Setting the scene: Patriots-Cowboys
|10.16.11 at 12:33 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Mother Nature has provided another ideal fall afternoon at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots to extend one of the more remarkable streaks in recent NFL history.
Partly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s are expected, with breezy conditions as the 4-1 Patriots host the 2-2 Cowboys in New England’s first inter-conference game of 2011. The wind could be a factor as a breeze could turn into heavy wind with gusts up to 30 MPH expected out of the south.
The Patriots head into today’s game having won 17 straight home games against NFC opponents, with their last – and only NFC home loss – coming to Brett Favre and the Packers on Oct. 13, 2002, their very first game against an NFC opponent at Gillette.
Not surprisingly, the Patriots’ 17-1 home mark against NFC foes is the best such mark in the NFL since 2002. Pittsburgh is next at 16-2-1, the Ravens are 16-3 and Indianapolis is 14-4.
As for actives and inactives, the only Patriot ruled out for today is safety Josh Barrett, who is nursing hamstring and thumb ailments. Jerod Mayo returned to the practice field on Friday after missing nearly two weeks with a left knee injury and was listed as questionable for the game, meaning technically there’s a 50-50 chance he plays. With the Patriots bye coming next week, it would be a significant surprise to see Mayo back on the field today against the Cowboys.
Another Patriot player to keep an eye on is BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The running back missed practice on Thursday with toe injury and was limited on Wednesday and Friday. He is questionable for today and, with the Patriots facing a Top-5 NFL run-defense, might get today and the bye week to rest.
The Cowboys come in fairly healthy, with Miles Austin having the bye week last week to heal his strained hamstring. Dez Bryant is also expected to be a key factor today after a week off to rest his thigh.
The cover boy of today’s “GAMEDAY” program is looking to continue his assault on the record books. Wes Welker has 740 yards on 45 catches. The 745 yards are an NFL record through five games. Welker is on a streak of 83 straight regular-season games with at least one catch. Welker has played in 70 career games with the Patriots, including four postseason games. He has caught a pass in each and every one. He missed the Jan. 2010 playoff game against the Ravens when he blew out his ACL in the regular-season finale in Houston.
Watch the Cowboys kicking game today. Their place kicker David Buehler was limited all week in practice with a groin strain and was ruled out on Friday. Taking his place will be Dan Bailey.
Today’s referee is the one-and-only: Walt Coleman. Yes, THAT Walt Coleman. The man who tucked it to the Raiders.
Today also marks the second and last home game in the month of October, national Breast Cancer Awareness month. The Patriots and the American Cancer Society will honor and celebrate 12 breast cancer survivors from all over New England on the field at Gillette. The 12 survivors will take the field with the Patriots cheerleaders as the Patriots players take the field beyond the big helmet. The survivors are there to remind women of the importance of receiving yearly mammograms.