Just hours after the Jets suffered a last-second defeat to the Jaguars at the Meadowlands to fall to 4-5, Jets Nation had to be thrilled to see the Patriots suffer a similar defeat to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium to slip to 6-3.
As a result, New England remains two games ahead of the Jets as the AFC East rivals head into today's Week 11 showdown at Gillette Stadium. Despite the Green & White's ups and downs this season, head coach Rex Ryan said late this past week, "The great thing is we have an opportunity right here. If we win this game, the fact is we're one game behind the lead in our division, so we'll see. There will be six games left to make up that one game."
The last time these teams met up in Week 2, the Jets in their home opener held the Patriots' offense to three field goals at the Meadowlands for a 16-9 victory, prompting Ryan to present the home crowd with a gameball.
Pats head coach Bill Belichick had to give props to the rookie head coach during a conference call to New York reporters, saying, "Defensively, they kept us out of the end zone and played well on third down."
Tom Brady went 23-for-47 for 216 yards with no touchdowns and one interception as the Pats amassed 299 yards against the Jets defense. The interception came when Brady, under pressure, tried to get the ball downfield to Randy Moss, only to have cornerback Darrelle Revis pick it off. On the day Moss had four catches for 24 yards. Soon after, and again this week, the debate began as to whether Revis beat Moss one-on-one or had to rely on safety help in the matchup.
Revis vs. Moss, Part 2, has been hyped up, but No. 24 is treating it like any other game.
"It's just two guys going at it," Revis told newyorkjets.com. "You can't relax one week, then just because you're playing Randy Moss, you have to be amped up. You have to be amped up every week."
Since the first matchup there have been some shakeups in each team's lineup. The Patriots played their first two games without Pro Bowl WR Wes Welker, who still is second in the NFL with 64 receptions.
"It's more protection for Brady because Welker is his outlet guy when blitzes come," said CB Lito Sheppard. "We hit him a lot of times last time we played him because he had to hold onto the ball a little bit longer. Being that Welker's there, he's not going to hold onto the ball as long so he's not going to take as many hits."
The Patriots also played that game without ILB Jerod Mayo. But the Jets didn't have WR Braylon Edwards or LB Calvin Pace until Game 5.
"Braylon demands more coverage," said TE Dustin Keller. "A lot of times you get double coverage so that opens up stuff for me, J-Co, [David] Clowney, whoever is out there."
With Pace back in the lineup after his early-season NFL suspension, the Jets' pass rush has improved. And getting pressure on Brady will be vital to take him out of his comfort zone.
In recent weeks, since juggernaut Kris Jenkins suffered his season-ending knee injury, opposing teams have had some success trying to exploit the No. 3 defense in the league. Missed tackles and mental errors have led to lost opportunities and the Jets find themselves in must-win mode from here on out. But the D is ready to get back its edge from early on.
"I think part of that is growing pains. It's the first year of a new system," said D-coordinator Mike Pettine. "It's frustrating that we've had some issues with it and that it's cost us some yards and potentially a game or two."
The developing scheme will take its first trip up I-95 to Foxboro — where the Patriots have won 20 straight — with a difficult but necessary assignment, so crucial that safety and quarterback of the defense Jim Leonhard, who suffered a thumb injury early against the Jaguars, wants to play today.
"I realize this is a big game," Leonhard said after Friday's practice."If it were up to me, I'd be out there."
Since their Meadowlands loss, New England has played as well as almost any team in the league, winning five of their last seven games. The Green & White look to give the Pats their first back-to-back losses since Nov. 5-12, 2006, when they lost to who else but the Colts and then the Jets. The Pats are 9-0 after a loss since then and 22-2 after a defeat since 2002.
Rookie QB Mark Sanchez recorded the first home victory of his career going 14-22 for 163 yards and throwing for one TD in the first matchup. The biggest stat was a zero in the interception column though, as the Patriots are 66-1 in all regular- and postseason games since '02 when they've had the edge in turnovers.
"We need to do our best to take care of the football," said rookie QB Mark Sanchez, who completed 14 of 22 for 163 yards and didn't turn the ball over in Game 2. "Whether it's just the physical mistakes, under-throwing the ball, throwing the ball too high, getting it tipped up in the air, we can't afford mistakes like that."
"We know what's at stake for this game because it's down the stretch," said WR Jerricho Cotchery. "It's a November/December game. You can't lose many of these games or you won't have a shot."
Cotchery may also be returning punts, a role he hasn't done since 2005. He went to special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff earlier in the week requesting the duty.
"I always try to keep that dialogue with Coach Westhoff because that's where I started at," he said. "It's not going to limit me at all. If anything it will get me warmed up."
Ryan, who showed his emotional side the week after the difficult loss at home to Jacksonville, knows it's do-or-die time as they face New England. And never mind that the Patriots might be "angry" after their loss to the Colts.
"I've got news for them," he said. "We've lost five of six. What kind of mood do you think we're going to be in?"