FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Brett Favre" id="PESPT002187">Brett Favre isn't trying to fake it.
He can talk at length about some of the league's most intense rivalries that he has been involved with, but New York Jets" id="ORSPT000199">Jets- New England Patriots" id="ORSPT000192">Patriots isn't one of them.
"Well, it feels different, obviously, because it's not ... I played 16 years straight in the Metrodome, Soldier Field" id="PLTRA0000156">Soldier Field," Favre said of the Packers' primary rivals, the Vikings and Bears. "That I can't wipe away."
But that's not to say he doesn't appreciate the magnitude of tonight's
AFC East first-place showdown between the 6-3 Jets and 6-3 Patriots.
"I know exactly what this game means, the weight it carries," Favre
said Tuesday. "I'm well aware of what New England has done over the
past decade or so. Once again, it just comes down to football. I'm well
aware of what this game means."
As does everyone else involved with the Jets, who have been dominated
by their hated rival since Bill Belichick took over in New England in
2000. The Patriots have won 13 of the 15 meetings, though Favre has
been there for only one of them.
That was a 19-10 loss in Week2, Matt Cassel's first start as Tom Brady" id="PESPT000789">Tom Brady's
replacement. The game is remembered for Favre's third-quarter
interception that led to a Patriots' touchdown and the Jets failing on
three straight Thomas Jones" id="PESPT003769">Thomas Jones goal-line runs in the second quarter that guard Brandon Moore called "the low point" of the season.
Cassel, when called on, has made plays since then, but Favre believes
he's also made strides, his recent title of "game manager" aside. "I
think I'm up to date, for the most part, on what they're doing," Favre
said of the difference in comfort with the offense he feels between now
and Week 2.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Eric Mangini" id="PESPT008590">Eric Mangini
swung the deal for Favre not with this game specifically in mind, but
one like it. They brought the future Hall of Famer to New York not only
to put the Jets in position to play in a meaningful game like this, but
to win it.
Asked that "this is why they brought you here" question, Favre gave a mischievous grin.
"That may be true, then again it might not be true," he said. "That may
have been why we brought [nose tackle] Kris Jenkins in. Let's put it
off on Kris."
But Favre knows better, as do his teammates, who yesterday expressed a
certain trust in going into a hostile environment with someone who has
played in these "big" games for nearly 20 years.
"He's had so many comebacks in games and played in so many big games,
it definitely builds a little bit higher confidence knowing a guy like
that is leading your team," said rookie tight end Dustin Keller, who
had his first 100-yard game Sunday against the Rams.
Tackle Damien Woody" id="PESPT008097">Damien Woody played in a bunch of important games with the Patriots from 1999-2003, then not so many in Detroit.
"It is good to have someone like Brett out there to really know how to
direct traffic, someone who's been in these pressure-type situations
that I'm sure we're going to be in," Woody said.
And maybe it's a benefit that Favre hasn't experienced nearly the amount of frustration against the Patriots that teammates Shaun Ellis" id="PESPT002075">Shaun Ellis and Laveranues Coles" id="PESPT001389">Laveranues Coles
have. The Jets have oozed looseness and confidence during this short
work week but also a healthy respect for their longtime tormentor.
"They're still a great team," Coles said. "They're still the team to beat until somebody proves otherwise."
Coles gave a rueful smile when it was implied that the Patriots, who have lost Brady, running back Laurence Maroney, safety Rodney Harrison" id="PESPT003022">Rodney Harrison and linebacker Adalius Thomas" id="PESPT007301">Adalius Thomas to injuries, had suffered one personnel hit too many.
"They still do what they do, nothing's changed," Coles said. "They're
going to play their style of football, they're going to run their
plays, they're going do what they do. They're just always going to be
New England. New England doesn't change."
The Jets certainly have this season. How much might be determined tonight.
Jets at New England
TV: Ch. 11, National Football League" id="ORSPT000007">NFL Network
Radio: WEPN (1050), WABC (770), WRCN (103.9)
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS
Coach: Bill Belichick (9th season, 111-43)
They keep losing stars (LB Adalius Thomas this week), yet no one counts the Patriots out from making another Super Bowl" id="EVSPR000004">Super Bowl
trip. "They're capable of plugging people in and keeping the train
going," the Jets' Laveranues Coles said. Rookie free-agent RB BenJarvus
Green-Ellis has five TDs in his six games. And there are still Randy Moss" id="PESPT005235">Randy Moss (43 catches, 4 TDs) and Wes Welker, second in the NFL with 66 catches.
MEET THE ENEMY
QB MATT CASSEL
The Patriots are running a scaled-down version of the offense Tom Brady
ran. But in Sunday's 20-10 win over Buffalo, the playbook was opened up
a bit and Cassel completed 23 of 34 for 234 yards. He's 179-for-267 (67
percent) for 1,800 yards with seven TDs and seven INTs. Many of his
mistakes came when he's been pressured, and he's been sacked 29 times.
OUT: TE Bubba Franks" id="PESPT002376">Bubba Franks (hip), LB David Harris (groin), S Eric Smith (concussion)
QUESTIONABLE: K Mike Nugent (thigh)
PROBABLE: WR Laveranues Coles (thigh), WR Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), WR Brad Smith (shoulder), LB Cody Spencer (shoulder)
OUT: LB Adalius Thomas (forearm), CB Terrence Wheatley (wrist)
DOUBTFUL: RB LaMont Jordan (calf), CB Lewis Sanders" id="PESPT006473">Lewis Sanders (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Eric Alexander (hamstring), RB Sammy Morris" id="PESPT005216">Sammy Morris (knee), G Stephen Neal (knee), DE Ty Warren (groin).
Jets Beat Pats in OT, 34-31
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