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Nick Caserio admits it: Jets game ‘a little more’ significant

11.29.10 at 4:29 pm ET

The man responsible for helping coach Bill Belichick put together the Patriots roster came out and didn’t exactly say the Jets game next Monday night is all about revenge or the end of the world.

But player personnel chief Nick Caserio on Monday did acknowledge the magnitude of the showdown at Gillette Stadium next Monday in a match-up of 9-2 teams who share the best records in the NFL.

“Later in the year, those games, they take on maybe a little more significance,” Caserio said.

What’s at stake? A lot. And everyone who draws a paycheck in Foxboro knows it.

Forget pride. Monday night is all about home field advantage in the upcoming playoffs. Win and you’re likely to not only have a home game and probably a bye in the opening round, but you’re looking at home field through to the AFC title game.

Lose and you’re not only going to probably lose out on the AFC East but you’re going to have to start the playoffs on the road and will have to battle through an extra round of the playoffs. Caserio points to wins over Pittsburgh and Indianapolis back-to-back as prime examples of the Patriots responding when put to the test – which they certainly will next Monday night.

“We’€™ve played a lot of big games throughout the course of the year,” Caserio said. “Every week’€™s a big game. It really doesn’€™t matter who you play. I think the implication from the perspective of being a division game, that’€™s important. You want to try and win those games in your division. Those are the teams that you see twice over the course of the season.

“So, it’€™s a division game, it’€™s later in the year, they’€™ve obviously established themselves as one of the better teams in the league, they have the best record in the league. It’€™s an important game, but it’€™s just as important as any other game. And it’€™s the next one that’€™s on the schedule. Hopefully, our players will be ready to perform on Monday night.”

This – of course – is the Jets team that made all the right adjustments at halftime back on Sept. 19 when they trailed 14-7. They came out and outscored the Patriots, 21-0, and have been walking the tightrope ever since.

“I wouldn’€™t say there is a whole lot that’€™s different,” Caserio said. “I would say the insertion of [Santonio] Holmes into the lineup has certainly added to their offensive weaponry, if you will. They had already had a lot of good players with LT [LaDainian Tomlinson], and with [Dustin] Keller and Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. Now you add Santonio Holmes into the mix, and I think three of the last four games, he’€™s ended up with the game-winning catch. So he’€™s been a productive player.

They beat Cleveland and Detroit in overtime. They beat Houston on their last play from scrimmage when Mark Sanchez threw the winning TD after blowing a 23-7 lead at home. And last week, they trailed the lowly Bengals at home, 7-3, before Brad Smith lit a fire under them with a TD run and TD kickoff return, winning 26-10.

“Sanchez has played well this year,” Caserio said. “He’€™s distributed the ball to a lot of different people. They present a lot of problems offensively with their personnel. [Brian] Schottenheimer does a good job of mixing the formations and giving you a lot to prepare for. Defensively, I think they’€™ve been steady the entire season.

“Really the only changes they’€™ve made is when they signed Trevor Pryce, whenever that was. I think that was after week one or two when he was released from Baltimore. Other than that, there aren’€™t a whole lot of new players on the defense. They’€™ve done what they’€™ve done. They’€™ve got a good scheme. They give teams a lot of trouble. They’€™re playing at a high level and they’€™re winning games, [which is] the bottom line, which is what you’€™re trying to do in this league. And they’€™ve done a real good job of that to this point.”

Read More: AFC East, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots



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