They're division rivals, championship contenders, and they're located in two of the largest media markets in the country. Add up the intertwined drama the Patriots and the Jets have had over the years, and it's no surprise that these two teams don't like each other. However, it's this season and the anticipated battle for the AFC East, and possibly the conference overall, that will make it the NFL's best feud.
The first key ingredient to any major rivalry is an evil figurehead. Patriots fans have an easy target there in Jets head coach Rex Ryan. He's big, he's loud, and he's an egomaniac. Worse yet for New England, he can back up most of what he says. Ryan's exposure is now dramatically increasing as well with each HBO episode of "Hard Knocks," and it's in-depth coverage of the Jets' training camp.
(Ryan's camp-opening speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skctu3UDApI
Ryan's not the only arch-villain in this story though. As passionate as Patriots fans are about Rex, Jets fans feel just the same way, if not stronger, about Bill Belichick. In fact, the hate probably runs deeper because Belichick spurned New York for New England prior to the 2000 season. Since then, he's cemented his place as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFL, using the Jets as a stepping stone to three Super Bowl championships in four appearances.
It's really no surprise the Pats' quarterback Tom Brady "hates the Jets." He should. In addition to battling for the AFC East title this year, both teams have their eyes set on a higher goal as mentioned in Ryan's diatribe above. New England's vastly improving defense hopes to bolster what is typically one of the better offenses in the NFL.
The opposite is true for the Jets. Ryan must add a capable offense to his league-best defense. Second year QB Mark Sanchez will have quality weapons in Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes (after the latter's suspension). However, the team must make up for the loss of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington with second-year back Shonn Greene.
It's not just the personalities and the talent that makes these two teams so perfectly matched against each other. It's also the towns. Boston (or New England) and New York are constantly barking about which is the best sports area. Whether its Sox-Yankees, Celtics-Knicks or even Bruins-Rangers, it seems like if you're looking for a serious rivalry, you'll find it between Beantown and the Big Apple. Plus, the two areas pick up an unusually high amount of notoriety thanks to sports giant ESPN's central location between the two cities.
It's a recipe that should result in great football and great soundbites. The Patriots are the old guard, the seemingly perennial champion looking to maintain their throne and add to their place in NFL lore. The Jets are the feisty upstart, having made their claim to greatness last season, and they're out to prove that it wasn't a fluke. No matter which side comes out on top, football fans should be thrilled that they'll be treated to a new level of ferocity between these two old rivals.
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