FOXBORO, Mass.- The Patriots are preparing for what may be the best defense against Peyton Manning and his speedy receivers: a slippery field.
The team left the Gillette Stadium grass uncovered through Wednesday's rain and Thursday's fog. With more rain or snow expected today and freezing temperatures for the weekend, the Colts' prolific offense could find the footing funky in Sunday's game.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows a cold front may be as critical as his three-man defensive front in slowing the Colts. But he certainly wouldn't turn the field into an ice rink or a quagmire just to help his team, would he?
"My job is not to pull weeds," he said with an innocent-looking smirk. "I have a lot of other things to do. Or rake the field and all of that. I'm sure that will all be taken care of."
NFL rules say the field should be covered on the day and night before a game if there is any chance of precipitation.
JETS: Chad Pennington's stomach settled down.
There never was any doubt about Pennington's availability for Saturday's game in Pittsburgh, but his return to practice after a one-day absence certainly calmed many a nerve in New York.
Coach Herm Edwards said "everyone is relieved," and several players joked about Pennington's stomach virus, which made national headlines.
"I disinfected my hands when he threw the ball to me," receiver Justin McCareins said, smiling.
Even Pennington managed a crack.
"I had the guy from the Green Mile come by, and he got it all out of me, so I feel pretty good," said the quarterback, referring to the 1999 movie in which the hulking Michael Clarke Duncan plays a prison faith healer.
John Abraham will miss his second straight playoff game, and there is no guarantee the defensive end will be able to suit up if the Jets advance to the AFC Championship Game.
"He can't really athletically play his position the way he's capable of playing it. That's not good for the player, and it's not good for the football team," Edwards said.
STEELERS: Linebacker Kendrell Bell missed practice with the flu and was downgraded to questionable.
"Kendrell's flu is pretty significant," coach Bill Cowher said. "We'll see where he is in two days."
Linebacker Joey Porter returned after sitting out Wednesday's practice, also with the flu. Bell is the only Steelers player who is not listed as probable or better.
"You want to get everyone's best regardless. This is the playoffs and guys are going to come out to play. The time is now, the talk is over," Porter said.
Bell has missed all but three games with a sore shoulder and groin injury. Bell has been replaced by Larry Foote, who may have started even if Bell were healthy.