1. Keep bringing the intensityThis will be a challenge for the Patriots. Not only do they have the division title wrapped up but this game is also being played on Christmas weekend, so the player's minds could be elsewhere. You could make the argument the same thing holds true for the Jets but this is the Jets playoff game. They are sure to be all fired up for a Monday night football game against their bitter rivals. The Patriots have played with passion and intensity during their three game winning streak and with the team probably looking to rest their starters for at least a half in the season finale against Miami, this is really the last tune up they'll have before the playoffs start. If the Patriots can stay focused and wipe the floor with the Jets like they have their last three opponents, it will be an impressive win because human nature says they could be down emotionally for this game. Plus, the Patriots now have other AFC teams worrying about them again and a loss could take some of that fear away.
2. Will the real Brooks Bollinger please stand up?
It looked like the real Brooks Bollinger was a below-average, third-string quarterback who was just playing out the stretch but then out of nowhere, the youngster tossed for 327 yards and two scores against the Dolphins. Now that could have just been an aberration but the Patriots would be wise to keep up their aggressive play on defense and not let Bollinger get comfortable in the pocket. Bill Belichick said this week he thought the Jets were allowing Bollinger to do more things and expanding their offense because he was getting comfortable in their system. The first time the two teams played three weeks ago is when the Patriots first started blitzing a lot and that helped them morph into the defense they've become. There's no reason to stop now. Bollinger beat the blitz against the Dolphins but you can bet New England is going to make him do it two weeks in a row. If he can, more power to him, but most likely the young quarterback is in for another tough day against a hot Patriots defense.
3. Work on the running game
The only negative in their 28-0 dismantling of the Buccaneers was the fact the Patriots couldn't run the football. Even in the fourth quarter with a big lead, the Patriots had so little faith in their running game they continued to throw the ball up by four touchdowns. That's not a good sign heading into the playoffs. Corey Dillon only managed 48 yards on 19 carries against a tough Bucs defense. The Jets still have a solid defense themselves but the Patriots need to take these next two weeks to work on the running game. The last time the two teams played, New England racked up 146 yards on the ground. We already know what Tom Brady can do and while the team wants to win every game, at this point in the season getting the running game going is imperative if the Patriots want to make noise in the playoffs. Expect to see a lot of Dillon andKevin Faulk in this game as the Patriots work out the kinks in their rushing attack against an inferior opponent.
4. Take care of business earlyAt 3-11, the Jets aren't a very good football team. There's no reason why if the Patriots come to play they shouldn't jump out to a big lead early. If this happens, it will crush a fragile team like the Jets and not give them any hope. It will also allow the Patriots to sit some guys in the second half. Belichick said he was going to treat this game like any other week but if the Patriots dominate early and get out to a lead, he will most likely start resting guys if he gets the chance. Like I stated earlier, it's human nature the Patriots may not be fired up for this game but if they can come in mentally sharp and dominate the Jets like they should, it could provide the added benefit of resting some starters a week earlier than they had planned.
5. Continue to have fun
The biggest difference in this team over the last month is they are having fun again. Until recently, it seemed like guys were just standing around and going through the motions but since the return of Tedy Bruschi and the addition of Ellis Hobbs to the starting lineup, this has been a different football team. The Patriots have overcome and accomplished a lot this year, so whether they win or lose against the Jets, they should enjoy the rest of the season and continue to play with the same kind of passion that's sparked this winning streak. This team has a lot to be proud of and they've come a long way in 2005, so hopefully they'll come away with a win and keep their momentum going.
Patriots/Jets ConnectionsBelichick was the Jets assistant head coach from 1997-99…Defensive line coach Pepper Johnson played for two seasons with the Jets before retiring in 1999…Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli was the director of pro personnel for the Jets from 1997-99…Jets cornerback Ty Law was drafted by the Patriots in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft and played 10 seasons in New England…Jets running back Curtis Martin was drafted in the third round that same year and played three seasons with the Patriots…Jets backup quarterback Kliff Kingsbury was selected in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Patriots. Kingsbury spent his rookie season on injured reserve before being released by New England in 2004…Linebacker Don Davis originally signed with Jets as a rookie free agent in 1995.