No team has had more of a home-field advantage this season than the New England Patriots.
They would like to have that edge throughout the playoffs.
The Patriots, winners of a franchise-record 10 straight, hope to move closer to the top seed in the AFC when they visit the rival New York Jets on Saturday night.
With two games left in the regular season, AFC East champion New England can secure home-field advantage throughout the postseason with wins over the Jets and at home against Buffalo on Dec. 27. The Patriots, already assured of hosting at least one playoff game, share the AFC’s best record with Kansas City but own the tiebreaker over the Chiefs.
Getting two home playoff games would be huge for New England, which is 7-0 this season at Gillette Stadium while outscoring opponents 77-22 in the last five games there. The cold and often snowy conditions in New England have traditionally provided the Patriots with a decided edge over the opposition.
“That’s the environment we want it to be,” guard Damien Woody said. “Win these last two games and have home field throughout the playoffs here? People are going to catch hell coming up here to play.
“We’re at home, we’re in front of our own crowd. That’s a great situation to be in. We know it’s a tough place to play if you’re an opponent.”
While a stifling defense has been the key to New England’s last five home victories, that hasn’t been the case on the road lately. Though they have won four straight on the road, the Patriots have allowed an average of 23.2 points in those games.
A 27-13 victory over Jacksonville on Sunday kept the Patriots perfect at home and was their 10th consecutive win since a 20-17 loss at Washington on Sept. 28.
The Jaguars did become the first visiting team in five games to score a touchdown against New England, which had gone 19 straight quarters at Gillette Stadium without allowing an opponent to reach the end zone.
“We are a very prideful defensive unit,” Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson said. “We may not be perfect, but we’re pretty good.”
Although New York has been eliminated from playoff contention, Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows his team will be in for a difficult challenge Saturday as it tries to sweep the Jets in a season series for the first time since 1996.
“Right now, we’re going on the road against the Jets, a division game,” Belichick said. “Our last two road division games, against Buffalo and Miami, were two of the toughest games of the year. That will be a big challenge for us and that’s really what we’re looking ahead toward. Those streaks or whatever they are, I’m not really too concerned about those.”
The last time these rivals met on Sept. 21, the Jets were without quarterback Chad Pennington and fell to 0-3 with a 23-16 loss. In seven starts since Pennington has returned from a broken left wrist, New York has won four of seven, including a 6-0 victory over Pittsburgh in the snow at Giants Stadium on Sunday.
Pennington failed to throw a touchdown pass for the second straight game, but former Patriot Curtis Martin had one of the best games of his career, rushing for a season-high 174 yards and finishing with 228 all-purpose yards.
Martin became just the second player in NFL history to top 1,000 yards in nine straight seasons to start a career.
While the Jets will not make the playoffs for the first time in three years under coach Herman Edwards, they can still avoid their first losing season since 1996 with wins in their final two games.
“Going 8-8, it’s like kissing your sister, but at least you don’t have a losing record,” Jets center Kevin Mawae said. “That’s what we want to do this year.”
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