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AFC East Champions Face Tough Test Against Rival Jets

The 2004 AFC East Champions will visit the New York Jets this week for a post-holiday matchup with important playoff implications.

The 2004 AFC East Champions will visit the New York Jets this week for a post-holiday matchup with important playoff implications. The playoff-bound Patriots need to win to regain late-season momentum and to secure an important first-round bye, while the Jets can clinch a playoff berth with a victory.


TELEVISION: This week's game will be televised to a regional audience by CBS. The game can be seen in Boston on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle the play-by-play duties, while Phil Simms will provide analysis. Bonnie Bernstein will contribute reports from the sidelines.

RADIO: WBCN 104.1 FM is the flagship station for the Patriots Rock Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Gil Santos is in his 28th season as the voice of the Patriots and will call the action along with Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti. Santos and Cappelletti are celebrating their 21st season as a broadcast tandem.


The Patriots have clinched the AFC East title, assuring that they will host at least one home playoff game this season. If the Patriots defeat the Jets on Sunday, they will earn a bye through the first round of the playoffs and host a divisional playoff game the weekend of Jan. 15-16. Since the first-round bye was instituted in 1990, the Patriots have earned a bye three times (1996, 2001 and 2003), and have advanced to play in the Super Bowl in each of those years.

New England can clinch a first-round bye with:

1) NE win OR

2) NE tie SD/IND game ends in a tie


The Patriots have recorded 12 regular-season victories for the second time in the 45-year history of the franchise. The only other season in which New England recorded 12 or more victories was 2003, when the Patriots finished with a 14-2 record. New England has recorded 11 wins in six seasons in team history, most recently in 2001.


When the calendar turns to the 12th month, the weather may turn cold, but in recent years the Patriots have remained red hot. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, the Patriots have recorded a 14-5 (.737) record in games played in the month of December. The Patriots' December dominance has fit into the team's recent history of saving its best football for the end of the season. Since 2001, the Patriots have recorded a 34-5 (.872) record in games played after Nov. 1, including a 6-0 mark in the playoffs.


Running back Corey Dillon is enjoying the best season of his career, entering this week's action with 1,430 yards to his credit so far this season. He needs to gain just 58 more yards to set the Patriots franchise record for rushing yards in a season, a mark currently owned by Curtis Martin (1,487 yards in 1995). He also needs just six more yards to set a career high (currently 1,435 in 2000). Dillon has played in 13 of the Patriots' 14 games this season, and his average of 110 yards per game played leads all regular running backs currently active in the NFL. In addition to his yardage exploits, he has set a career high with 11 rushing touchdowns.

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