FOXBORO, Mass. — The AFC East is on the line Monday night, when the Patriots (9-2, 2-1 AFC East) square off against the rival Jets (9-2, 3-0).
The winner will have the inside track at a first-round bye and home-field advantage through the playoffs, while the loser will likely have to pack a suitcase when it comes time for the playoffs in January.
The Pats are undefeated at home while the Jets are undefeated on the road, making this contest a perfect storm in the making.
The Jets lead the all-time series, 51-50-1, including the Patriots’ 2-0 playoff record in the series. The Patriots are 26-24-1 at home against the Jets, including a 6-3 mark at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots have won six of their last eight home games against the Jets, but the Jets have won three of the last four overall meetings in the series. The Patriots are 2-4 against the Jets on Monday Night Football.
The sleek pick for this would be the potential one-on-one battle between Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker and Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, and that will definitely be significant. But the biggest key for a Patriots victory will be containing the Jets’ running game, and that means they’ve got to win the battle at the line.
Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has certainly improved, and he won’t beat himself if he’s not the focal point of the offense. If running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene can pace the offense and put the Jets in short-yardage situations on second and third down, they’ll add to their unpredictability. That’s when Sanchez is at his best, when defenses are overloading against the run, and the Patriots have to make sure they don’t let the Jets’ offense control the tempo of the game.
Quarterback Tom Brady is 13-4 in his career against the Jets, including two playoff wins. He has completed 353-of-565 passes (62.5 percent) for 3,826 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Brady is 9-4 on Monday Night Football, completing 289-of-450 passes (64.2 percent) for 3,342 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
The Patriots are an NFL-best 16-1 at home in December since 2002. No other team has less than four home losses in that span. The Patriots are also an NFL-best 29-5 in all December games since 2002.
The Patriots are 18-22 all-time on Monday Night Football, including an 8-8 mark at home.
Brady has thrown 199 passes without an interception. Since Week 7, 46 players in the NFL have combined to throw 166 interceptions, while Brady hasn’t thrown any.
Running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have combined to rush for 971 yards, 287 receiving yards, 1,258 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns.
The Jets have 24 sacks this season, which is only four more than the Patriots.
Linebacker Jason Taylor has played in 25 games against the Patriots, including one playoff meeting, and he has recorded 13 sacks, 83 tackles, three interceptions, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez is 2-1 in three games against the Patriots, and he has completed 43-of-73 passes (58.9 percent) for 519 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions.
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson has played in eight games against the Patriots, including two playoff meetings, and he has rushed 150 times for 746 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns.
Tomlinson and running back Shonn Greene have combined for 1,316 rushing yards, 398 receiving yards, 1,714 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns. Tomlinson also leads the Jets with 166 rushing attempts and 45 receptions.
From Thursday’s practice report
Quarterback Tom Brady (right foot, right shoulder) was limited and will play.
Defensive lineman Myron Pryor (back) did not participate, and his status is uncertain.
Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip) did not participate, and his status is uncertain.
Defensive lineman Mike Wright (neck, concussion) did not participate and likely won’t play until he practices.
Cornerback Drew Coleman (groin) fully participated and will likely play.
Linebacker David Harris (calf) fully participated and will likely play.
Safety Jim Leonhard (calf) fully participated and will likely play.
Center Nick Mangold (shoulder) fully participated and will likely play.
Linebacker Calvin Pace (foot) fully participated and will likely play.
Defensive tackle Sione Pouha (ankle) fully participated and will likely play.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez (calf) fully participated and will likely play.
Left guard Matt Slauson (knee) fully participated and will likely play.
Wide receiver Brad Smith (back) fully participated and will likely play.
Cornerback Marquice Cole (hamstring) was limited, and his status is uncertain.
Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (groin) was limited, but it’s believed he’ll play.
Defensive end Shaun Ellis (knee) was limited, and his status is uncertain.
Cornerback Dwight Lowery (concussion) was limited, and his status is uncertain.
Tackle Damien Woody (knee) did not practice, and his status is uncertain.
As far as predictions are concerned, you’ll hear two different sides to this week’s story. The Jets are the better team on paper, and that will cause many pundits to pick them in this game. But the Patriots have that immeasurable “it” factor going for them.
Bill Belichick has his team marching together in the right order, and they’ve been able to win a bunch of big games against talented teams in a handful of different ways. Expect the Patriots to do it again this week, as they make the Jets their 10th victim of the season.