The Jets are occupied with making a post-bye impact rather than impressing the Patriots
For two decades, “Let the Good Times Roll” and “We Are the Champions” were the unofficial anthems of the New England Patriots.
Nowadays, it’s probably “Where Have All the Good Times Gone.”
Not much lingers from the Patriots’ dynasty days, a legacy visually kept alive by the Brady, Gronkowski, Law, and Vinatieri jerseys worn in Gillette Stadium on game day.
But no matter how difficult things have gotten in New England, the Patriots have managed to maintain their stranglehold of supremacy in their supposed rivalry with the New York Jets.
The Patriots (2-4) have won nine games since Tom Brady absconded for Tampa Bay in 2020. One-third of them have come against Gang Green. That includes a 25-6 decision in the East Rutherford portion of the annual pair held back in September.
The Jets (1-4) have a chance to tilt the rivalry back in New York’s favor when the teams meet in Foxboro on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
This latest showdown is a macabre instance of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object: the Jets are coming off a vital bye week while the Patriots have worked through respectable losing efforts against the beasts of the NFC and a nail-biter win over the listless Texans.
Each team has a chance to get back in the win column as things get late early in the AFC playoffs standings. Despite everything that’s transpired over their first five contests, the Jets are somehow only a game-and-a-half out of the conference’s third and final wild card.
Granted, making up that relatively brief distance requires the Jets to leapfrog six teams (including the two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs) to crash the postseason party. But the team is obviously not going to turn down an opportunity to add tallies in the left column of standings, the most apparent and visible signs of growth.
The Jets are a young team burdened with little expectations. They’re nowhere near “win now” mode, but they’re not going to use the inexperience as a shield from criticism for their many early shortcomings.
“Everyone understands that we’re a young team and we’ve got guys who are playing a lot for us who haven’t always played a lot of ball … But at the end of the day, nobody’s using that as an excuse,” veteran defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins said before the team left for the bye week, per notes from the Jets.
“Everybody comes in here with the mindset of that sense of urgency that each day is an opportunity to get better to help us win games now and not necessarily thinking about, oh, you know, we’ve got next year, we got this or we got that.”
Rankins continued, “(At) the end of the day, everybody comes in here with the mindset, the thought process, that each day is an opportunity to get better to help this Jets team win now … it’s going all the way to everybody on this roster and we’ll continue that mindset throughout the season.”
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Standing in the Jets’ way of that admirable endeavor is a Patriots team inching its way toward more terror: they gave Brady’s new Buccaneer comrades all they could handle in one of the most anticipated regular-season showdowns in NFL history and took the Dallas Cowboys to overtime last weekend.
The progress of first-round pick Mac Jones has been the most inspiring part of the process. The 15th overall choice from April’s draft proceedings has shot up to the top of the freshman statistical rankings, leading almost every major passing category.
Recent history also isn’t on the Jets’ side: their last win in the rivalry came in the Eric Decker-induced triumph in December 2015, a win that fans can’t even look back on too fondly considering the heartbreak that awaited in Buffalo the week after. The Jets haven’t won a regulation game against the Patriots since their jaw-dropping Divisional round upset in January 2011.
As the Jets prep for Sunday’s showdown, they’re making one thing clear: Sunday is a chance to get better, no matter the opponent. The Patriots occupy no unnecessary space in their heads.
Head coach Robert Saleh led the way in New England disenchantment during his public statements on Wednesday.
“Call it arrogance if you want, because you have rivalries all over the league, but if you make it bigger than it needs to be then that’s exactly what it will become,” Saleh said of the Jets’ attitude going into New England week, per notes from the team. “It’s another opportunity to own your moment. It’s another championship opportunity, no different than the championship opportunity to take practice to its fullest.”
Saleh continued, “Yes, New England has done a lot of winning over the last 20 years and, obviously, they’ve got a Hall of Fame coach, they’ve had Hall of Fame players, and a lot of respect for the organization, but they are another team that is in the way of us trying to be our absolute best. That’s the main focus.”
The Jets are instead focused on their post-bye affairs, ones that give them a prime opportunity to generate momentum amongst the young group. That mostly centers on awakening an offense that has situated the Jets in early holes nearly impossible to emerge from.
New York has scored only one touchdown in the first half over the first five games and has yet to own a lead over the first half-hour of any of those contests.
Top receiver Corey Davis believes that the Jets are a different team from when the teams last met in Week 2. They ride into New England on a slight wave of momentum that saw them earn 181 yards over five second-half possessions in London.
Though not ideal in defeat, it was a drastic improvement from the 2021 MetLife Stadium home opener in which the Jets were unable to establish any momentum thanks to four Zach Wilson first-half interceptions and failed to visit the end zone.
Davis sees the matchup against the Patriots as not one of fear, but one of opportunity and hope.
“I think it’s an opportunity to show what we’ve been doing and how far we’ve come since the last time we played them. I think we were better than what we displayed against these guys. We have to play fast and we’ve got to handle our business,” Davis said, per team reporter Jack Bell.
The receiver is further enthused by the fact they’re going into the New England meeting fresh off a fruitful bye week, offering a warning to those discounting not only the Jets’ offense but an early week off.
“It was good to step away, kind of refresh, and regroup,” Davis said. “It was definitely needed. It was an early bye, but we needed it and guys have come back hyped up. We’re ready for this week.”
Davis left off on an exciting note, stating with a smile, “I don’t want to say too much but … we’re ready. That’s my train of thought.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags
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