In addition to the Pats' usual weapons, the Jets now have to deal with talented RB Corey Dillon. (AP Photo)
If you have paid any attention to the National Football League over the past two seasons you already know the New England Patriots are the standard. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has constructed a deep, well rounded team that knows how to win. As they continue to raise the bar, with 20 consecutive wins, the Patriots have come to define the word team.
Despite the accolades and media hype surrounding the Patriots record setting 20-straight wins over a period of two years, the standings still show a tie for first place in the AFC East, between the 5-0 New York Jets and the 5-0 Patriots.
Sunday the undefeated Jets will storm into Gillette Stadium primed for their chance to knock off the defending Super Bowl Champs. “We know what we’re facing,” said Jets head coach Herman Edwards. “The best team in football.”
This is a chance for the Jets to show what they are truly made of. To prove to all the naysayers, they are better than the team that blew a 14 point fourth quarter lead to Buffalo, or the lethargic, uninspired squad that showed up in the first half against San Francisco. Opportunity is knocking on the Jets front door, and they better be ready to answer.
But this is a different Jets team than those from years past. This is a team with leaders. Leaders, such as Chad Pennington, who stepped up in last weeks come back against the 49ers. Pennington and defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson demanded better play from the team, and they responded by dismantling the 49ers, 19-0 in the second half.
This is a younger, faster, more athletic team. No longer do Jet fans have to sit back and watch Marvin Jones and Mo Lewis drop back into those huge underneath zones, without enough speed to cover half of their assignment. Now, Jet fans can watch rookie LB Jonathan Vilma flash sideline-to-sideline speed, and track down running backs before they can turn the corner.
This is a team that, unlike most Jet teams, is finding a way to win. While they have had trouble finishing off teams, the Jets have not let victory slip from their grasp. The Jets, like the Patriots, have found ways to make the plays that win the game. The Jets have stared defeat in the face and have, each time, prevailed victorious.
Coming up with big plays to win games is nothing new for the Patriots. This week’s game is about which team will make that play.
The Jets will come into Sunday’s game with the 11th ranked defense in the NFL allowing 17 points per game. They are also number one in the AFC in turnover ratio, at plus nine and after being sieve-like against the run the past few seasons they are now ranked 8th in the league and have yet to surrender a 100 yard rushing performance by any running back they have faced in 2004.
The Jets defense will have to slow QB Tom Brady and the rest of the explosive New England offense. Brady, like Pennington, is excellent at spreading the ball around and rarely makes mistakes. He is the catalyst to the NFL’s 12th ranked offense.
One major change to the New England offense is the addition of RB Corey Dillon. As mentioned the team has improved dramatically against the run this season but the Jets will have their hands full against the talented Dillon and the excellent Pats offensive line. New York must contain Dillon, especially on first-down, in order to win the time-of-possession battle. The Jets have won time-of-possession in each of their first five games.
The one thing the Patriots will not do is come out flat, like the Jets did last week versus the 49ers. Belichick is one of the best coaches at preparing his team each week. He is the driving force behind New England’s 20-straight wins. The Pats’ Coach has also proved he is one of the best game day coaches in the league, something that is not considered Edwards greatest attributes.
“They’re very well coached,” said Edwards of the Patriots. “They play the game as it’s being played, and know how to change their game plan and find ways to win.”
>p>Edwards is downplaying the match up of unbeatens. “This is not the game of games,” said Edwards. “We have 11 games left.”
What Edwards has not been down-playing all season is making history. With a win against the Patriots the Jets will do just that. This will be the first Jets team to start a season 6-0. This will be the team that dethroned the record setting Patriots. A win surely sends a message to the NFL that the NY Jets are for real and are a force to be reckoned with in 2004.