Monday, January 10, 2011

Forget the Past, Jets won't be easy for New England

Despite getting thrashed by the Pats, 45-3, a month ago, no one should be counting out the Jets...

According to an ESPN poll taken before Saturday's game, New England fans were overwhelming rooting for the Jets to beat the Colts -- a 45-3 Patriots beat down of New York on December 6th likely still fresh in their minds. Ryan's Jets had struggled in the last half of the season, going 2-3 in their last five games. They looked like the best possible match up for New England considering what happened the last time the two teams met.

Yet what Boston fans forget is that the Patriots-Jets rivalry has been a tussle of back and forths since Rex Ryan took the helm in New York. The Patriots may have taken the last game of the series in convincing fashion but that doesn't change the fact that the two teams are tied 2-2 during Ryan's coaching tenure and 1-1 on the year.

Ryan's schemes had been overwhelmingly successful against Brady before their last meeting, holding him to a 54.9 percent completion percentage, which was 8.7 percent lower than his career average. However, in that Monday night showdown, Brady completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns -- exceptional even for Brady's standards.

The question remains whether his success in that meeting was a product of the Pats' revamped offense, a sign that Brady had a greater understanding of Ryan's defense or simply an anomaly. Thus far, the Patriots haven't been able to show any consistency against Rex's Jets. The two coaches have traded victories the last two years, neither holding a win streak over the other. It's hard to imagine their last encounter will have any bearing on the one this Sunday night.

"I don't think the last game, or even the first game, are going to mean a whole lot," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick in a Sunday conference call. "Both teams know each other well. We're ready for a whole new week of preparation. Even though we're familiar with them, and they're familiar with us, I feel like every time you play a team things go a lot differently. We're not expecting anything other than starting this game off and trying to do a better job than the Jets do on Sunday afternoon."

It's true that past performances won't have any effect on game day yet the 45-3 thrashing has gotten the already boisterous Jets a little more fired up to beat the Pats.

"There's no question, it's personal. It's about [Belichick] against myself," said the outspoken Rex Ryan on Monday. "...I recognize my level has to come up. He's going to get my best shot. He's going to get everything I have on Sunday. If he slips at all, we're gonna beat him."

Jets' tight end, Dustin Keller, went as far as calling this Sunday's game "payback time."

However, if the Jets can look to the past for motivation, the Pats can look to it for comfort. While Rex's Jets are tied with the Patriots all time during his tenure, they are 0-2 at Gillette Stadium. A place where Jets' quarterback, Mark Sanchez, has never performed well in his short career -- throwing a total of seven interceptions in Foxborough.

Other than where those Patriots wins took place another common link is when they happened. Both of the times the Pats beat Ryan's Jets was in the second half of the year and in the second meeting of the clubs. The significance? The Pats were more successful adjusting to what they'd seen in the first meeting of the clubs. With more film to digest, Belichick and his staff excelled.

When the two teams met in week two of the season in both 2009 and 2010, the Jets outscored New England an average of 22-11.5 points/gm. However, in the second meetings between the two teams each year, the Patriots trounced New York by an average of 38-8.5 points/gm. The Patriots offense improved by a total of 53 points in the second meetings (76 second meeting points to 23 first meeting points), while the Jets scored 27 less than they have in the first meetings (17 second meeting points to 44 first meeting points).

This Sunday will be the third time the teams will face each other this year, certainly an advantage for the Patriots. Especially after their first round bye week.

A telling stat about Belichick's club is that they were 3-0 this year with extra time to prepare. That being the first game of the season, the game after the bye week and after the long week following Thanksgiving. Rex Ryan's Jets, meanwhile, were 0-3 and scored an average of only four points.

Heading into this week, the Patriots have yet again had extra time to prepare -- having earned a first round bye with the AFC's top seed. However, their past success guarantees nothing. When it's 4:30pm this Sunday, anything can happen.

"I don't think [the past] is going to have any bearing on what happens this weekend," said quarterback Tom Brady on WEEI. "It's a lot more hype than it is substance. What really matters is what you do when the game starts. We could sit here and make a bunch of predictions but that's just not the way we go about our business. We let our play do our talking.

We're gonna see who's ready to play."

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