Patriots-Jets Preview

It’s been barely a month since the New York Jets suffered a

third straight loss – at the hands of their archrival, no less –

and had their playoff hopes widely called into question.

Rex Ryan would love nothing more than to give the New England

Patriots the same experience.

The surging Jets, 4-0 at home this season after beating the

Patriots in New Jersey the last two years, have a golden

opportunity Sunday night at MetLife Stadium to send suddenly

struggling New England to its first three-game losing streak in

nine years.

“Both teams are going to be humming for this one, no question,”

Ryan said. “You can sugarcoat it all you want, but they know they

need it and we know we need it. Both teams are going to be

hungry.”

New York (5-3) faced a chorus of critics after it allowed at

least 30 points in three consecutive losses earlier this year,

culminating in a 30-21 defeat in Foxborough on Oct. 9 that dropped

the Jets two games out of the AFC East lead.

Three straight victories later, however, Ryan’s team has

regained a share of first place with the Patriots (5-3) and

Buffalo. New York has allowed just 38 points while forcing eight

turnovers during its win streak, smothering the Bills in a 27-11

road win last Sunday.

“We definitely have been getting better these last three weeks,”

Ryan said. “But we’re going to see how much we’ve improved.”

Defenses have long faced a stiff test against New England, which

still ranks second in the league with 437.3 yards per game.

But the Patriots have failed to score more than 20 points in any

of their last three games. They managed just 213 yards two weeks

ago in a 25-17 loss at Pittsburgh and were shut out in the first

half of last weekend’s 24-20 home loss to the New York Giants.

They also turned the ball over four times against the Giants –

the third time they’ve had that many giveaways this year. Last

season, they had a total of one turnover in their final eight

regular-season games.

Tom Brady already has 10 interceptions – tied for the league’s

third-most – after throwing four all of last season.

“Just decision making,” Brady said. “I’ve just got to make

better decisions.”

The Patriots haven’t lost three in a row since a four-game skid

in 2002 – the last season they failed to win at least 10 games and

the only time a Brady-led team has missed the playoffs.

Bill Belichick’s biggest concern for most of the season has been

his defense, the NFL’s only unit allowing more than 300 passing

yards per game. The Giants stormed down the field to score the

winning touchdown with 15 seconds remaining Sunday.

“I think everybody can do a better job,” Belichick said. “That

includes everybody – it includes me, it includes all the coaches,

it includes all the players. There’s room for improvement for all

of us.”

The Patriots hoped Albert Haynesworth would help when they

acquired the often-troubled defensive lineman in July, but they

released him Tuesday.

Chad Ochocinco is still with the Patriots, but so far the

veteran receiver’s tenure with the team has been equally

unsuccessful. Brady targeted Ochocinco five times last week, but he

failed to catch a pass for the third consecutive game.

“He’s continued to do a great job in practice in his role that

he’s really carved out for himself,” Brady said, “and he’s going to

continue to be out there and, hopefully, make a bunch of

plays.”

New England’s offense has been extremely reliant on Wes Welker

and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who got a combined 25 targets against

the Giants. Welker’s job may be even tougher than usual this week

against All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Although he did manage a 73-yard reception when he was lined up

opposite Revis last month, Welker was otherwise limited to four

catches for 51 yards.

“Sometimes I was throwing him on the ground, sometimes he was

catching some balls on me,” Revis said. “I call him the ‘Energizer

Bunny’ because he never stops – it doesn’t matter what you do to

him, he just keeps on coming and coming.”

Despite the Patriots’ beleaguered pass defense, the Jets may

remain dedicated to their resurgent running game. Led by Shonn

Greene, New York has averaged 130.7 yards on the ground during its

winning streak after averaging 76.2 before that.

The improvement has coincided with the return from injury of

All-Pro Nick Mangold, whom Ryan called “the best center in

football.” Ryan also said the Jets had been throwing the ball more

than they were accustomed to.

“Obviously, we have our identity back,” Greene said.

Ryan may not want to put the game in Mark Sanchez’s hands too

often, but he has five touchdown passes and no interceptions in his

last two starts against the Patriots, including last season’s

playoff upset. Sanchez is also 2-0 at home against New England,

posting a 114.5 passer rating.