Setting the scene: Patriots-Jets
|11.13.11 at 4:43 pm ET|
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Clear skies and temperatures right around 50 are expected for tonight’s tilt between the 5-3 Patriots and the 5-3 Jets at MetLife Stadium. There will be a breeze out of the south at 12 MPH but that’s calm by Meadowlands standards, where winds can always whip up inside the stadium.
With the Bills getting clobbered by the Cowboys, 44-7, earlier in the day in Texas, the winner of tonight’s game gets sole possession of first in the AFC East to start the second half of the season.
The Patriots are trying to avoid their first three-game losing skid since dropping four straight in 2002, a streak that began in late September and saw the Pats go winless in October.
As of Saturday night, the Patriots ruled out only two players heading into the game, as linebacker Dane Fletcher will miss his third straight game with a thumb injury and Brandon Spikes is out with a reported sprained MCL in his right knee.
Patrick Chung (foot) and Ryan Wendell (concussion) both returned to practice on Friday and were listed as questionable on the injury report. Expect Chung to play tonight, after he spoke to reporters on Friday and said “not to worry” about his status for the game.
The team did sign safety Ross Ventrone back to the active roster on Saturday as insurance for Chung and safety depth.
Nate Solder (concussion) appeared on the injury list on Saturday and is questionable.
The Jets enter the game remarkably healthy. Only cornerback Brodney Poole (knee) missed practice on Friday with an injury. He was listed as questionable. Tight end Shawn Nelson also missed Friday with an illness and was listed as questionable. The Jets did list 15 other players on their injury list but all fully participated in practice on Friday and are probable for the game.
Speaking of 2002, the Patriots are still tied with San Diego with the highest NFL winning percentage in division games from November through the end of the season.
The Patriots are 24-7 against AFC East foes in the last two months of the season, and have the chance to make some hay again this year as tonight’s game marks the first of three game games against the AFC East in the final eight weeks. This is the final divisional road game of the season, winning in Miami on opening night and losing a 21-0 lead against the Bills in Week 3 in Orchard Park, NY.
The game also marks the second of two straight against New York teams, following last week’s 24-20 loss to the Giants at Gillette last week. It’s the second time in franchise history the Patriots have faced the two New York teams in back-to-back weeks. In 1990, the Patriots finished out their 1-15 season with losses to the Jets in the Meadowlands and the Giants at Foxboro.
The Patriots have played in this stadium just once previously, losing 28-14 last season in Week 2, when the Patriots couldn’t protect a 14-7 second-quarter lead.
That was the game when Tom Brady forced the ball to Randy Moss twice, resulting in two of the four interceptions Brady would throw on his way to an MVP season.