There's a nasty weather forecast for Foxborough today and tonight. Rain all day, with the possibility of some sleet mixed in for good measure, and winds kicking up to 10 or 15 mph. When the Jets and Patriots kick off at 8:15 this evening, the outcome will likely be affected by the conditions.
Both teams will have to hold onto the ball and grind yards out on the ground. Both teams are very capable of pulling that off, which may make Kris Jenkins and Vince Wilfork the two most important players in the game. Whichever one is less successful at throwing the opposition rushing game off track will probably be playing for the losing team.
That relative equality means we've got to turn to the signal callers. The Jets would seem to have the advantage on that front. Not only have they made an effort to corral Brett Favre's worst tendancies for risky throws, he's played as many games in harsh conditions as any quarterback in history. More than any mailman, Favre's credo has been that neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night will keep him from his appointed rounds.
Matt Cassell, on the other hand, hasn't ever played a game in these kinds of conditions. He went to high school in California , which is the last time he started before Week 2 of this season, and all the practice in the world isn't the same thing as starting when the wind is whipping and rain is pelting your helmet. That said, these aren't the 2007 Patriots who flung the ball all over the field. Cassell keeps it simpler than Favre, but you've got to bet on the guy who has been there before.
No matter how bad the weather, the field itself should hold up just fine. The Jets have only themselves to thank for that. After the Jets upset the Pats in 2006 on a muddy track, New England dealt with their embarassment by installing newer, more resillient turf. If they lose this time, the Pats may have a retractable roof before their next home game.