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Strangers in their own stadium

Coming home again isn't all it's cracked up to be.

The Jets are an NFL-best 5-0 on the road this year, but at their new Meadowlands Stadium home, New York is just 2-2. They have scored just nine points in their two losses to Baltimore and Green Bay.

Home, isn’t so sweet for the Jets and with Houston in town on Sunday, the Jets are hoping to turn that negative trend around.

After years of playing at Giants Stadium, which the team always referred to as ‘The Meadowlands’ in official statements, the new Meadowlands Stadium was designed with a color scheme and branding to provide a more passionate setting for the Jets. Instead of a true homefield advantage, the team has played its two worst games of the season at home and nearly lost a third one to Minnesota, all because of sloppy play.

Jets center Nick Mangold said he has “no opinion” when asked why the Jets have struggled in their new digs.

“When you look at those losses, they’re not a result of a home game or an away game. Those losses were to Baltimore and Green Bay, two very good teams,” Mangold told Metro New York. “You play those games home or away as badly and poorly executed as we did, well, you’re bound to lose.”

Both Baltimore and Green Bay boast 6-3 records, good enough to place them among the top six teams in the league standings and both teams are tied for at least a share of their divisional lead. These were two challenging match-ups for the Jets against teams that many felt were potential Super Bowl sides, let alone teams in the upper half of the league. There is no shame in losing to either team, the Jets say, even if it is at home.

“Those are teams people say should go far and people were talking about in preseason as good teams,” linebacker Calvin Pace said. “So it isn’t a surprise when you lose to them, and when you don’t play well, you will definitely lose to those types of teams. Home or away, it doesn’t matter, you will lose in this league those types of games that we played against Baltimore and Green Bay.”

But for the Jets, the new Meadowlands Stadium might be a little too new for their liking. At the old stadium, the Jets had a comfort level in terms of knowing the field, the notorious wind patterns of the stadium and even the feel of the locker room. In their new home, there is still an acclimation process as the team settles in. The Jets have had the benefit of two preseason and four regular season games at the new Meadowlands Stadium, hardly a thorough understanding of how the facility fits them. They’re still strangers in the place, taking away somewhat of a advantage as the visitors are new to the stadium too.

“I think there’s nothing really to that. The new stadium stopped being new when we played our first game in it,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “So it’s no longer new to us.”

In Week 8, kicker Nick Folk badly missed a field goal in the 9-0 loss to Green Bay. The wind conditions of the new stadium might have had something to do with the effort, which floated well off the mark.

And then there’s the crowd factor. The attendance at the stadium has seen a slight uptick; even in the recession economy as the team is averaging 78,263 fans per game, an increase of a little more than a thousand fans a game over last year’s draw. The old facility was never known to be a particular loud venue or incredibly frothy in the stands and while the New Meadowlands Stadium was built to help hold in the sound, the newness of the facility hasn’t helped things.

In the more spartan Giants Stadium, watching the game and being part of the crowd was the centerpiece of the experience. At the new Meadowlands Stadium, the spacious concourse with amenities and all the perks of a $1.6 billion dollar stadium can distract fans from arriving early for the game. It can also keep them out of their seats – and not to stand and cheer – but rather as they wander the facility in search of the Zagat-rated food.

This weekend, head coach Rex Ryan has called for a “Loud Out,” requesting that fans tailgate early and file in before the game to create a raucous homefield advantage to combat the Jets recently slow starts. The opposition has scored first on the Jets in each of their last three games and Ryan has pleaded with the fans to show up early to help spark the team.

After two straight games away, the road warriors are hopeful that the home cooking will taste good on Sunday against the Texans.

“It’s loud, the fans are really loud when they’re there and it is louder than the old place, for sure,” Ihedigbo said. “But we need to do our part and give them something to cheer about too.”

 
 
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