By Peter Schwartz
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It’s one of the best days on the calendar. You wake up and watch the parade, spend the day watching football and then devour turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and whatever else tickles your fancy.
For the second time in three years, Jets fans have the added bonus of having their team playing on Turkey Day as they host the Patriots at MetLife Stadium.
“It’s great,” said Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. “Everybody in the country is sitting there with their family, hopefully having a hot meal and the chance to watch the game. It’s nice to be playing on that kind of stage, and I know our guys are up to the challenge.”
It’s a big challenge against a Patriots team that has notched 27 turnovers this season. In fact, the Pats have forced 19 fumbles and recovered 14 of them.
Needless to say, ball control will be very important on Thursday night.
“That’s kind of their M.O. and they’ve always played well,” said Sanchez. “It’s our job to take care of it, score when we get in the end zone and hopefully play well.”
Meanwhile, the Jets’ defense will have their hands full with the number one offense in the NFL. Even with tight end Rob Gronkowski out with a broken arm, the Pats can torch opposing defenses in many different ways.
The Jets are well aware of that and are preparing accordingly. With a short work week, they have the advantage of knowing their opponent very well.
“I think it’s valuable in the fact that you (have) played against a lot of their personnel,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “(Julian) Edelman obviously has had a much bigger role, will step up, and I’m sure will have a much bigger role now that Gronkowski is out. We’ll see how that changes. They have five tight ends on their roster. They have all these wideouts and then they have three running backs. Each guy brings different things to the table.”
At 4-6, the Jets have the same record as they did in 2009 when they rallied to make the playoffs. Coming off a win over the Rams that snapped a three-game losing streak, the Jets have a much better feeling about themselves.
But this week, they step up in competition against their division rivals.
Do the Jets have a chance?
Of course they do. It’s a Jets-Patriots game, so anything can happen in a rivalry contest like this.
“If the Jets run the ball and don’t get into a throwing match, I think they can win the ballgame,” Tony Dungy said this past Sunday during “Football Night in America.”
The Jets are 4-3 all time on Thanksgiving, including a win over the Bengals two years ago. They would like nothing better than to make the Patriots look like turkeys and climb a little deeper out of the hole that they have dug themselves into.
JETS-PATRIOTS ALL-TIME SERIES
The Patriots lead the all-time series, including the postseason, 54-52-1. In the last meeting earlier this season, the Patriots beat the Jets, 29-26, in overtime.
New England has won three straight games against Gang Green and will be looking to cap off their 15th series sweep of the Jets.
Forcing turnovers has been important in deciding recent Jets-Patriots games. The team that wins the turnover battle has won six of the eight games since Ryan became the Jets’ head coach in 2009. That includes the Jets’ playoff win over the Pats in January 2011.
A SPECIAL NIGHT IS PLANNED
The Jets have some announcements for fans attending Thursday night’s game at MetLife Stadium.
Grammy Award winning artist and lifelong Jets fan Lenny Kravitz will perform live at halftime. The show will feature a medley of Kravitz’s hits and will highlight “Like A Jet,” the song he wrote exclusively for the green and white. “Like A Jet” is part of the Pepsi NFL Anthems program, a national campaign that brings to life originally created anthems for seven NFL teams around the league. Fans can get a free download of “Like a Jet” here.
The Jets will honor all of those affected by Hurricane Sandy on Thursday night. The Jets will continue their support by partnering with the American Red Cross to collect monetary donations at all MetLife Stadium gates, with the team matching the total donation, up to $100,000, made by fans that night.
The Jets previously announced that they will also honor 100 first responders during the game. The responders will participate in pregame duties, including holding a field-sized American flag for the playing of the National Anthem to be performed by the Newark Boys Chorus. The team will also honor all those affected by Hurricane Sandy with a moment of silence before the opening kickoff.
Fans attending the game will receive a Jets-branded scarf. 100 lucky fans will have the opportunity to be on the field for the Kravitz halftime performance. The team is encouraging fans to keep their scarves handy and to pay close attention to the video boards during the first quarter of the game for more on this opportunity.
Kickoff on Thursday night is 8:20. The game will be televised on NBC with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on the call.
Over the last five games, Muhammad Wilkerson has notched 37 tackles, two sacks, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery that he returned 21 yards for a touchdown.
Antonio Cromartie has three career interceptions against Tom Brady.
Mark Sanchez has thrown for more than 300 yards in back-to-back games against the Patriots.
Bill Belichick is 4-3 as both a head coach and assistant coach on Thanksgiving Day. He is 2-1 on Turkey Day since becoming the Patriots’ head coach.
The Patriots are 2-2 all-time on Thanksgiving Day.
My record this season is 7-3.
The win over the Rams certainly made the Jets feel a little better about themselves. There’s also no question that their chances of beating the Patriots are better with Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez both out with injuries.
But the problem is that Belichick would like nothing more than making the Jets look like turkeys on Thanksgiving.
PATRIOTS 27, JETS 16
That’s all for now! Check back on Monday for more!
What’s your prediction for the Turkey Day battle, Jets fans? Let us know in the comments section below…