Pats-Jets: No small talk needed as game day is here

01.16.11 at 12:01 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Finally, the game.

After a week of trash-talking – 99 percent blowing up I-95 from New York – the Patriots and Jets meet at Gillette Stadium in the second AFC divisional playoff game of the weekend, with the winner advancing to take on the Steelers in the AFC championship game.

It seems the instant the Jets came from behind to dispatch Peyton Manning and the Colts, all the talking came from the Jets about how different this game in Foxboro will be than the one on Dec. 6 when the Patriots annihilated the Jets, 45-3.

If the Patriots defend home field, they will host the Steelers next Sunday afternoon. If the Jets triumph, they will head to Heinz Field to battle Pittsburgh in their second-straight AFC championship appearance.

The weather will be seasonably cold for kick-off at 4:30 in Foxboro. Clear skies and temperatures in the upper 20s are expected with a breeze lowering the wind chill to the mid-to-upper teens.

The Patriots are 2-0 against the Jets in their playoff history, beating them, 26-14, in an AFC first-round game at the old Giants Stadium on Dec. 28, 1985 on their run to Super Bowl XX. Then, on Jan. 7, 2007, the Patriots beat the Jets, 37-16, at Gillette Stadium, again in the opening round.

The Patriots have won 13-of-17 against the Jets, including that playoff game in 2007.

Other notes to consider:

- Tom Brady has already etched his place in the NFL playoff record book, as he is 14-4 in the postseason and tied with Terry Bradshaw and John Elway for second on the all-time list in wins. If he were to win the Super Bowl, Brady – with 17 – would pass Joe Montana for first all-time.

- Brady is 13-4 against the Jets, completing 63 percent of his passes, with 22 touchdowns but nine picks. His QB rating against the Jets is 90.2. Brady – however – had his best day ever against the Jets, statistically, that is. He was 21-of-29 for 326 yards with four touchdowns for a passer rating of 148.8.

- The one stat that’s a little hard to believe is that the Patriots will try to snap a two-game postseason losing streak, having lost last year, 33-14, to the Ravens at Gillette and Super Bowl XLII to the Giants. Their last win was the AFC championship tilt against San Diego in Jan. 2008.

- Last year’s loss to the Ravens snapped the Patriots’ 11-game home winning streak in the playoffs. Still, New England is an impressive 11-2 all-time in home playoff games.

- Patriots are 8-5 all-time in the divisional round of the playoffs, having won their last two in January of 2008 and 2007. They have won five of their last six at this level with their only loss coming in Denver on Jan. 14, 2006, a 27-13 loss to the Broncos.

- This is the eighth time the Patriots have gone up against a top-10 defense this season, and the third time against the Jets, who finished sixth. They are 6-1 so far, averaging an amazing 32.4 points in those seven contests, 11.5 points above the average allowed by the Steelers, Packers, Ravens, Bears, Jets and Chargers.

Read More: AFC divisional playoff, Joe Montana, John Elway, Mark Sanchez

Four Patriots-related thoughts from Saturday’s divisional playoff action

01.16.11 at 12:57 am ET
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Four Patriots-related thoughts on a Saturday of divisional round playoff action:

1. In a game that had Patriots’ fans wondering who to root for, Pittsburgh and Baltimore played one of their typical playoff games: that is to say, a brutish, physical and nasty affair that featured an epic comeback ‘€” or epic choke, whatever you prefer. In it, the Steelers posted one of the unlikelier postseasons wins in recent memory over the Ravens in Pittsburgh (check the recap here). According to our friend Nuggetpalooza, there had never been a playoff game where team trailed by 14-plus at half then led or was tied by end of the third quarter. In addition, the Steelers were 1-44 (including the playoffs) since 1977 when they were down 14 or more points at the half, while the Ravens had won 30 straight ‘€” including playoff games ‘€” when up 14 or more at half. The whole thing turned on a rare third-quarter fumble from Baltimore running back Ray Rice. Rice carried the ball 307 times without a fumble over the course of the regular season, the best total in the league. Second best? New England’€™s BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who had 229 carries without a fumble on the season.

2. Whoever emerges from Sunday’€™s Patriots-Jets game, the AFC Championship sets up nicely for the team that will play the Steelers. From New England’€™s perspective, Pittsburgh is a far better matchup for the Patriots than the Ravens for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Pittsburgh’€™s offensive line ‘€” which came into the game in bad shape ‘€” might be even worse now because of injury. (New England tied a season-high with five sacks in November against the Steelers.) Toss in a week to heal up from one of the more physical playoff games in recent memory, and the Steelers will have to get better fast to prepare for the AFC Championship Game, regardless of who they are going to play.

3. Terrell Suggs, President of the Baltimore Chapter of the Tom Brady Fan Club, won’€™t get his chance at revenge on Brady. Suggs, who made a seemingly weekly habit of taking shots at Brady over the course of the season, will be going home, his season coming to an early end at the hands of the Steelers. Of course, Suggs had very little to do with the loss: The linebacker was a pass-rushing demon in the postseason, finishing Saturday’€™s loss with three sacks and a total of five in the two playoff games. But in the end, it wasn’€™t enough, as six penalties (at least five of them coming an extremely inopportune times) did them in. ‘€œThat’€™s a veteran team over there,’€ Suggs said of the Steelers. ‘€œYou have to take your hat off to them. I told you early in the week, they know how to win playoff games. We didn’€™t put them away. We have to take a long look at ourselves.’€

4. Green Bay certainly looks like a Super Bowl team. In the NFC, the Packers put on an absolute clinic against the Falcons, dominating on offense and defense on the way to a thunderous win (click here for the recap) over Atlanta. (The only bright spot for Atlanta was a 102-yard kick return by Eric Weems.) The sixth-seed in the NFC was led by Aaron Rodgers, who finished 31-for-36 for 366 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Many (including Sports Illustrated) believe that Green Bay and the Patriots will meet in Super Bowl XLV in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXI, and the Packers certainly did their part on Saturday. It was a tremendous performance for Green Bay, which silenced the No. 1 seed in the NFC and became just the second No. 6 seed to beat the No. 1 seed since the NFL went to the current playoff format in 1990. (The other was Philadelphia over the New York Giants in the 2008 playoffs.)

Read More: aaron rodgers, Eric Weems, playoffs, ray rice

Jets linebacker Bart Scott hints at retribution against Wes Welker

01.15.11 at 1:22 pm ET
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While his teammate Nick Mangold took to Twitter to get a shot in at Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and his foot metaphors, Jets linebacker Bart Scott took things one step further, telling Newsday that Welker needs to be ‘€œvery careful’€ about what he says about New York coach Rex Ryan.

‘€œI’€™ll tell you what,’€ Scott told Newsday. ‘€œBe very careful what you say about our coach. [Welker'€™s] days in a uniform will be numbered. Put it like that.’€

Scott’€™s words come two days after Welker appeared to engage in some good-natured wordplay at the expense of Ryan, using 11 foot metaphors in a roughly eight-minute press conference. Mangold answered with a Friday night Tweet directed at Welker that indirectly hinted at the 2007 Spygate scandal that hit the Patriots.

The Scott statement drew the attention of the league, as NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted on Saturday that the NFL’€™s executive vice president for football operations Ray Anderson will be on full alert this weekend.

‘€œTo confirm what’€™s being reported: Ray Anderson contacted multiple clubs this week so they could remind players comments of a physically threatening nature are always taken into account in evaluating discipline for illegal physical contact on field.’€

Read More: Bart Scott, Greg Aiello, Nick Mangold, Rex Ryan

Nuggetpalooza’s NFL playoffs preview!

01.15.11 at 10:41 am ET
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Lots of compelling games this weekend other than the Patriots-Jets, so here are some stats of note on each team in each game. If you missed my previews of the big Patriots vs. Jets game to be played Sunday, the big one can be found here and an analysis of the two teams by pass length is here.

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RAVENS AT STEELERS

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* – On the 51 opponent possessions that began more than 80 yards from paydirt, the Ravens’ defense allowed 1.65 average points, ranked fifth WORST in the NFL. On the 134 opponent drives that began LESS THAN 80 yards away, they allowed just 1.39 points per drive, the BEST in the league.

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* – Pittsburgh (72) and Baltimore (90) rank first and second in fewest red zone rushing yards allowed this season. They also rank second and third in fewest such yards allowed over the last FIVE seasons (Baltimore 519, Pittsburgh 540). Minnesota (504) ranks first in that span.

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* – Only 8.2 percent of the Ravens’ rushing plays went for 10 or more yards this season, the lowest percentage in the league:

8.21% – Ravens
8.25% – Falcons
8.31% – Dolphins

Note this: Only 6.9 percent of opponent rushes gained 10 or more yards against Pittsburgh, also the lowest in the league:

6.91% – Steelers
7.83% – 49ers
7.92% – Browns

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* – Pittsburgh cornerback Bryant McFadden was “burned” (i.e. allowed a catch as the primary defender) 77 times this year, the most in the NFL.

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* – Again last Sunday, the Ravens’ did not allow a third quarter touchdown. They have not allowed a third quarter TD in their last 25 regular season games, although the Patriots reached the end zone once in their playoff game last January.

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* – Only 12.9 percent of Pittsburgh’s receiving yards came after contact this season, third lowest in the league:

10.3% – Cardinals
11.2% – Eagles
12.9% – Steelers

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* – On the 22 drives in which Baltimore allowed their opponent to start on the Ravens’ side of the 50-yard-line, Baltimore allowed only 2.27 average points (two touchdowns, 12 field goals), second lowest in the league. The 9.1 percent touchdowns allowed on those drives ranked first.

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* – Baltimore’s rushers averaged just 1.56 yards after contact, lowest in the NFL:

1.56 – Ravens
1.57 – Cowboys
1.73 – Bears

————————————————————————————————————————————————————– Read the rest of this entry »

New York’s Nick Mangold takes ‘Spygate’ jab at Wes Welker

01.14.11 at 9:29 pm ET
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So it sounds like the Jets have taken Wes Welker‘s act of wordplay for what it was.

In an apparent response to Welker’s use of foot metaphors in his press conference on Thursday ‘€” a subtle jab at New York coach Rex Ryan‘s recent embarrassing video escapade ‘€” Jets center Nick Mangold Tweeted Friday evening: “Wes Welker is a great player. He’s really taken advantage of watching film. If we don’t keep a Spy on him, he could really open the Gate.”

The reference, of course, is to the 2007 “SpyGate” incident that hit the Patriots, one that was sparked by accusations from the Jets that New England was taping opponents’ signals.

Read More: Nick Mangold, playoffs, Rex Ryan, Wes Welker

Brad Smith, Drew Coleman ‘questionable’ for Jets

01.14.11 at 4:34 pm ET
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Three players were officially listed as questionable on Friday for Sunday’s game with the Patriots, including defensive back Drew Coleman, who reportedly suffered a knee injury in practice earlier in the week. Coleman, who ended Kevin Faulk’s season in Week 2 with a hit to the knee, did not practice on Friday. In addition, they listed 10 players as engaged in full participation.

Did Not Participate
CB Drew Coleman (knee) Questionable

Limited Participation
S James Ihedigbo (knee/ankle) Questionable
CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring) Probable
WR Brad Smith (groin) Questionable

Full Participation
CB Antonio Cromartie (groin) Probable
TE Ben Hartsock (back) Probable
WR Santonio Holmes (quadricep) Probable
C Nick Mangold (shoulder) Probable
G Brandon Moore (back) Probable
DT Sione Pouha (back) Probable
RB Tony Richardson (finger) Probable
QB Mark Sanchez (right shoulder) Probable
LB Bryan Thomas (ankle) Probable

Read More: Brad Smith, Darrelle Revis, Drew Coleman, injury report

Jersey Four: Rex goes out swinging, Mangold vs. Wilfork and Nick Folk is ready

01.14.11 at 4:22 pm ET
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Here are the four things you really, really need to know about the Jets following Friday’s practice (and good luck finding the 262 foot references I’ve managed to sneak into the column):

1. Rex goes out swinging. No comment from the Jets head coach on the foot buffet of quotes from Wes Welker, but Rex Ryan had some notable moments during his final meeting with the media before Sunday’s playoff showdown with the Patriots, a game that Ryan called “the second biggest game in the history of this franchise, with Super Bowl III being the most [important].”

Well, how does that work, exactly? The Jets have played in three conference title games since winning the Super Bowl, including last year. How does a divisional playoff game mean more than a conference title game?

“Even more so than last year’s Indianapolis [AFC title] game, this year is huge because you’ve got your rival, a team that’s won three Super Bowls right there in your own division, at their place, coming off the huge, embarrassing loss that we had in the Monday night game,” said Ryan. “I think this will be the second-biggest game in the history of the franchise. That’s my opinion.”

I can buy that, it sure feels as big as an AFC title game, right? Works for you and me and CBS, I suppose. Ryan was asked what his message to his team will be before the game Sunday. He declined to give specifics but is (brace for shock) confident about his club’s chance in the divisional contest.

“One thing I can tell you right now is this: We have plenty of respect for them but we don’€™t fear them.” Ryan said. “I can promise you that. We do not fear them, we respect them and we’€™re going there to win the game. That’€™s our message every week. The stakes are as high as you can stack them and we’€™re going out there and we know we have to go out there and take it, and that’€™s what we plan on doing.”

2. Nick Mangold doesn’t hate Vince Wilfork. The three-time Pro Bowl center will have to battle Wilfork again on Sunday, a matchup Mangold said Friday will be “really, really tough.”

“He’s just fantastic,” said Mangold of Wilfork. “He uses his size to his advantage as well as anybody. So quick, too. And now they line him up all over the place. He’s got good agility and plays perfect technique. He’s a handful.”

Mangold — who Brian Schottenheimer said is “playing the best I’ve ever seen him play” — has been called the toughest center in the league by Wilfork. Mangold wasn’t interested in ranking Wilfork — “let’s just leave it at really good” — but did say that limiting Wilfork’s impact on the game Sunday could be a huge factor for the Jets.

“We have to keep him out of the backfield, keep him away from the backs,” said Mangold. “If he’s able to get that push it’s going to be tough to establish anything.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: antonio cromartie, Jets, Patriots, playoffs
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