The hype is almost over. In a little less than an hour it’ll be time for the Jets and Patriots to play.
Gillette Stadium is starting to fill up. Plenty of ESPN people, beat reporters and columnists for the two teams and a number of national media got here early after traversing the traffic-choked Route 1 more slowly than usual. And now the gates have opened and the 68,756 fans (at least that’s been the announced number of tickets sold for each of the last seven Jets-Pats games up here) have begun arriving and preparing to give the Jets an earful.
That’s the kind of frenzy a pair of 9-2 teams in the same division can whip up around the NFL.
There could be a meteorological frenzy at Gillette tonight as well. The weather forecast from the kickoff of around 8:38 p.m. EST on could play havoc with quarterbacks, receivers, kickers and returners. Temps will be heading toward the mid-20s and the winds will rise to around 18 mph with gusts of 34 mph, according to Accuweather. The winds are already rippling the orange wind strips and shaking the yellow uprights on the goalposts at both end zones.
Who will that hurt more? The Jets’ connections of Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards? Or accurate, pass-heavy Tom Brady throwing to Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead and rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Will it do in Jets kickers Steve Weatherford and Nick Folk more, or Patriots footmen Zoltan Mesko and Shayne Graham?
It could be a night for some kick-blocking, especially when it comes to the Jets rushing Mesko, the Pats’ rookie punter. The Green & White almost rejected a Mesko kick in Game 2 at New Meadowlands Stadium, and their last two blocked-punt-return TDs have both come up here at Gillette: Brad Smith off of Eric Smith’s block of Chris Hanson last year, and David Bowens’ return of his own block, also of Hanson, in the sleet of ’07.
One Jets receiver who won’t be affected by the conditions is Laveranues Coles. Just signed Sunday to take the roster spot vacated with S Jim Leonhard’s move to IR, Coles will not start his third (or is it his fourth?) stint as a Jet. He has been deactivated for the game.
(Update, 8 p.m.: But Coles did make a contribution. Right before the Jets broke up into ranks and files for their pregame stretching, they gathered as a team as always in the end zone. And who should give them a pregame message but L.C. )
The rest of the Jets inactives: LB Jamaal Westerman, OL Vlad Ducasse, TEs Matt Mulligan and Jeff Cumberland, and D-linemen Marcus Dixon and Matt Kroul. Third QB again is Kellen Clemens.
The Jets also announced two starting lineup changes. One as expected is Eric Smith for Leonhard. The other is Holmes for Jerricho Cotchery, who’s active after sitting out two-plus games with the groin tear he suffered on that magnificent catch over the middle at Cleveland.
Also active for the first time in a few weeks are CB Dwight Lowery and CB-ST Marquice Cole.
Also at stake are a pair of streaks that both can’t coexist after tonight. The Jets have won their last eight regular-season road games – a franchise record – while the Patriots have won their last 25 RS home games with Tom Brady as their QB. The Pats’ last home loss with Brady at the controls came in that 17-14 verdict in Game 10 in 2006. That was played in the old muddy grass of Gillette. The next game the Patriots began their artificial-surface era at their home in the Massachusetts countryside.
Update, 7:46 p.m.: Here are the New England inactives: WR Taylor Price, RB Thomas Clayton, CB Jonathan Wilhite, OL Rich Ohrnberger, T Mark LeVoir, and D-linemen Myron Pryor, Eric Moore and Mike Wright. Clayton and Moore were just signed this week. The Pats have designated no third QB.
The Jets are wearing their white jerseys and white pants for tonight’s steel-cage match. They are 6-1 in double whites this year (only loss was the season opener to Baltimore) and, 12-3 in w/w under head coach Rex Ryan. But they’re 0-3 in their last three games here in white/white, losing last year, in ’07 and in ’03. Their last win here, in ’08, not only came against Matt Cassel at QB but also in white jerseys and green pants.
This will be Scott Green’s ninth Jets game as referee in the past eight years. The previous four years Green has had: the Jets’ 2006 home-opening loss to the Patriots; their biggest win of 2007, the 19-16 home victory over Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers; the Meadowlands rout of the Cardinals in ’08, and the Oh, Canada! verdict over the Bills in Toronto last year.
Tags: Braylon Edwards, Gillette Stadium, Laveranues Coles, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes, Tom Brady
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