The best place to be is when expectations are high.
That's what Rex Ryan said to his New York Jets in training camp on HBO's Hard Knocks. Well now those expectations are about as high as they've ever been for the Jets and their fanbase.
At 9-2, and fueled by all the preseason talk about a Super Bowl, Jets fans that have been starving for a Super Bowl since 1969 are not only wishing for a victory against the Patriots in Foxboro this weekend, but are expecting it.
Go to any Jets message board. Talk to any Jets fan. It's obvious that the entire fanbase expects a win on Monday Night in the hardest of environments: on the road at Foxboro where Tom Brady hasn't lost in 25 regular season games.
But guess what? Brady and the Patriots' last home loss was to the Jets and that impressive win streak at home drops to five games if you include last season's playoffs in which the Patriots lost 33-14.
These Patriots, especially against the Jets, are not nearly as invincible at home as most like to make them out to be.
And every Jets fan knows it.
That's why Rex Ryan and the Jets must deliver on Monday night. Let's forget about the implications of losing. Sure the Patriots would be in first place in the AFC East and in the fast lane for the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs.
But this game means way more to the Jets than it does for the Patriots and their fans for the simple fact that it has exponentially greater meaning to the Jets franchise and its fans than it does for the Patriots and their fans.
Why? Because the Patriots won three Super Bowls in the past decade and have either come in first place or tied for first place in the AFC East throughout the last decade.
Even if it is kind of grating for Jets fans to admit, the once moribund Patriots have far surpassed the Jets in franchise lore in the past decade.
Cheatriots, Bill Belicheat, etc...we've heard them all. All futile, jealous and purposeless attempts to minimize the Patriots success over the past decade.
The only remedy for that bitter feeling Jets fans have had in their chests the past decade—"You feel that sting, big boy, huh? That's pride FUCKIN' with you!"—is a win on Monday night.
Sweep the Patriots in 2010 and let them know that Rex Ryan's Jets are here to stay for the next decade. No longer will they run roughshod over the AFC East.
And the reason for this bravado? Because we—and by we I mean all Jets fans—know that at this very moment our team is more talented than this Patriots squad. They can't contain our offense because they don't have the defense to stop Tomlinson, Keller, Holmes and Edwards. And we can contain their defense because we have the best cornerback tandem in the entire NFL.
Is that the way it will go down on Monday night?
The Jets have been struggling lately and the Patriots have been running on all cylinders. Nobody can doubt that. As much fun as it is to create a circular argument whenever somebody brings up the Jets' weak schedule by mentioning the Patriots loss to the Browns, the fact still remains that the Patriots have been awfully more impressive than the Jets over the past couple of weeks.
But the common retort from Jets fans has been that everybody must wait until the roster "clicks." To be sure, the Jets have shown the propensity to defeat opponents while dominating one or two facets of the game throughout the season, but they have hardly ever played a complete game. The exceptions might be Weeks 2 and 4 against the Patriots and Bills respectively.
But that was up to nine weeks ago.
Never mind the fact that Patriots, Steelers or Ravens fans can hardly point to as many examples of their teams playing as good of games as the Jets played against the Patriots and Bills in those early weeks.
This is about the Jets' ability to win a Super Bowl.
They will never come close to such a thing unless they perform in all facets of the game. To be certain, they won't beat the Patriots in Foxboro this weekend unless they perform in all facets of the game.
We all know that this team can beat the Patriots wherever and whenever if the Jets play at their best because when Rex Ryan said this team could beat any team playing at its best on Hard Knocks we took it to heart.
We also know that if the Jets win this game on Monday Rex Ryan's Jets take a 3-1 lead in the head-to-head matchup between the two teams.
If Rex Ryan really wants to kick Bill Belichick's ass, he'll win this game because then us Jets fans can say that he's kicked Belichick's ass in two seasons as the head coach.
And if the Jets "click" and beat the Patriots? Well, then they'll have earned the respect of the entire NFL. Not only that, but they will have solidified themselves as favorites in the AFC and favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
They will also prove that a Jets squad playing at its best will beat any other team playing at its best.
Ryan said this was the case way back in the summer and Jets fans believed him, but now he and his team have a chance to earn the respect they clamor for and justify the faith of their fans in the process.
Letting them down won't eradicate fan support, but winning on Monday will go a long way towards justifying the fanbase's belief in the team's ability to defeat any other team in the NFL and eradicate the rest of the NFL's questions about this Jets team's legitimacy.