By: Ian Logue/Sean Deegan
December 19, 2002

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Ian Logue of and Sean Deegan (Soothsayer) of take a look at this weekend's Sunday Night match-up between the New England Patriots and New York Jets. Both teams find themselves with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, as they battle for the AFC East division lead with just two games left in the regular season. New England may have handed the Jets a 44-7 loss back on September 15th at the Meadowlands, but it's a much different football team they'll be facing this time around.

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By Sean Deegan 
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The Jets will try to rebound after a horrible loss to Chicago last week and another December where they had their playoff destiny by the throat and blew it. The Jets playoff hopes are dim but still alive and even if that is not incentive enough, surely getting revenge for the Pats 44-7 thumping in game two is. If the Jets are home in January it will be some solace to see the Pats there right with them. A win in Foxboro will likely knock the Pats out. Coach Edwards is playing down the revenge factor, but you can rest assure that the Jets want payback. No matter what the backdrop is, the Jets/Pats game is always heated. 

Despite the Jets awful loss last week, this team is much improved from the one that took the field in week two. On both sides of the ball they are better. In week two this was Vinny Testaverde's team. Now it's Chad Pennington's. Pennington's story in 2002 is similar to the one that Tom Brady had in 2001 except unlike Brady, everyone was expecting excellence from him. Highly touted yet unproven, Pennington has lived up to every bit of the hype. He is the top rated passer in the NFL and has taken an offense that averaged 12.5 points a game to averaging over 21. He has also helped in the breakout season of his favorite target; Laveranues Coles who has 78 catches for over 1000 yards. Although he may need some work on his long pass, he runs the offense like a seasoned veteran. His best attributes are reading defenses and not making mistakes. Bottom line, with Curtis Martin in the backfield and a much-improved offensive line from the beginning of the year, this offense can score points. 

Defensively the Jets are much better as well. In the beginning of the year, the front four was horrendous and during the first month of the season they were killed by the running game. Since then, aided by the improved play of DT Josh Evans and DE Shaun Ellis, the Jets defense has gone from giving up almost 200 yards on the ground to averaging under 90 yards. The secondary has also improved by going more man-to-man rather than the cover 2, which is Coach Edwards' trademark. 

The Titans dismantled the Pats on Monday night with a big dose of the running game and a tenacious defense that gave Brady no time to throw and punished the receivers who caught completions. For the Jets to beat the Pats these are the keys. 

1. KEEP A CROWD UP FRONT ON DEFENSE: Crowd the defensive line with at least four defensive linemen to take away the running game. The Pats running game is weak to begin with so if the Jets can stop the run, it gives them an edge. 

2. TAKE AWAY THE SHORT PASS: This is what Brady has feasted on all season what killed the Jets in the September game. The Titans were masterful in stopping Brady's dink and dunk. The Jets need to bring the corners and LB's up close to defend against the short pass and jam the receivers at the line. If Brady is able to make completions, it's crucial that the Jets make the receivers pay. Since the long pass is mostly non-existent in the Pats offense, it's up to the safeties to cover the possible deep attempt. 

3. BLITZ AND ESTABLISH A PASS RUSH: This is one thing that stumps me. Ted Cottrell has had a lot of success blitzing yet he rarely does it. In order to get Brady off his kilter, it's crucial that the Jets get pressure on him. John Abraham needs a big game and the Jets need to blitz occasionally to fluster Brady. CB Ray Mickens has been very successful blitzing from the blind side and should be sent at least a few times on Sunday. The Titans forced Brady into interceptions and many incompletions due to their pressure.

4. RUN CURTIS, RUN: The Pats running defense has been awful. The Pats front four has been like a sieve and if the Jets can establish a consistent running game early, they can take control of the game. Despite being banged up, Jets RB ran for 127 yards last week and is 90 yards short of breaking 1000 yards. The Jets need to stick with the running game even if they fall behind. The Pats have shown that over the long haul they can't stop it. 

5. AVIOID TURNOVERS: Pennington has been extremely stingy in turning the ball over (6 Ints. in 342 attempts) and he has to keep it that way. Chrebet's fumble cost the Jets the game last week and it's important that the Jets don't give the Pats game momentum by turning over the ball. 

The Jets have shown great tenacity all year after losses that were supposed to have knocked them out of contention. When they were left for dead at 2-5 they came back and spanked the Chargers in San Diego 44-13. then, after a heartbreaking loss against the Raiders on Monday night they beat the Broncos 19-13. The Jets are still playing for the playoffs, are seeking revenge and over the last 3 years have the best road in the NFL. 

PREDICTION: Jets win 27 - 24 in a hard fought game and bring their playoff hopes down to the wire. 

By Ian Logue
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The Patriots are still reeling from their 24-7 beating they took on Monday night at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, and the result of the very physical game they played against the Titans has found them with an injury report that certainly doesn't make any Patriot fan very happy. New England put veteran cornerback Otis Smith on injured reserve on Thursday after the shoulder injury he suffered earlier in the week, ending the veteran's season while leaving a gaping hole on the right side of the Patriots secondary. That's not exactly a good thing considering that Jets receiver Laveranues Coles is coming off of performances where he racked up 158, 126, and 71-yards respectively in the last three weeks, which likely means that Ty Law will have his hands full. That leaves back-up Leonard Myers against Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet, which will be a tall order. Chrebet may be questionable with a neck injury, but Chrebet has played well against New England, leading the Jets in receptions in their two meetings against the Patriots last season.

As for Jets runningback Curtis Martin he's coming off of a 21-carry 127-yard performance against the Chicago Bears last weekend, and will likely cause New England problems this weekend. Martin may have only rushed for 5-yards on 4 carries earlier in the season, but he's running behind a much better offensive line that will be going against a Patriots defense that will likely again be without linebacker Tedy Bruschi who apparently may miss this weekend's game as well after missing the last two weeks due to a knee injury he suffered back on Thanksgiving day against the Lions.

The bad news for the Patriots is they allowed 238-yards rushing to the Tennessee Titans Monday night, 101 of which came at the hands of Titans runningback Eddie George. As Bruschi goes, so goes the defense. When he hasn't been at at least 100% this season, or when he's missed the game completely the Patriots have had two games where the opposing team has had more than 200-yards rushing this season. Despite the fact that Ted Johnson may have lead the team in tackles the last two weeks, he still doesn't bring the fire and passion that Bruschi does, and that's an area where New England doesn't have anyone quite like him.

The Jets may have lost against the Bears last weekend, but there's no question that with a sense of urgency they will give the Patriots their fair share of problems. Although the last meeting may have been a blowout, both of these teams have played eachother close in the last few meetings.  However the Jets are playing much better football now and there is no reason to believe this won't be the case on Sunday night. For New England to be successful, here are the keys to the game.

1. STOP MARTIN: It's no secret that stopping the running game of any team drastically changes their game plan. That being said it's likely that Belichick will scheme to shut down Martin and then plan on doing everything he can to force Chad Pennington to beat New England through the air.

2. Confuse Pennington: Pennington has done well replacing Vinny Testaverde, leading his team back into the playoff hunt. But he's yet to face a tough Belichick defense, and even veterans like Drew Bledsoe struggle against the brilliant schemes Belichick is able to put together. Pennington has the challenge of making big plays against a defense that will likely be without two of it's best players.

 3. Avoid Turnovers: Quarterback Tom Brady found himself on the wrong end of an interception that unfortunately bounced the way of the Titans when Tennessee returned it for a touchdown on Monday night. Suddenly instead of trailing 14-7 Tennessee lead 21-7 which drastically changed the face of the game. It's something they can't afford to do this weekend against New York.

 4. Offensive Line: With Joe Andruzzi and Kenyatta Jones listed as "Questionable" for this weekend, all signs lead to another makeshift offensive line. Andruzzi has managed to start the last couple of weeks, however he hasn't been able to play a complete game which has caused Damien Woody to move to guard, not to mention that with Jones leaving on Monday with a leg injury he's also questionable for this weekend, and this leaves Adrian Klemm potentially playing right tackle again. The Jets have good pass rushers, and this may be a problem for Brady who may end up seeing a lot of pressure on Sunday.

 5. Convert on Third Down: The Jets have let their opponents out-convert them on third down in each of the last three games by a margin of 23-of-40 to 14-of-34. They have also lost the time of possession battle in each game over that span. If the Patriots can keep New York's offense off the field on Sunday and score points in the meantime, the result will be a season sweep along with one game closer to a division title.

They may have walked over them in week 2, but this will be a much different team the Patriots will face this time around.  If there was ever a time that the team needed a sense of urgency, it's definitely here now.

PREDICTION: The Patriots win 23-20 on a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri, setting up a dramatic final game against Miami.