FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Brett Favre isn't trying to fake it.
"Well, it feels different, obviously, because it's not ... I played 16 years straight in the Metrodome, 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'sAFC East first-place showdown between the 6-3 Jets and 6-3 Patriots.
"I know exactly what this game means, the weight it carries," Favresaid Tuesday. "I'm well aware of what New England has done over thepast decade or so. Once again, it just comes down to football. I'm wellaware of what this game means."
As does everyone else involved with the Jets, who have been dominatedby their hated rival since Bill Belichick took over in New England in2000. The Patriots have won 13 of the 15 meetings, though Favre hasbeen there for only one of them.
That was a 19-10 loss in Week2, Matt Cassel's first start as Tom Brady'sreplacement. The game is remembered for Favre's third-quarterinterception that led to a Patriots' touchdown and the Jets failing onthree straight 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 believeshe's also made strides, his recent title of "game manager" aside. "Ithink I'm up to date, for the most part, on what they're doing," Favresaid of the difference in comfort with the offense he feels between nowand Week 2.
General manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Eric Manginiswung the deal for Favre not with this game specifically in mind, butone like it. They brought the future Hall of Famer to New York not onlyto put the Jets in position to play in a meaningful game like this, butto 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 mayhave been why we brought [nose tackle] Kris Jenkins in. Let's put itoff on Kris."
But Favre knows better, as do his teammates, who yesterday expressed acertain trust in going into a hostile environment with someone who hasplayed 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 likethat is leading your team," said rookie tight end Dustin Keller, whohad his first 100-yard game Sunday against the Rams.
Tackle 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 todirect traffic, someone who's been in these pressure-type situationsthat 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 and Laveranues Coleshave. The Jets have oozed looseness and confidence during this shortwork 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 and linebacker Adalius Thomas to injuries, had suffered one personnel hit too many.
"They still do what they do, nothing's changed," Coles said. "They'regoing to play their style of football, they're going to run theirplays, they're going do what they do. They're just always going to beNew 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, 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 Bowltrip. "They're capable of plugging people in and keeping the traingoing," the Jets' Laveranues Coles said. Rookie free-agent RB BenJarvusGreen-Ellis has five TDs in his six games. And there are still 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 Bradyran. But in Sunday's 20-10 win over Buffalo, the playbook was opened upa bit and Cassel completed 23 of 34 for 234 yards. He's 179-for-267 (67percent) for 1,800 yards with seven TDs and seven INTs. Many of hismistakes came when he's been pressured, and he's been sacked 29 times.
OUT: TE 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 (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Eric Alexander (hamstring), RB Sammy Morris (knee), G Stephen Neal (knee), DE Ty Warren (groin).Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times