New York Jets vs New England Patriots: A Thursday-Night Showdown

matt eliasContributor INovember 12, 2008

So, as we wait for Friday's free-agent market to open up, let's take a look at Thursday's big game.

First place in the AFC East will be up for grabs, as the New York Jets travel to Foxborough to face their rivals, the New England Patriots (the word rivalry gives the Jets too much credit, as they seem unable to beat the Pats).

This is the biggest regular-season game the Jets have played in recent memory. This is definitely the biggest game since the 1998 AFC Championship game, and it might be bigger.

It could be the biggest game since Super Bowl III. This game is meaningful for the entire Jets franchise. This is their chance to take over the AFC East. They need to prove to themselves they can beat the Pats.

Their fans need it and, most importantly, the organization needs it.

Yes, the Patriots do not have Tom Brady, Adalius Thomas, their top three running backs, or most of their secondary, but history still favors them.

The Jets always seem to lose these types of games, and though most New York fans have a lot of hope for the game, they know the worst will ultimately happen.

Maybe Brett Favre is the right guy for this spot. He has won a lot of games and thrown a lot of big touchdowns, but he also has a lot of losses and a lot of bad interceptions.  The difference is that Favre is able to put everything behind him and move onto the next play.

That is what the team needs this week. They can't worry about the history or anything else. The main focus must be the 11 men lined up on the other side of the ball.

For the Jets to be successful, Eric Mangini needs to establish Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and the run game. The weather is calling for rain, which means a sloppy field, perfect weather for the Jets' new offensive line and the gunslinger Favre to steal a win with a balanced attack.  

And that means Favre can't be throwing the ball 45 times.

On defense, Mangini needs to pressure Matt Cassel and get the QB's jersey dirty. They can't give him time in the pocket. The defense needs to go get the quarterback.

If the Jets win, they have a great shot at the AFC East title. If they lose, they face a 6-5 record and the Titans coming up the week after.

This game will also tell how the Jets' franchise views itself for years to come.