Heading into this week, the New York Jets are in a very advantageous situation. Fresh off of their bye week after defeating the Buffalo Bills in Week 9, the team sits at 6-3 with their playoff hopes in their control. In addition, the team sits only a half-game behind the division-leading Miami Dolphins; with a win on Sunday, the Jets will be in first place in the AFC East and be in control of a top playoff seed.
To achieve this, the Jets will have to exercise their most giant demon: the New England Patriots.
The Patriots have essentially treated the Jets like a second-class opponent for the better part of a decade, especially during the tumultuous 2010s. The Jets have not beaten New England since 2015 and have not won on the road against them since 2008(!!). It has been a one-sided matchup, characterized by legendary Tom Brady performances, quarterbacks seeing ghosts, and the Jets losing by 30-plus points.
Despite this, the gap between these teams is completely closed now. Regarding team rankings, the Jets are ahead of New England in total offense and defense. On the other hand, the Patriots have a better rank than the Jets in points per game and points allowed per game.
Outside of these rankings, these two teams have very similar strengths and weaknesses. Both teams have strong rushing attacks and young quarterbacks that are productive when playing within the structure of the offense. Each team’s defense has also been vital in helping them win games, forcing quarterbacks to make bad decisions. Between their secondaries and defensive lines, their defenses can cause problems for a majority of teams that they play.
Even with these teams so close in terms of play style, the Jets have a real advantage in their matchup. They can take advantage of the Patriots’ lack of depth at cornerback and wide receiver, utilizing the talent at those positions to control the game. In addition, the Jets’ interior defensive line, such as Quinnen Williams, should be able to exploit the injuries on the Patriots’ interior offensive line.
Head Coach Robert Saleh spoke this week about what the team learned from the previous game against New England.
“Do right longer. This game doesn’t always come down to talent and all of that stuff. It comes down to whether or not we can execute at the highest level for 60 minutes. It’s taking care of the football. It’s being opportunistic on defense. It’s executing your job to the best of your ability at 100%, and you trust that at the end of the day if you do that for 60 minutes, you trust that the results will be where you want them to be.”
Saleh also spoke about the importance of this week from the team’s perspective.
“I forget when I said it that we’re too young, we haven’t been here long enough to experience the scars and all that stuff. Divisional games are always important because there’s ramifications way down the line from a scenario standpoint, but it really is just another championship opportunity. I get it’s the Patriots and I get it’s big for the fans and some of the people upstairs in the business department, our ownership and all that stuff, but for us as coaches, players you’ve got to keep the main thing the main thing, and that this is another championship opportunity versus another championship football team, and we’ve got to play at a championship level.”
The range of outcomes for Sunday’s game is very interesting, as the Jets could either end up in first place with a win or last place with a loss. A win puts the Jets in a prime position for the playoffs, while a loss makes the road to the postseason have to include overcoming two losses to New England.
At the end of the day, this game is about the Jets overcoming the one team that has haunted them for over a decade. The Patriots have tormented, belittled, and abused the Jets year after year, game after game.
The Jets have competed in every game, won multiple division games, and are in the middle of a playoff hunt well into November. New England is the final obstacle that remains from their recent past, and if they can exercise their Patriots demons on Sunday, this Jets team will have all but buried the “Same Old” label.