Pats, Jets still ex­pect close one

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Den­nis Waszak Jr.

When the NFL sched­ule was re­leased in April, two late-sea­son show­downs be­tween the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots and New York Jets made for some pos­si­ble in­trigue in the race for AFC East supremacy. Well, not even close. Tom Brady’s bunch is rolling to­ward its eighth straight di­vi­sion ti­tle and 13th in 14 years. Mean­while, Ryan Fitz­patrick and the sput­ter­ing Jets (3-7) are look­ing at a sixth con­sec­u­tive sea­son with­out a play­off ap­pear­ance.

The game even got flexed out of a prime-time slot on Sun­day night. That doesn’t mean that Bill Belichick and the Pa­tri­ots (82) are tak­ing their lat­est matchup at MetLife Sta­dium lightly.

“It’s al­ways a tough game,” Pa­tri­ots safety Devin McCourty said. “I think Bill said that seven of the last eight games are like one score or over­time that we played them. It’s go­ing to be a tough chal­lenge be­cause I think both teams know each other well.”

New Eng­land has won eight of the past 10 meet­ings, but New York came away with a 26-20 over­time vic­tory last De­cem­ber. The Jets are look­ing to beat the Pa­tri­ots in two straight for the first time since win­ning the last matchup in 2008 and the first of the 2009 sea­son, which would be a rare pos­i­tive in a dis­mal sea­son so far.

“I think it would be, es­pe­cially them be­ing one of the top teams in the league now, this would def­i­nitely give us more con­fi­dence, I feel, as a team com­ing out with a win on Sun­day,” Jets cor­ner­back Dar­relle Re­vis said. “I think we’d be able to feed off that.”

And, Belichick is right: Other than a 49-19 drub­bing by New Eng­land in 2012, the teams have been closely matched lately. There have been mar­gins of one point (Pa­tri­ots 17-16, 2014), two points (Pa­tri­ots 27-25, 2014), and three by three points (Pa­tri­ots 29-26 in OT, 2012; Pa­tri­ots 13-10, 2013; Jets 3027 in OT, 2013). There were New York’s six-point win last De­cem­ber and a seven-point Pa­tri­ots win (30-23) in the first meet­ing last sea­son.

“Ev­ery­thing we do this week is go­ing to be very im­por­tant to­ward the out­come,” Belichick said, “based on how tight all of those other games have been.”

Here are some things to know for the lat­est Pa­tri­ots-Jets

matchup, in which a New Eng­land vic­tory would make it the first for­mer AFL fran­chise with 500 to­tal wins:

BRADY KEEPS ROLLING: Af­ter sit­ting out the first two prac­tices with a knee ail­ment, Brady was back on Fri­day .

The Pa­tri­ots star is hav­ing a fan­tas­tic sea­son and could tie Pey­ton Man­ning for the most to­tal wins by a QB with 200. He also needs just 57 yards pass­ing to be­come the fifth player in NFL his­tory to reach 60,000. Oh, and an­other win over the Jets would give him 22 against his ri­vals, join­ing Brett Favre as the only quar­ter­back with at least that many against two teams.

“We all know what a great player he is and even in a his­tor­i­cal con­text what a great player he is,” Fitz­patrick said. “But to be able to take the hits week af­ter week and con­tinue to be out there ... it’s amaz­ing to see a guy like that, that just looks bet­ter than ever.”

FITZ IS BACK: Af­ter sit­ting out a game with a sprained left knee, Fitz­patrick re­turns as the Jets’ start­ing quar­ter­back.

Bryce Petty, who filled in for a game while mak­ing his first NFL start, re­turns to the side­line. While some fans and me­dia think it’s the wrong move by Todd Bowles, the coach in­sists he wants to win and be­lieves Fitz­patrick gives the Jets the best chance to do so against the Pa­tri­ots.

“I’m not into the other ar­gu­ment right now,” Bowles said of those who think New York should give Petty play­ing time to de­velop. “I’m into win­ning ball­games.”

LOTS OF OP­TIONS: The Pa­tri­ots’ of­fense got a boost last week when run­ning back Dion Lewis re­turned at San Fran­cisco af­ter hav­ing surgery for a torn knee lig­a­ment last year.

Lewis was on the field for 21 of 76 of­fen­sive snaps in New Eng­land’s win over the 49ers, giv­ing the Pa­tri­ots three run­ning back op­tions — along with LeGar­rette Blount and James White — in the game plan for re­ally the first time this sea­son.

“We’ve got three guys that all have dif­fer­ent roles and I think that all three guys im­pacted the game in a pos­i­tive way, whether that was with the ball or with­out it,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Josh McDaniels said. “We’ll try to build off of that, but I have con­fi­dence in all three

of those guys and look for­ward to con­tinue to use all three of them the best we can each week.”

THIRD-DOWN PROW­ESS: Whether it has been the re­turn of Brady to the of­fense or tweaks in the play call­ing, one big com­po­nent in New Eng­land’s of­fen­sive suc­cess over the past month has been its pro­duc­tion on third down. The Pa­tri­ots rank se­cond in the NFL, con­vert­ing on 65 of 134 (48.5 per­cent) at­tempts.

Belichick is ex­pect­ing a lot of dif­fer­ent looks and blitzes from the Jets. That could mean even more use for Danny Amen­dola, who has been one of Brady’s goto re­ceivers both on third down and in the red zone.

“He’s a re­ally de­pend­able, con­sis­tent player; tough,” Belichick said. “He seems like he al­ways has his best plays in those crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions when you need them most.”

WILFREDO LEE — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

New York Jets quar­ter­back Ryan Fitz­patrick looks to pass dur­ing the first Nov. 6 against the Mi­ami Dol­phins in Mi­ami Gar­dens, Fla. Fitz­patrick will be the Jets’ start­ing quar­ter­back to­day against the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots.

BEN MARGOT — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady (12) yells while warm­ing up be­fore a game against the San Fran­cisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., on Nov. 20. The Pats face the Jets to­day.

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