Snow may chill game plans but not Pat-Jets tensions
Posted: Friday December 14, 2007 12:57PM; Updated: Saturday December 15, 2007 1:57AM
Thoughts on the upcoming Jets-Patriots game, a.k.a. The Payback Bowl, and other NFL Week 15 topics ...
It was a snow game that truly launched the Patriots dynasty in the 2001 AFC divisional round playoffs against Oakland in old Foxboro Stadium, and we might just have our next freeze-framed moment on tap Sunday afternoon when the Jets visit Gillette Stadium to try and deny New England's bid to join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only two teams in NFL history to start a season 14-0.
Nobody has figured out a way to stop the Patriots passing-game-led offense throughout late summer and all of fall, but a blast of wintry conditions in the form of the white stuff might just go a long way toward leveling the playing field in a game that New England is currently favored to win by a whopping 23 points. Look for that number to plummet dramatically if the early forecasts that are calling for five to eight inches of snow mixed with some rain become the consensus.
You'd feel even a smidge better about the Jets' chances to stay in the game if they weren't so dreadful against the run. If weather doesn't allow for the Patriots to throw the ball much, they can still take solace in knowing that New York is ranked 30th against the run, allowing 141.9 yards per game. New England's offense is averaging 113.7 yards rushing per game, which isn't bad, but it's only the 14th best figure in the league.
While the Patriots are reportedly 9-0 all-time playing in snowy conditions at home, they haven't played in a snow game in more than two years -- beating the Jets 16-3 at Gillette on Dec. 4, 2005. That means they've never experienced the challenge of playing in snow on their FieldTurf playing surface at Gillette, which was installed in November '06, just after the Jets beat New England 17-14 in a game where the chewed-up conditions of Gillette's grass field was a big storyline.
"Any time you play in a bad-weather game, your level of awareness and concentration has to go up,'' Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said this week. "You can't take anything for granted.''
The Patriots taking the Jets for granted -- 3-10 record and all -- just won't happen. Revenge is an overused angle when it comes to pregame chatter in professional sports, but this time, there's something to it. If you thought there was tension between these two head coaches and their teams last year, when all the controversy swirled around an icy post-game handshake, the antipathy and motivational levels are in another league post-Spygate.
The Jets are the team that spawned this all. They were the spark that ignited the Patriots' Sherman-esque march through the NFL this season, with everyone in the New England organization believing that New York ratted them out to the league regarding their video-taping practices in the first half of their season-opening meeting in the Meadowlands.
The loss of a first-round draft pick, the $750,000 in league-issued fines, the taint to their three-time Super Bowl-winning legacy, the embarrassment of being labeled "cheaters'' and having Don Shula hold forth on the possible need for an asterisk being applied to whatever history they make -- it's all directly traceable to the trouble-making Jets in the eyes of the Patriots.