It’s a Perfect Setup for Jets and Patriots

Times Staff Writer

The Times’ rating scale for this week’s games:

**** -- Don’t miss a down.

*** -- Could be good.

** -- Who let the dogs out?

-- Stupor Bowl.


It’s not exactly Boston vs. New York. It’s Foxboro, Mass., vs. East Rutherford, N.J.

But with both the New England Patriots and New York Jets taking the field in Foxboro on Sunday with 5-0 records, both the adrenaline and decibel levels could be second only to a Red Sox-Yankee baseball series.

There’s no curse in this rivalry stretching back to 1918. It just seems that way to Jet fans, who have been waiting 36 seasons for someone other than Joe Namath to stick their finger in the air and proclaim they are No. 1. They haven’t reached the Super Bowl since 1969 when Namath led the Jets to the upset victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

No such dry spell for the Patriots, who have won two of the last three Super Bowls and a league-record 20 consecutive games.


Sunday’s game will be only the fourth time in league history teams with perfect records of at least 5-0 have faced each other. It is also only the third time two teams in the same division have started 5-0.

New England has won 12 consecutive home games, last losing to ... the Jets in December 2002.

Many teams don’t like to play in Foxboro, which can match Green Bay when it comes to frozen tundra. But you’ll hear no complaints from the Jets, who have won five of the last six games they have played on the Patriots’ home turf.

* St. Louis at Miami, 10 a.m. -- How good has the Ram ground game become? So good that Marshall Faulk, once the team’s only viable option, now has to share the carries and the glory with rookie Steven Jackson. As strong as the Ram rushing attack is, that’s how weak Miami’s is. How bad has the Dolphin ground game become? So bad Miami has to hope Ricky Williams can somehow talk the NFL into letting him come back.

*** Detroit at New York Giants, 10 a.m. -- This game will be won or lost when the Giants’ Tiki Barber has the ball. He’s averaging six yards a carry, a career best, and has already rushed in triple figures four times this season. The Lions have not allowed 100 yards to an opposing rusher this season.

* Buffalo at Baltimore, 10 a.m. -- The Bills are coming off their first victory of the season -- over the dreadful Dolphins. Now they catch the Ravens without running back Jamal Lewis, who is serving a two-game suspension after pleading guilty in court to using a cellphone to facilitate a drug deal. Chester Taylor (164 yards, 5.9 average) is expected to start in his place.


** Atlanta at Kansas City, 10 a.m. -- The Chiefs have won four of five games in this rivalry, but this is a different season in terms of both clubs’ fortunes. Michael Vick is flying and Dick Vermeil is crying. With the league’s best defense against the rush and the third-ranked rushing attack on offense, Atlanta is seeking to go 6-1 for the first time in franchise history.

**** Jacksonville at Indianapolis, 10 a.m. -- Colt quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown 14 touchdown passes -- that’s more than 22 teams. He has already proved what he can do against the Jaguars, having handed Jacksonville its first defeat of the season three weeks ago.

* Chicago at Tampa Bay, 10 a.m. -- In the state where Mark Clayton became famous for catching touchdown passes from fellow Dolphin Dan Marino, another Clayton, Michael, was a star on “Monday Night Football” last week when he caught eight passes for 142 yards for the Buccaneers. Those totals stretched over a season might be good enough to keep a guy employed by the Bears.

*** San Diego at Carolina, 10 a.m. -- Showing they are serious about a more balanced offense, the Chargers made a trading-deadline deal for holdout receiver Keenan McCardell. The Panthers would be happy if they could just bring in reinforcements from their long injured list.

**** Philadelphia at Cleveland, 10 a.m. -- While either the Patriots or Jets will drop from the ranks of the unbeaten, unless there’s a tie, the Eagles are showing no signs of dropping into the loss column. They are trying to become the seventh team in league history to win each of their first six games by a double-digit margin. That could be difficult against a Brown team that has given up an average of only 11 points a game at home.

** Tennessee at Minnesota, 10 a.m. -- The big question about this game can be found in the “questionable” category of this week’s injury list. Titan running back Chris Brown and Viking receiver Randy Moss, each the key to their team’s offense, came out of last week’s games with injuries. Brown has a damaged shoulder, Moss a pulled hamstring. Both have sat out practices this week. Will both sit out the game? Or, will one of them play and make a difference? Questions, questions.


**** New York Jets at New England, 1 p.m. -- The team left standing after Sunday could be the one with the stronger legs. Each offense is powered by a rejuvenated running back. The Jets’ Curtis Martin, 31, a former Patriot, is running like the Martin of old with a league-leading 613 yards. Corey Dillon, thrilled to be out of Cincinnati, has rushed for 522 yards.

** Seattle at Arizona, 1:15 p.m. -- It’s the battle of the football dinosaurs. With no other acceptable options, the Cardinals are trying to squeeze yards out of 35-year-old Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. The Seahawks are hoping to squeeze a few more yards out of 42-year-old Jerry Rice, the league’s all-time leading receiver.

* New Orleans at Oakland, 1:15 p.m. -- With quarterback Rich Gannon out for the season, the Raiders are officially done. The Saints have the same dismal record as Oakland, but with Deuce McAllister back in their backfield after recovering from a sprained ankle, they have more hope.

*** Dallas at Green Bay, 1:15 p.m. -- With his season about to slip completely away, Brett Favre got a victory last week in Detroit. Now he needs to win in the no-longer-friendly confines of Lambeau Field. The Packers are 0-3 at home for the first time since 1988. Dallas Coach Bill Parcells had high praise for Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last week. Hope Parcells saved some superlatives for Favre.

** Denver at Cincinnati, Monday, 6 p.m. -- Bengal quarterback Carson Palmer says he can’t believe his team is 1-4. So he should be really shocked when Cincinnati falls to 1-5. It seems no matter which running back Bronco Coach Mike Shanahan puts in his backfield -- Reuben Droughns is the latest with 369 yards in the last two weeks -- the results are spectacular. Or maybe Shanahan is just putting the same guy back there in different numbered jerseys.