As far as regular-season games go, next week’s Jets-Patriots clash up in Foxboro, Mass., will be about as big as it gets.
“It’s the marquee game of the year. Both teams are 9-2. It’s not going to get much bigger than that, and the fact that it’s a divisional game,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan on a conference call with reporters this morning. “I guess the only way it could be better is if it was the last game of the regular season, but this is pretty good right here. Obviously the team that wins is going to have to play fantastic and we’re just hoping it’s us.”
The only other team in the NFL with two losses is the Atlanta Falcons and neither of these teams has to worry about the Birds now or perhaps at any point in 2011. The Ravens and Steelers are both are 7-3 while the Jaguars, Colts and Chiefs own 6-4 marks. And they all are looking up at the AFC East’s best.
“It’s going to be, in my opinion, the best two teams in football that are going to be squaring off against each other and we’ll see what happens on the field,” said Ryan, who also indicated there is “a good possibility” that WR Jerricho Cotchery (groin) and CBs Marquice Cole (hamstring) and Dwight Lowery (concussion) will return to action in Week 13.
While the eventual winner of the AFCE will most likely secure one of the top two seeds for the postseason and earn a bye, the division runnerup is staring at a fifth seed and a trip to the AFC South or AFC West winner on wild-card weekend.
The Jets have won eight straight regular-season games away from home and their last loss came to the Pats in Foxboro on Nov. 22, 2009. In the worst Jets outing of the Ryan era, shaky rookie QB Mark Sanchez had five turnovers while Tom Brady carved up the Green & White secondary for 310 yards and Wes Welker had 15 receptions for 192 yards.
“That was a brutal performance — not just by Mark but our defense. We couldn’t stop a nosebleed with our defense in the first half of that game either,” said Ryan. “It was bad on a lot of accounts, but we know Mark is a totally different guy. He has a great command of our offense and he does a great job of recognizing coverages.
“Now with Bill Belichick, a lot of times you can prepare for certain things and still not get it. He is a very multiple guy on defense and we are going to be challenged like crazy by him.”
On the other side of the ledger, the Patriots’ offense is a buzzsaw right now as they’re averaging 30 points a contest. Former Jet Danny Woodhead is performing well, but the Pats’ story starts with Brady.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for Danny Woodhead. I’ve always thought that he was a terrific player, but I think the main guy you have to game-plan is Tom Brady. That’s the guy,” said Ryan of the future Hall of Famer completing 66 percent of his passes with 23 TDs and four INTs. “Danny’s doing a great job. Brady’s smart, he’ll throw it to open receivers, and we have to do a great job of stopping all of their weapons. Woodhead is clearly doing a great job and the other kid with all the names [BenJarvus Green-Ellis] is running the ball pretty well also.”
But the Jets, who held the Patriots to 14 points in their Week 2 win, are yielding just 17 points a game and they statistically just played their best game of the season in the Thanksgiving triumph over the Bengals.
“If this group communicates and we don’t have mental mistakes, then we’re going to be tough for anybody to move the ball against,” Ryan said of the unit that tallied three sacks and two interceptions against Cincinnati. “I understand New England is moving it up and down the field against everybody, but we’ll see. I have confidence that won’t be the case this week.”
Referring to Belichick as “the best coach” in football, Ryan is already geared up for the matchup that is 10 days away. It should be noted that he owns a 2-1 mark against Belichick since taking over and the Jets advanced further in the postseason last year than the Patriots. But the Jets boss wants a Super Bowl and we’re going to find out a lot about them on Dec. 6.
Nobody can question whether the Jets are a good football team. But if they go up to New England and end the Pats’ 25-game regular-season home win streak, little question will remain who’s the best team in the division and the favorite to represent the AFC in Dallas.
“We have the same record and we beat them once. I don’t know if we’re looked at in that light, but that’s OK because the great thing is we get to prove it on Monday Night Football in their place,” he said. “We’ll see. I know I feel confident in this football team, I know everybody in our locker room believes we’ll win.”
Tags: Bill Belichick, Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Tom Brady
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