TIME: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. EST.
Eleven months ago, the New England Patriots were Super Bowl champions.
Now they are just like nearly every other AFC team—unsure of their playoff chances with two games to go.
Still hoping to defend their AFC East title and return to the postseason, the Patriots play their first of two games against division rivals when they host the New York Jets.
New England has been unable to clinch a return trip to the postseason, but neither has any other team in the AFC. And though five teams in the conference have better records than the Patriots, the defending champs are still in relatively good shape.
The Patriots are a game behind Miami and host the Dolphins in their regular season finale. Wins in both remaining games gives New England a second straight division title.
“It’s a two-game season now,” quarterback Tom Brady said “We could end up 8-8, 9-7 or 10-6. We’re going to go out there and compete.”
Winning even one of those games will be difficult if the Patriots play as poorly as they did Monday in a 24-7 loss to the Tennessee Titans. New England had season lows in points and total yards (176).
“It was a little embarrassing actually,” Patriots tight end Christian Fauria said. “This is probably the worst loss all year.”
Some Jets would probably say the same about their 20-13 loss to the Chicago Bears that could ruin their playoff chances.
New York had won five of six to rebound from a 2-5 start and pull within a game of the division lead, but then seemed to come out flat and was outplayed by an injury-plagued team that had won just one of its previous 11 games.
The Jets can still reach the playoffs, but they now need even more help than before. Both remaining games are against winning teams, so there is little chance of New York overlooking a team again.
“That’s the nature of the NFL, the competitiveness,” quarterback Chad Pennington said. “We have to have our `A’ game every week. We did not have our `A’ game and there is no explanation for it.
New York has won four of the past six meetings and leads the series 46-37-1. However, the Patriots routed the Jets 44-7 early in the season, when New England seemed like a lock to return to the playoffs and New York seemed headed for a last-place finish.
“They’ve really improved since we played them earlier in the year,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “I am sure that will be a tough game Sunday.”
STANDINGS: Jets - 3rd place (tied), AFC East. Patriots - 2nd place, AFC East.
JETS LEADERS: Offense - Pennington, 2,639 passing yards and 15 passing TDs; Curtis Martin, 905 rushing yards and 6 rushing TDs; Laveranues Coles, 78 receptions and 1,093 receiving yards; Wayne Chrebet, 6 receiving TDs. Defense - Sam Cowart, 82 tackles; John Abraham, 8 1/2 sacks; Donnie Abraham, 3 INTs.
PATRIOTS LEADERS: Offense - Brady, 3,410 passing yards and 26 passing TDs; Antowain Smith, 881 rushing yards and 6 rushing TDs; Troy Brown, 87 receptions and 815 receiving yards; Fauria, 6 receiving TDs. Defense - Roman Phifer, 91 tackles; Richard Seymour, 5 1/2 sacks; Terrell Buckley, Ty Law, 4 INTs.
JETS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 98.6 yards per game (24th in NFL); Passing Offense - 208.9 ypg (20th); Total Offense - 307.6 ypg (25th). Rushing Defense - 125.9 ypg (22nd); Passing Defense - 225.9 ypg (22nd); Total Defense - 351.8 ypg (24th).
PATRIOTS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 92.5 ypg (30th); Passing Offense - 231.6 ypg (10th); Total Offense - 324.1 ypg (18th). Rushing Defense - 131 ypg (29th); Passing Defense - 199.4 ypg (11th); Total Defense - 330.4 ypg (16th).
LAST MEETING: Sept. 15; Patriots, 44-7. At East Rutherford, N.J., the Patriots outgained the Jets 432-200 and scored two defensive touchdowns.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Jets - RB Martin has rushed for 100 yards in five of nine career meetings with former team, and Jets are 5-0 in those games. … WR Coles has at least five catches in 11 straight games. … RB Martin needs 95 yards to join Barry Sanders as only players in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in their first eight seasons. Patriots - Patriots are 13-4 since 1993 when temperature at kickoff is 36 or below. … New England has limited New York to 157.7 passing yards in the last three meetings. … QB Brady is 2-0 against the Jets as a starter.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Jets - 3-4 on the road; Patriots - 4-2 at home.
INJURIES: Jets - PROBABLE: DE John Abraham (quadricep); RB Richie Anderson (ankle); WR Chrebet (neck); RB LaMont Jordan (ankle); RB Martin (ankle); WR Santana Moss (ankle); G Dave Szott (knee). Patriots - OUT: CB Otis Smith (shoulder/ injured reserve). QUESTIONABLE: G Joe Andruzzi (knee); WR Deion Branch (leg); LB Tedy Bruschi (knee); TE Cameron Cleeland (groin); TE Daniel Graham (ribs); T Kenyatta Jones (knee); DE Rick Lyle (back).