The chess match has begun. Brett Favre says he knows it, Eric Mangini won’t mention it, and the Patriots are used to it—a big game, being played on a national stage, with probable playoff implications all but directly in front of them.
The Patriots have been there before, and they know what they are doing. They have always managed to win the big game. They come out and almost always execute better than the other team. They have been doing it for years. They have made a living of beating up on their own division and treating the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets like stepchildren, always punishing them.
The Jets, on the other hand, haven’t felt a game mean this much in almost two years and don’t have all that much success against New England. Belichick always seems to be one step ahead of his former coach in this chess match, but the tide could be quickly turning.
Don’t go looking for Eric Mangini to talk up the opponent though. In fact, he barely even mentions them as a factor, or as the force they have been over the past decade: “It’s a great position to be in and a great position to be in if you take advantage of it, do all the things you need to do to put yourself into position to win.”
Typical Mangini—not overselling the importance of the game, but acknowledging that the position the Jets are in is a special one.
On the other hand you have the open book Favre, who “knows exactly what this game means” and that he is “well aware what New England has done over the past decade or so.” You can see where both sides are on this situation.
Maybe a little emphasis is needed going into this game. Maybe the Jets need to realize what and where they are and what’s at stake, because for some of these Jet players, this is the biggest game of their lives so far. That’s not to say that winning this game tomorrow will catapult the Jets into the playoffs, but it will go a long way in helping them.
New York is still a team searching for a true identity, and through the first nine games of the season, they have found two. The first is one that plays 60 minutes of complete football on both sides of the ball and hammers their opponents into the ground, and the other being a team that doesn’t seem to be able to get out of their own way.
One can only hope that on Thursday the Jets of the last two weeks show up and not the ones who narrowly escaped the lowly Chiefs. Based on what I have seen, the Jets finally looks to be clicking on all cylinders and are poised and ready to take over control of the East.
This is a time for these Jets, led by Eric Mangini and the gunslinger in Favre, to prove they are a legitimate team in the AFC and serious contenders. Most of the current Jets haven’t been in this position before, the potential to have sole position of first place in the division this late in the season.
The last time they were in first after Week 11 was after the final game of the 2002 season, when they finished in a three-way tie with New England and Miami.
Over the last decade, the Patriots have been in control of the Jets, going 12-5 against them, with the Jets last winning on November 12, 2006 in a surprise upset, 17-14 in Foxboro. That was a shock to the Patriots, but this can be an even bigger one.
Brett Favre has played in New England this decade as a member of the Packers and came out on top, so he somewhat knows the field, but what he faces tomorrow is no normal game. He is also used to playing in bad weather, and the forecast is calling for a cold steady rain.
Ty Law, the newest addition to the Jets, has been on both sides of the rivalry and is ready to make an impact against the Patriots. The Pats have been decimated by injuries and might finally feel them all take their toll. Most situations seem to favor the Jets, but as I recall, they all did against the Raiders as well.
After winning three straight games the Jets are walking and talking with a level of confidence not seen or heard in a long while. They will need to take all of that into this game tomorrow night.
They will also need the 39-year-old Brett Favre to turn back the clock one more time and find his vintage form that made him who he is. This is what he was brought here to do, regardless of what anyone in the organization will tell you. They also need Eric Mangini to think like Belichick and beat him at his own game, in his backyard.
With all the momentum the Jets are riding right now, if they can go up to Foxboro, into the hostile pit they will be in, and come away with a victory, not only will Mangini receive the coldest handshake of his life, but the Jets will also assert themselves, in my opinion, as the team to beat in the East.
They will send a message to the Patriots that they will not be bullied around anymore, the way they have become accustomed to doing. The Jets will show they can win a big game, on the road no less, and shift the balance of power, finally out of New England.
So much for Mangini downplaying this game. This is a big game and it is a must win, because a loss tomorrow will make this just another typical Jet season, not the start of a new era.
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