Of course, this Patriots season has taught us to take nothing for granted, New England entering Week 7 on Sunday with a pedestrian and seemingly impossible 3-3 record. The Jets come in with an identical bottom line. And yet, the simple truth is that the Patriots should win this game and win it relatively easily, and everybody knows it.
No matter what they are all saying.
"I know we’ve played them seven times since I’ve been here -- they’ve won four, we’ve won three [including the postseason]," Ryan told reporters this week. "I think it’s a pretty good match-up. I think it’s a little closer than maybe the general public realizes. The fact we got slaughtered 45-3 [in 2010] probably tilted that a little bit. I think we’ve played a little closer games than maybe what it looks like on the scoreboard at the end of the game. And really, that’s all that matters, but I’ve always felt that, 'OK, I want another shot at them.' Well, that’s what this week’s all about. We get that opportunity and we’ll find out who the better team is on this particular day."
Ryan's sentiments included, there really has not been much rhetoric from the typically loose-lipped Jets this week, which should tell you plenty. This year more than any other behind the boisterous Ryan, the Jets look like a team in the midst of a confidence crisis. New York's three wins this season have come against Buffalo, Miami, and Indianapolis, the losses against Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Houston. The Jets have beaten the bad teams and been exposed by the good ones, and their offense generally has looked inept against teams with any semblance of defense.
Whether the Patriots qualify in that last category is still open to debate, but all of the typical indicators tily in the favor of New England this week. The Patriots are coming off a disappointing loss in which they had yet another fourth-quarter collapse. The Patriots are at home. The Jets rank 20th in the league in scoring offense, 29th in total offense, a dreadful 30th in passing offense. Minus Darrelle Revis, the Jets defense has slipped to the middle of the pack in the NFL and New York has been positively atrocious against the run.
Exactly how is New York going to win this game? Is there any possible way? And before anyone suggests the same was said when the Patriots landed in Seattle last week, there are important differences. The Seahawks possess what now appears to be an elite defense. The Seahawks were at home. The Jets will benefit from neither of those factors on Sunday, where they are likely to encounter a Patriots team foaming at the mouth.
Ryan knows this -- as do his players -- though the Jets, like the Patriots, have enough problems of their own than to put the onus too much on the opposition. Not so long ago, Jets defensive back Antonio Cromartie was crudely, crassly, and tactless comparing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with unflattering parts of the human anatomy, now he is referring to the Patriots as "America's Team." The skeptic might think the Jets were playing possum as they enter Foxborough this week, but the absence of any real brashness from New York again suggests something altogether different.
The Jets are badly flawed and they know it. In that way, they are the NFL's answer to the 2012 Red Sox. New York crumbled at the end of last season and took no real steps to address its core issues, unless once considers the addition of Tim Tebow a miracle cure.
Tebow has a better attitude than Bobby Valentine, to be sure, but he otherwise made little sense. The Red Sox took a controversial manager and injected him into an unstable environment. And the Jets have done the same with Tebow.
Do not misunderstand here. No one is saying the Jets need to be brash in order to win. Rather, we are saying that when the Jets are good, they know it and feel compelled to let everyone else know it, too. No team in the NFL does a poorer job of concealing its emotions than the Jets, who, like their coach, typically wear their hearts on their sleeves. And right now, the Jets aren't exactly exuding confidence.
The Patriots, on the other hand, are dripping with anger and frustration, as well they should be. Three losses by a total of four points will do that to a team, particularly one with Brady and Bill Belichick. The Patriots should be frustrated by their failures. They should be out for blood. Regardless of whatever injuries the Patriots are dealing with -- and they seem to be mounting -- they have far too much talent and experience -- in uniform and on the coaching staff -- to be losing to teams like Arizona and Seattle, at home or on the road.
Are those teams improved? Sure. But the Patriots have been at the top of the NFL food chain for more than a decade now, meaning that victory often comes down to imposing their will.
This week certainly feels like one of those weeks. On top of it all, the Jets look rather ripe. One week ago at this time, Ryan was answering a seemingly unending list of questions about his quarterback situation. Then the Jets beat the Colts. Now New York comes into Foxborough following a rather deep exhale, all as the Patriots look ready to explode.
Maybe it's just me, but this sure feels like a blowout waiting to happen.
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