The New England Patriots will rely on many faces in tonight's game that they didn't expect to see much of this season, including Matt Cassel, BenJarvus Green-Ellisand Pierre Woods. All three will play major roles when the New York Jets visit Gillette Stadium at 8 p.m.
"I think going forward the people who look at our situation say with confidence, 'We are going to get a fair shot there,' based on our track record," head coach Bill Belichicktold the Boston Globe.
The winner of tonight's game takes over sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
"We just have to continue to understand that they all count, no matter what game we're playing, especially in November heading into December," cornerback Ellis Hobbstold the Boston Herald.
These two teams already played in Week 2, but are much different now than they were then.
"I feel like I'm a different player from what I was then, but not an overall reconstruction of who I was. You just continue to grow and become more comfortable," quarterback Matt Casseltold the New Bedford Standard-Times.
The short week makes it difficult to prepare, but both teams are dealing with the same intangibles.
"It has been a challenge to try to prepare the team the way you normally do when you have a Sunday-to-Sunday week," Belichick told the Attleboro Sun Chronicle.
The Patriots aren't expecting any problems since they've anticipated the short week since Week 1.
"We knew this was coming before this regular season even started," defensive end Ty Warrentold the Boston Metro.
While Thursday is Troy Brown Night at Gillette, the return of Ty Law to Foxboro is also newsworthy. Law signed with the Jets earlier this week and may not be at the playing weight he claims he is heading into tonight's showdown.
"He might be 218, he might be 230 pounds," defensive lineman Jarvis Greentold the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
One of the other challenges tonight will be neutralizing Jets' nose tackle Kris Jenkins, who tips the scales at 349 pounds and has been the key to New York's revitalized run defense.
"Whenever you see him on film, he's huge," Green-Ellis told the Quincy Patriot Ledger.
The Jets are feeling pretty confident. The New York Post quotes an anonymous player who said the Patriots' defense is "old" and "slow" and the Jets should put up "a lot of points" tonight.
Those who spoke on the record are far more diplomatic. Law admits he's rusty, but still wants to play tonight.
The Jets feel tonight is their night to finally clear the hurdle against New England and take control of the division.
"Maybe they do feel that way about us – I hope they do – but this is an entirely different team than what we've had in the past," tight end Chris Baker told the New York Daily News.