Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe assembles a respectable list of NFL insiders, consisting of coaches and coordinators that gameplanned against the Jets and Patriots this season, to find out what kind of tricks coaches Eric Mangini and Bill Belichick may have up their sleeves for this game. Mangini studied under Belichick and brought similar schematics and coaching style to the Jets. "Their schemes are similar, which you'd expect because they come from the same background with Coach Mangini having New England ties, but probably one of the big differences is that the Jets are a little more on the move, not quite as big, whereas New England is a stout, physical group," Bills offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said. This piece includes lots of analysis in all three phases of the game.
Mike Reiss of The Boston Globe reports that safety Rodney Harrison (MCL sprain, right knee) will not play on Sunday against the Jets. Playing in just his second game after returning from a fractured scapula that sidelined him for six contests, Harrison was injured in the second quarter Sunday on a low block by Titans receiver Bobby Wade. The injury is not to the same knee Harrison injured in 2005.
Hartford Courant writer Alan Greenberg also reports that Harrison will sit this game out, and may miss the rest of the season. Patriots Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour sprained an MCL on Oct. 2, 2005, against the Chargers and didn't return until six weeks later. This is the third major injury that Harrison, 34, has had in 15 months.
Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger also reports on Harrison's injury, explaining that this is the third year in a row in which the Patriots have lost a key defensive player late in the regular season. In 2004, Richard Seymour injured his knee against the Jets the day after Christmas and didn't play again until the Super Bowl. Last year linebacker Tedy Bruschi hurt his calf (ironically, also against the Jets on Dec. 26) and didn't play in the wild-card victory over Jacksonville.
Christopher Gasper of The Boston Globe reports from Hempstead, New York, explaining that the Jets win over the Patriots in Week 10 was a turning point for the Men in Green. "Yeah, because it got us going in the right direction and no one gave us a chance," said Chris Baker. "That's been the story of our season. To come out and win that game was big for us. We hadn't beat them since my rookie year and this is my fifth year, so that's been for a long time. A lot of guys here had never beaten them."
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald diverges from the Mangini-Belichick subplot to take a look at key matchups in the upcoming wild card game against the Jets. "The Jets are the classic example of a team that plays greater than the sum of its parts," writes Felger. "Perhaps the No. 1 area of focus for the Pats this week will be pass protection."
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call explains that the Patriots and Jets are both coming into this game with a full head of steam. Just like the Patriots have done over the past seven years, New York played its best football in December this season to wrap up an unlikely playoff berth.
Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald offers a public apology to Eric Mangini. "A year ago, when the Jets brought you to New York and introduced you as their new head coach, all we could think of were Newman from 'Seinfeld' and Flounder from 'Animal House.' We thought the Jets were just throwing the baby-faced fat kid in front of the cameras for a cheap laugh," writes Callahan. "Everyone was wrong about you." In this piece, the writer illuminates roadblocks Mangini and the Jets have had to overcome this season.
Jim Donaldson of The Providence Journal explains why he thinks the Jets and the Pats were hoping the Broncos beat the 49ers last weekend. Had Denver won at home Sunday against sub-.500 San Francisco, the Broncos would have been coming to Foxboro and the Jets would have been heading for Indianapolis. In which case, the Patriots would have been hosting a team that had struggled down the stretch -- dropping four of six, even before losing to the 49ers in overtime -- with a rookie, Jay Cutler, at quarterback. And the Jets would have been traveling to Indianapolis to take on a Colts team that can't stop anybody from running the ball.
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette's Jennifer Toland explains that the rivalry between the Jets and Pats is so dramatic, it should be called "As the AFC East Turns." The plot thickens this week.
Eric McHugh of The Patriot Ledger gets in on the Belichick-Mangini drama as well, offering some interesting quotes from Pats and Jets alike. Said Jets linebacker Matt Chatham, an ex-Patriot: "I know when I was in that (Patriots) locker room (Belichick always said), 'Beat the Jets. I hate the Jets. I hate the Jets. We all hate the Jets. We all hate the Jets.'"
Joe McDonald of The Providence Journal features receiver Reche Caldwell, who's become an integral part of the Pats offense this season. If last Sunday's game against the Titans was any indication, the postseason passing game will have a chance to be successful. Caldwell caught four passes for a career-high 134 yards and a touchdown in the Pats' 40-23 victory at Tennessee. He snared a 49-yarder in the second quarter and added 62-yarder for a touchdown in the third period. "He did a great job downfield and made some big plays," said coach Belichick.
Glen Farley of The Enterprise explains that the Jets got Mangini from the Patriots, and he turned things around in New York. Now, it seems the New York Giants may be interested in members of the Patriots staff.
Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa of the Boston Herald offer tidbits from Tom Brady's personal life since the quarterback broke up with Bridget Moynahan.