In a year the New York Times reported that the Patriots dynasty is over and the New York Jets are taking over as the team to beat in the AFC East, the Jets search for a defining win and the Patriots look to keep their spot on top of the AFC pecking order.
What's lost in all this mess is that there is a very good football game to be played this weekend from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Week 2 saw the bitter rivals first meeting when the Patriots went into The Meadowlands. The Jets pulled out a 28-14 victory, using a well-balanced passing and rushing game against the youngest defense in the NFL. The Jets finished the game with 136 rush yards on 32 carries, an average of 4.3 yards per rush. Mark Sanchez also posted his best game of the season in terms of passer rating. The second year Quarterback went 21/30 for 220 yards three touchdowns and no picks.
Conversely, Tom Brady had a poor second half, throwing two of his season total four interceptions. The Patriots also struggled running the ball, only picking up 52 yards on 20 runs.
When the Jets traveled to New England in Week 13, both teams boasted a 9-2 record and were both ranked in the top three by the ESPN NFL power rankings. However, it didn't turn out to be the battle everyone expected. The Patriots routed their foes 45-3.
Brady threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns without turning the ball over. On the other side, Mark Sanchez continued to show his suspect decision making skills, throwing three interceptions without a touchdown and only 164 total yards through the air. The difference was night and day.
In terms of the running attack, the Patriots posted a respectable 102 total rush yards to the New York Jets' 152 yards on the ground.
Though these games tell us about the keys to victory for both teams, its important not to dwell in the past.
For the Patriots to continue their winning ways to a home game for a birth in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady will have to shine. The hands-down NFL MVP, Brady has thrown for 3,900 yards, 36 touchdowns, and only four interceptions. Tom Brady will have to throw for 250+ yards and two or three touchdowns. Brady will also need to continue protecting the ball. If Brady throws for good numbers and no interceptions the Jets will have a lot of trouble even coming close to a victory.
For the Jets, their keys to victory are a little more difficult. It starts with Mark Sanchez. The young passer will need a similar breakout game as he had in week two. With the kind of run game the Jets boast, the touchdown number for Sanchez isn't close to as important as his interception and fumble total. If Sanchez turns the ball over more than once the Patriots will banish the Jets to the long offseason.
The Jets defense also needs to find a way to put pressure on Tom Brady. Over the years this is one of the only things that have been proven to rattle the future hall of fame quarterback.
However, the pressure cannot be brought through stunts and blitzes. Brady is too good not to take advantage of the blitz by hitting the Patriots bread and butter underneath routes. Therefore, like the 2007-08 super bowl, it is paramount to have an effective four man rush which can put pressure on Brady and force him to move in the pocket- something the Jets have struggled with all season.
The sentiment throughout New England is the Patriots will blow the Jets out of the water this weekend, repeating the punishment they handed down in Week 13.
Though this may happen, one thing to remember is this is the NFL playoffs, a tournament where anything can happen; a sub .500 playoff team can beat the reigning NFL champs and 75 percent of road teams can be victorious.