Over Brett Favre's 18-year odyssey with the Green Bay Packers, the legendary quarterback had his taste of fierce rivalries. There were the gut-wrenching playoff battles in the frigid air of Lambeau Field, there were heart-throbbing showdowns in the Super Bowl and then there were battles with the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. Those matchups of course, stood aside in their own league and are memories of pain and glory that Favre will never "wipe away" as his Hall of Fame career winds down before its final resting place in Canton, Ohio. Now with the Jets, Favre has stepped foot in another battle of hated division rivals. It does not carry the ancient history of the Packers-Bears, which dates back to 1921 and features an all-time high 175 matchups between the two franchises, but the Jets-Patriots has gained its own meaning.
Jets head coach Eric Mangini described the rivalry as "friendly, warm, goodnatured," following the portrayal with a much-expected laugh to reality. The showdowns are anything but warm to the heart.
"It's a great rivalry. You have two passionate fan bases. It's a division opponent. We see each other all the time. We've played each other so many times over the years. It's always loud [at the Meadowlands] when they come to town. It's always loud there when we come to town," Mangini said.
Although Favre may be a newcomer to the rivalry, he is well aware of what Thursday's battle between the two franchises brings.
"I know exactly what this game means and the weight it carries," Favre said. "I'm well aware of what New England has done over the past decade or so. Once again, it just comes down to football. I'm well aware of what this game means."
Favre's introduction to the Jets-Patriots rivalry blitzed him in early September, when the Patriots traveled into a raucous Giants Stadium and cemented a loud statement with a 19-10 win behind first-time starting quarterback Matt Cassel. It was the Patriots' 11th win in the last 13 meetings with the Jets and it quieted those who questioned the balance of power shifting with one of the game's elite players, quarterback Tom Brady, sidelined for the season. Favre threw for only 181 yards in that first matchup (18-for-26, 181 yards, one touchdown, one interception) and was harassed by a New England defense which blitzed Favre from every angle.
However, alot has happened since. Both teams share identical 6-3 records, each with an eye of first place. Then again, the Patriots still hold that familiar title.
"I think we're still trying to find our identity, for the most part, but with each week, I feel like we're getting better and better. Until we beat these guys, or until anyone beats these guys and knocks them off from the top, then they're always going to be the team to beat," Favre explained.
Heading into the September matchup between the Jets and Patriots, the same message was echoed by New England wide receiver Randy Moss. This time the defending AFC champions have stood silent, but the storylines for them continue. Injuries have bruised and battered the Patriots, but as the five-consecutive AFC East titles prove, New England has reshuffled its stack of cards. In Week Two they were able to pounce on the Jets without Brady, the 2007 NFL MVP. Now Pro Bowl linebacker Adalius Thomas is out for the season with a broken forearm suffered in last week's win over the Bills, presumably leaving the Patriots with a gaping hole in their defense. Even so, Favre knows Belichick is a mastermind in more ways than one.
"They lost A.D. (Adalius Thomas) this past week, (he was) a big addition to them last year. I know Bill is probably saying, 'We just plug another guy in and keep going.' Up to this point, they've done that," Favre said.
The Patriots may have survived until now, but the Jets' delicious opportunity sits directly in front of them. While Favre explained that "there's still a lot of football left after this game," and that both teams cannot "put all your eggs in one basket" he also knows what's at hand.
"The bottom line is we have both put ourselves in a position to take over first place," he said.
Law Signed, Miller Waived
The Jets signed cornerback Ty Law, a 13-year veteran who last played with the Jets in 2005 where he intercepted ten passes and was voted to the AFC Pro Bowl team. Law explained that he was training "every day" and ultimately he wanted to play with "someone I was familiar with, a system I was familiar with." Law explained that he plans on playing Thursday night against New England and it's a challenge he's much anticipating.
"I relish the opportunity, I look forward to the challenge and that is all you can do as a competitor because there has been times throughout my career where I couldn't say that," Law said.
With Law on board, the Jets waived cornerback Justin Miller, who continues to fall since earning a trip to the 2006 Pro Bowl as a kick returner. Miller was originally drafted by the Jets in the second round (57th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft, but he never reached the plateau the Jets had held for him. Miller spent a majority of the 2007 season on Injured Reserve, as he nursed a torn ACL. This season he never stepped on the field, as a foot injury during the preseason curtailed his progress. Mangini explained the decision to waive Miller today.
"With the [defensive backs] that we currently bring to the game, the roles they play on special teams, we have some depth at the outside corner spot. This was more about creating some versatility inside, outside, and in the back end," Mangini said.
Law not only took Miller's roster spot, he also took his #22 which was his jersey number in college. His number 24, that he's worn his entire NFL career, was already occupied by Darrelle Revis.
Revis Knows Law's Impact
One Jet who was particularly excited over Law's welcoming was Revis. Revis, who like Law is from Aliquippa, PA, described Law as a "family friend" and someone who he used to gain insight from since he was drafted by the Jets in 2007. Revis can only see positives from the move.
"It's great. He's a future Hall of Famer. He's been to a number of Pro Bowls, been to a number of championships. He has a lot of knowledge that I can gain and pick his head," Revis said.
Favre Praises Keller
In the Jets' 47-3 blowout victory over the Rams, rookie tight end Dustin Keller set career-highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (yards) in addition to a one-yard touchdown reception. Today Favre praised the rookie for his skills.
"He had a great game last week," Favre said. "One of the things I told him after the game in the locker room, I said, 'I wish I would have had you a few years back."
Did Not Participate: TE Bubba Franks (hip), LB David Harris (groin), S Eric Smith (head)
Limited Participation: WR Laveranues Coles (thigh), WR Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), K Mike Nugent (right thigh), WR Brad Smith (shoulder), LB Cody Spencer (shoulder)
Did Not Participate: RB LaMont Jordan (calf), CB Lewis Sanders (hamstring), LB Adalius Thomas (forearm), CB Terrance Wheatley (wrist)
Limited Participation: LB Eric Alexander (hamstring), RB Sammy Morris (knee), G Stephen Neal (knee), DE Ty Warren (groin)