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Beneath the tired storyline of the alleged feud between coaches Eric Mangini and Bill Belichick will be a strategic matchup that will decide the Patriots-Jets wild-card playoff on Sunday. The media cannot get enough of the abbreviated handshake -- some would call it a blow by -- shared by the two men when the Jets downed the Patriots, 17-14, on Nov. 12. The Patriots won the season's first meeting when they held off the Jets in a 24-17 win at the Meadowlands on Sept. 17.

But when the teams take the field in New England on Sunday, that post-game moment and what Belichick thinks of his former assistant will mean next to nothing. Quarterback Chad Pennington, named the comeback player of the year by the AP, won't execute a game plan any better because he thinks his head coach has been spited. If Mangini is more motivated by playing against his former boss, he should check what gets him going for other games. The Jets' game plan may be affected by Mangini's close knowledge of the Patriots, but, with the amount of film coaches watch these days, coaches can deduce most everything about their opponents.

To win this game, New York must cancel New England's advantages. The Patriots sport a strong two-pronged running attack -- Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney -- and a seemingly unflappable quarterback in Tom Brady. That offense was contained and forced into mistakes in November, and the Jets will need to devise a different plan to make sure that can happen again. Belichick is outstanding at re-devising his schemes to adjust to opponents.

On offense, Pennington must stay on his feet. The Patriots will be without star safety Rodney Harrison, but the Jets receiving corps may not be able to exploit that. Instead, they'll likely spread the field for short passes. Pennington will need to read the Patriots' blitzes and disguised coverage to give his team a chance.

The Jets are playing with house money. Making the playoffs was beyond their August expectations, but now that they're where they are, they might as well try to make the most of it.

The Patriots and Jets play at 1:00 pm on Sunday and can be seen on CBS.

Photograph of defensive end Bobby Hamilton in the Hempstead training facility by Ed Betz/AP