Whenever the Jets play the New England Patriots, the entire week leading up to the game has a different feel. In a league where giving cliche answers and not saying anything bad about your opponent is the norm, players and coaches tend to open up a bit more when the Patriots are up next on the schedule.
Gang Green certainly hasn't shied away from just how badly they want this one. Offseason acquisition Willie Colon, ejected for his involvement in a fight in the final minutes of the Week Two loss to the Patriots, was extremely vocal earlier this week about his hatred of his new rival. Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is winless in five career games versus New England and said losing to the Pats so close to his Oct. 22 birthday has ruined his special day the past couple years.
To get an idea of the sense of desperation coach Rex Ryan is feeling, he pleaded with his players to refrain from doing any household chores and to save their legs as much as possible leading up to Sunday. Including the playoffs, Ryan has beaten the Patriots just three times in 10 tries. Having lost five straight to his biggest adversary, this would be no ordinary victory.
But make no mistake, no matter how quiet he may be, the coach on the opposing sidelines has some extra motivation as well.
Not to be confused with his one-day reign in 1999, in an often forgotten controversy, Bill Belichick was named head coach of the Jets for a few days in 1997. Belichick was being used as a pawn and a placeholder. The team planned to bring on Bill Parcells, then head coach of the Patriots, as a consultant for the year before he would officially take over as head coach the following season.
The Pats cried foul and the Jets were forced to send draft picks to New England as compensation. As a result, no longer under contract with the Patriots, Parcells became coach of the Jets and Belichick was demoted to defensive coordinator.
Parcells resigned after three seasons in New York and a clause in Belichick's contract kicked in, once again making him head coach of the Jets. Perhaps due to a bitter taste in his mouth from how he was previously treated, Belichick quit during his introductory news conference to take over the Patriots.
And the rest is history.
Emotions aside, the matchup carries a lot of weight in the standings. A loss would drop the Jets below .500 and leave them three games behind the Patriots for the division lead. Had New England not pulled off a miraculous win in the final seconds against the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, a share of first place would have been on the line.
Just seven weeks into the season, the Jets and Pats won't play each other again this year after Sunday. Oddly enough, the scheduling quirk means the Jets will have wrapped up the season series against New England before ever playing fellow division foe, the Miami Dolphins. Meeting twice so early in the year does take a little bit of the big game feel out of the air but it doesn't make it any less important.
Any coach will tell that over the course of a season, no matter who the opponent, a win is a win. Don't let that fool you, though. This game means a whole lot to both sides.