FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- So, Tom Brady, what did the New York Jets do to frustrate you the last time you saw them?
"You guys wouldn't even understand if I told you," the New England Patriots quarterback said with a smile last week. "They change it up [how their defense looks] a bunch. They are a multiple-front team, multiple blitzers, safeties, everyone's involved, corners, safeties, linebackers. They create a bunch of negative plays. That's really what they've done the last six or seven weeks since they played us. They have obviously been one of the best defensive teams the second half of the year [allowing an average of 12.7 points in their past eight games], so I wouldn't expect that to change."
Can there be any bigger pain for Bill Belichick than having to deal with his former prize pupil, Eric Mangini, for the third time?
"We've seen all their plays this year. I'm sure they've seen all of ours," Belichick said. "Everyone knows each other pretty well. [As a coach,] you've got to be careful about overanalyzing things."
These AFC East rivals hardly need a bye week to prepare for each other, although that's what Mangini had before the Jets won, 17-14, at Gillette Stadium Nov. 12 to end a seven-game losing streak to the Patriots. That game was played on a sandpit of a field so horrid that owner Bob Kraft had it replaced by artificial turf.
Aside from the field, the next most obvious difference from then and today is that the loser's season is over, and the winner heads to San Diego to play the Chargers.
The Patriots might not have been at their best when the teams met in November, a week after losing 27-20 to the Indianapolis Colts.
The Patriots again will be without safety Rodney Harrison today - his season is over after injuring his right knee last Sunday in Tennessee. He also missed the last Jets game, then because of a broken right shoulder blade.
But today, the Patriots will have defensive end Ty Warren, who missed the Nov. 12 game with a calf injury, the only game he has missed in four seasons.
Now Warren, the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for December, is healthy. When he wasn't, the Patriots moved Richard Seymour from right defensive end to Warren's left spot.
With his left arm wrapped like a mummy's because of an elbow injury, and further bothered by a less-publicized thigh injury, Seymour's play against the Jets was so uneventful that, even with Warren out, Belichick kept his five-time Pro Bowl player out for 20 of the Jets' 63 plays.
Belichick, who will never publicly criticize his players, later said Seymour's time on the sidelines was just part of the Patriots' normal rotation. After the game, Seymour said the Patriots were "outplayed and outcoached." In a conference call with Jets beat reporters last week, Seymour said that those comments were "heat of the moment" stuff.
But the Patriots also had nose tackle Vince Wilfork and tight end Benjamin Watson healthy in that game, but neither has played since being injured Dec. 10 in Miami.
Wilfork and Watson, the team's leading receiver when he was injured, practiced some last week - but that hardly guarantees that they will play, or more important, be effective.
To be eliminated by Mangini's underdog Jets at Gillette would surely go down as one of the worst days in Belichick's 32 years in the NFL.
"He always prepares us pretty well," Brady said of Belichick. "He [gave us] a great synopsis of their team and understands really well what gets you beat and also what can make you successful. He does a great job of communicating to the team in, I wouldn't say that it is a simple way, but in a way that it's not completely overwhelming. You just have to handle a bunch of things they do really well and try to eliminate some of the mistakes that got us beat the last time."
Alan Greenberg writes for The Hartford Courant.