1:00 PM ET, November 23, 2008
LP Field, Nashville, TN
Not so long ago, Brett Favre and Kerry Collins weren't even expected to be starting this season. Now two of the NFL's oldest and most experienced quarterbacks will square off in the most highly anticipated game of Week 12.
With the New York Jets having ridden Favre's arm to first place and the Tennessee Titans only recently relying more on Collins to stay unbeaten, the team that wins Sunday might be considered the AFC favorite to reach the Super Bowl.
The only AFC team hotter than the East-leading Jets (7-3), winners of four straight and six of seven, and the only one with a better record is their opponent this week. The Titans are looking to become the 13th team in NFL history to open a season 11-0 and the eighth since 1970.
"I think it's a measuring stick for us to find out who we are and what we're capable of doing," said the 39-year-old Favre, who will make his 264th consecutive start.
While this offseason saw Favre retire before his decision to come back led Green Bay to trade him to New York, Collins was preparing to be Vince Young's backup in Tennessee. An injury to Young gave Collins the starting job and he's managed to hang on to it by keeping the Titans undefeated.
The result is Favre, the league's all-time leader in passing yards (63,892) and completions (5,597), going against the man who is third on those lists among active players. Collins, who turns 36 next month, has shown the last two weeks he can still be a difference maker after Tennessee mostly counted on its rushing attack for offense.
Collins has thrown for 519 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in road wins over Chicago and Jacksonville. He hadn't thrown for 200 yards in any of his previous eight games, during which he totaled three TD passes and three interceptions.
"I think he's doing a great job," Favre said. "I can remember playing against Kerry in the championship game in '96, I think, and here we are facing off again. ... I give him a lot of credit."
That meeting in the NFC title game following the 1996 regular season, Collins' second in the league, was the first of four matchups between these quarterbacks and Favre has won them all.
While Tennessee was happy with Collins just managing the offense in most weeks, Favre has become a more efficient signal-caller lately after doing some gun-slinging. He has completed nearly 77 percent of his passes in the last two weeks and did not throw an interception in either game after doing so in seven straight -- he had 12 in that span.
"You can never afford to take a deep breath as long as Brett Favre is on the opposite sideline, that's just how he is," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "You can get up by 45 and he'll come back and beat you by seven, that's just the way Brett's been throughout his career. Not that I'm saying we're going to get up by 45."
Favre's been able to rely more on the rushing attack, which has averaged 163.8 yards and scored eight touchdowns over the last five games. Thomas Jones tops the AFC with 854 rushing yards and will be seeking his third straight 100-yard game after running for 104 in a 34-31 overtime win over New England last week.
That road victory over a Patriots team which had won 10 of the previous 11 meetings has the Jets brimming with confidence heading into Tennessee.
"We're playing the best team in football right now. It'll be a tough test for us, not any tougher than last week based on what's happened here in the past," Favre said. "The most important thing is to have confidence that you can win every game no matter what happens or who you're playing or where you're playing 'em, it can be done."
Favre will be challenged by a Titans defense which has given up the fewest points in the league, is tied for second with 15 interceptions and ranks third in the AFC with 28 sacks -- 10 in the last three weeks. Star defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth has seven sacks and keys a defense which has allowed one 100-yard rusher all season.
The Jets' 34 sacks are second-best in the league behind Pittsburgh (36), though Collins has been sacked only five times all year. He'll be protected by former Jets center Kevin Mawae, whose matchup with New York Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kris Jenkins could be key.
The Titans, who beat New York 10-6 last year to end a three-game skid in the series, have an outside shot to clinch a playoff berth Sunday if they win while Miami, Baltimore and Pittsburgh all lose.
"You know, the Jets are playing real good right now and we're going to have our hands full," Fisher said. "Despite the fact that we've played them the last couple years, they're different. They have a different quarterback under center that makes them special."
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Haynesworth and Jenkins will be in the spotlight
The Jets, coming off a huge win at New England last Thursday and leading the AFC East by a game, have an extra couple days to prepare for this matchup. Tennessee pretty much has the AFC South wrapped up and now looks to lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This will pit a Titans offense that wants to run the ball effectively to set up the pass versus a Jets team that will throw the ball to set up the run.
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|Avg Points Allowed||21.3||15.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NYJ|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NYJ|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|NY Jets leads 3-1|
|Dec 23, 2007||NYJ 6, @TEN 10|
|Sep 10, 2006||NYJ 23, @TEN 16|
|Dec 1, 2003||NYJ 24, TEN 17|