After winning five consecutive AFC East titles, a sixth one was supposed to be a lock for the winning machine known as the Patriots. That is, until parity came to town, giving all four members a legitimate shot at it just after the midway point of the season. New York faces off with the Pats Thursday evening on NFL Network, a primetime game in the national spotlight, something the Jets haven’t been a part of in a while.
Speaking on behalf of what has changed since week 2, Laveranues Coles kept it simple.
“I don’t know,” he said when asked about why the Patriots have been so good despite key losses such as Tom Brady, RB Laurence Maroney, S Rodney Harrison, and LB Adalius Thomas.
“They’re gonna play their style of football, they’re gonna run their plays. They’re gonna do what they do. They’re just always gonna be New England.”
While New England has consistently been New England, New York comes into Thursday night’s showdown after a noticeable makeover from the Jets that have lost 13 of the last 15 meetings with the Patriots.
There is the obvious spending spree that owner Woody Johnson went on, acquiring Alan Faneca, Calvin Pace, Kris Jenkins, Brett Favre et al. but just between week 2 and now, the Jets have been coming together, having won three straight and four of their last five.
Favre has orchestrated game-winning/clinching drives against Kansas City and Buffalo, and has only thrown one interception in his last two games. In fact, he hasn’t been sacked in his last two games, a credit to the offensive line that has been superb in protecting the elderly quarterback as well as clearing holes the size of Mack trucks for Thomas Jones who leads the AFC in rushing with 750 yards through nine games.
Mixing the run game with the passing game is an important aspect of the Jets offensive strategy, and both will need to be firing on all cylinders if the Jets are to hang tough against the bullies of the AFC East.
“At times you see, like last week with our run game, the potential there,” Favre said. “I think you can see against Arizona how we can be in the passing game. If we can put that together, on a consistent basis, not that you are going to rush for 200 (yards) and throw six touchdowns every week, but (it shows) how potentially threatening we can be from a run game and a pass game standpoint.”
The mood in the locker room Wednesday was palpable before practice, almost a calm-before-the-storm sense.
“We feel pretty confident going into this game,” Chris Baker said. “It’s a big game obviously. The winner of this game takes control of this division.
“Absolutely,” Baker answered when asked if he wants to be there. “That’s what you play for, to distance yourself going into the playoffs and be on top of the division. It’s right there in front of us so we have to just go and take it.”
A win would certainly go a long way to solidifying the Jets as the top dogs of the AFC East, a world that has been ruled by the Patriots. With Buffalo 0-3 against division opponents and Gang Green having beaten Miami already, a win against New England would bode well should a final playoff spot or the division title come down to a tie-breaker.
A Tough Place to Win, To Say the Least
Since opening Gillette Stadium at the beginning of the 2002 season, the Patriots are 50-10 (.833) at home, good for the NFL’s best home record since Gillette’s first season.
The Patriots have had three undefeated seasons at Gillette Stadium (2003, 2004 and 2007) and own a perfect 7-0 playoff record at the venue.
The Jets are 2-5 against New England at Gillette Stadium.
Revis Gets Vertical
When talking with a reporter about his vertical leap, CB Darrelle Revis put his on display in the locker room, jumping high enough to touch the ceiling.
Revis hollered across the locker room to teammate and fellow Aliquippa native Ty Law, asking him what his vertical is, to which Law responded, “A phone book.” Law opted not to put his hops on display, saving it for Thursday’s game at New England.