Setting the scene: Patriots-Jets
|10.09.11 at 12:41 pm ET|
FOXBORO — It’s not often that the Jets and Patriots play a game that feels like the Yankees and Red Sox at Fenway Park on a summer afternoon but that is the stage at Gillette Stadium for a late afternoon game in early October.
Sunshine and temperatures in the upper 70s are expected for the key AFC East clash between two teams with a lot riding on the outcome.
As if the inspiration of beating the Jets wasn’t enough, the latest Boston champion will be in the building with its most-famous piece of hardware as the Bruins are bringing the Stanley Cup to Gillette after their Sunday practice.
The Patriots are 3-1 and still searching for an identity on defense, which is now likely without one of its leaders for a while as Jerod Mayo injured his left knee last week in Oakland. The Patriots are giving up more yards per game than any team in the NFL but they showed signs last week in the second half of turning a corner.
The Jets are 2-2, coming off two hideous performances, including last week’s embarrassment on national TV in Baltimore as they were stampeded by the Ravens, 34-17. The week before, they gave up 170 yards to Darren McFadden, including a 70-yard TD run that coach Rex Ryan this week labeled “an embarrassment.”
The Patriots have no such identity problems on offense as they have ridden the arm of Tom Brady and the hands of Wes Welker to record-setting start. Welker is on a record-pace in the first four games, with 40 catches for 616 yards and five touchdowns. The catches and yards would break Jerry Rice‘s all-time record if the pace continued over 16 games. Welker has 472 catches since the start of the 2007 season, 57 more than Brandon Marshall, who is second with 415.
The Patriots haven’t lost a regular season home game since being beaten 33-10 by the Steelers on Nov. 30, 2008, a run of 18 straight wins on the Gillette Stadium turf.
The Patriots haven’t lost to an AFC East foe at home since the Jets beat them that season, 34-31, in overtime on Nov. 13.
Both teams are looking forward to the return of key players from injury. The Patriots are expected to have Albert Haynesworth available after missing the last two weeks with a sore back. Tight end Aaron Hernandez could be back after injuring his left knee in Week 2 against the Chargers. Defensive lineman Mike Wright, who suffered a concussion in Week 1 against the Dolphins, was listed as questionable and returned to practice this week. He is a possibility in the defensive rotations.
The Jets are getting back Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold from a high ankle sprain. Colin Baxter was roughed up by the Ravens last week as Mark Sanchez practically no time to throw the ball and was under constant pressure.