FOXBORO, MA — New England will be gearing up for the always much anticipated game against the New York Jets this week, but the game won’t carry as much hype as it has in recent years. One will also begin to wonder whether or not this could be the final “Tuna Bowl”.
The Jets as everyone knows are a much depleted club. Since Bill Parcells lost his starting quarterback, Vinny Testaverde, the Jets have fallen to a record of 2-6, and it was all they could do to beat the hapless Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The Patriots decimated Arizona at Sun Devil Stadium two weeks ago, and with the exception of Ted Johnson, they are expected to have everyone back healthy.
Head Coach Pete Carroll knows that it’s still not safe to take the Jets lightly. The Jets have been in most of the games they’ve played this season, and even after losing Testaverde early in their first meeting with New England, were almost able to come away with a victory. Had it not been for a game-winning kick by Adam Vinatieri, the Jets could have won that game. Carroll feels that the Jets could easily have a much different record right now.
“They’ve been extremely close in all these games,” said Carroll of the Jets. “They have had chances to have their record flopped (instead of 2-6), and they know it. We know it too. They play good football, they’ve got good football players and they’ve got great leadership. I’m sure it’s going to be a dogfight. We have to be ready for it.”
Rick Mirer was expected to get the start on Monday night, but Wednesday the Jets decided to start Ray Lucas instead of Mirer. Lucas, who is coming off of an ankle injury, last played against the Indianapolis Colts and played brilliantly. Lucas completed 16 of 30 passes for 137 yards, and did not throw an interception until the end of the game. He was picked off in the endzone by cornerback Jeff Burris with just under five minutes to play, and Burris returned it 55 yards. The interception set up Mike Vanderjagt’s 27-yard field goal with 14 seconds left, as the Indianapolis Colts stole a 16-13 victory. Lucas was sacked on the final play of the game, and had to be carted off the field.
As for New England, having all of their starters healthy midway through the season puts the Patriots in a position that they haven’t been in for almost two years. Carroll credits the reduction in injuries to Speed Coach Mike Morris, and says that the exercises during the warm-up drills help to reduce the number of injuries to athletes that are susceptible to hamstring pulls.
They are however no strangers to losing their starting quarterback. New England was 1-2 without Bledsoe when he went down with a broken index finger at the end of last season, and the Jets are having to deal with the same adversity. The Patriots were also without the majority of their team for most of last season and were still able to make the playoffs. That’s a feat that will be extremely difficult for the Jets, since with the AFC East being as competitive as it is, some drastic things would need to happen. Needless to say their chances are not not very good.
Bill Parcells will come to town next Monday night, and Foxboro Stadium will be packed full of people looking for the Patriots to even the “Tuna Bowl” at 3-3. Regardless of the outcome of the game, there will be a question on everyone’s mind.
Will this be the final “Tuna Bowl”?
Only Parcells himself knows the answer to that one.