1. Finally win a game easyHave you ever known someone who works at a hospital and they've worked something like eight days straight and they are saying how bad they need a day off? Well, the Patriots need a day off. The team is not only beaten up physically, but mentally as well. Too many games against inferior opponents are going down to the wire. The Patriots may not be as talented as in years past but they should be able to beat a limping Jets team at home rather easily. New England was in a similar position two weeks ago against the Saints and after getting an early lead, they let New Orleans come back and almost tie the game at the end. In their last two games on the road, the Jets have been outscored 57-3. With tough games coming up against Buffalo and Tampa Bay, the Patriots can't afford another gut-wrenching, last second finish against a weak opponent. It would be nice if the Patriots could jump out to an early lead and put the Jets away early. If the Pats can't blow out the Jets at home, they can't blow out anybody.
2. Take pressure off BradySomething has to give in this game because the Patriots rank 29th in the NFL in rushing offense and the Jets rank 30th in rushing defense. New England has been able to run the ball a little bit on weaker teams but have struggled against the better teams in the AFC. With Corey Dillon,Kevin Faulk, or possibly both returning to action this Sunday, this is a good game to pound the ball right at the Jets. Tom Brady has been getting killed all season long and we started to see the effects of that pounding last week in Kansas City. Plus, with the weather turning cold in the Northeast, the days of Brady being able to throw the ball 30-40 times a game are coming to an end. In other words, the Patriots need to find a running game fast. Patrick Pass and Heath Evans have done an admirable job filling in for the injured Dillon but neither of them are feature backs. If Dillon plays, expect him to carry a big load against a Jets defense that's been pushed around for a majority of the year.
3. Cover the boot
The Jets are down to their fourth option at the quarterback position but one thing Brooks Bollinger can do well is move around in the pocket. The Jets run a lot of bootlegs and waggles with Bollinger and that's something the Patriots had trouble with against the Broncos and Jake Plummer. Bollinger isn't very accurate throwing from the pocket but he can do some things with his feet. Mobile quarterbacks who have been able to move around and buy more time have really hurt the Patriots defense because their secondary just can't cover receivers for very long. When they played the Broncos, Jake Plummer was able to connect on two long pass plays using the bootleg. Plummer had so much time to throw that receivers Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie were able to run all the way across the field before he delivered them the ball. Their numbers may not show it because of the inconsistency at the quarterback position but the Jets have two dangerous receivers in Laveranues Coles and Justin McCareins. Both players have the speed to get down field and make big plays. If the Patriots don't do a better job of controlling the bootleg and give Bollinger more time to throw, it could be another long afternoon for their beleaguered secondary.
4. Watch out for Justin MillerLast week the Patriots did a decent job against the Chiefs Dante Hall until they allowed a long kickoff return late in the game after they scored that gave the momentum back to Kansas City. Miller may not be as dangerous as Hall but the rookie cornerback is becoming one of the most explosive return men in the league. Miller could play a big role in this game. The Jets offense just isn't good enough right now to put together drive after drive, even against the struggling Patriots defense. To have a chance, the Jets need to make some big plays, whether they come on offense, defense or special teams. This is where Miller comes in. If Miller gets a big kick return early in the game, it could ignite a struggling team like the Jets and give them an easy score. The Patriots coverage units have done a good job after playing poorly early in the year and that needs to continue this week. If the Jets can get a score on either defense or special teams, they will have a much better chance of pulling the upset.
5. Fight the LawOld friend Ty Law makes his return to Gillette Stadium as a member of the Jets. Looking at the stats, it appears Law is having a great season. He has five interceptions for a team that's 2-9. However, Law has also been called for nine pass interference/illegal contact penalties and committed six others that were declined. The bad blood between Law and the Patriots no longer exists but there is no doubt he's going to be jacked up for this game. The Patriots may be able to take advantage of this by getting Law to bite on a fake early and hitting him for a big play. Plus, Law has admitted he's still not 100 percent and while a 90 percent Ty Law is still pretty good, Deion Branch may be able to use his speed to get deep on him a few times in this game. Law is a competitor and a great player so don't be surprised if he has a big day against his former team but also don't be shocked if the Patriots pick on their old friend a few times throughout the game.
Brady named Sportsman of the YearSports Illustrated announced that Tom Brady has been named the 2005 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. Brady, who has never been big on individual achievements, says he is honored to win such a prestigious award.
"It's a great award and it's a great honor," Brady said. "I grew up pasting SI covers on my wall…I have been able to do a lot of great things and I've had a lot of opportunities in my life. The reason for that is because I'm surrounded by great people. It's been a lot of hard work from me and a lot of hard work from people around me who have supported me."
The Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year issue with Brady on the cover will be available on newsstands next week.
Patriots/Jets ConnectionsBill Belichick 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.