It was hard to go five minutes during last week's wall-to-wall discussions of the Jets and Patriots without hearing someone mention the 45-3 game from Foxborough in Week 13.
As Bart Scott's postgame interview made clear, that was a good thing for the Jets because it got their dander up in advance of the rematch. For the rest of the world it was a pretty gigantic waste of time because it violated the edict that men should never be judged at their best or at their worst, but by the full body of their work.
It would appear that everyone learned their lesson because you don't hear much about the Jets' Week 15 victory over the Steelers right now. There are big reasons why that's true, namely the absence of Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller from the Steeler lineup the last time around, and smaller reasons like an uncalled pass interference penalty on the final Steelers drive.
Polamalu's absence was felt over the middle as Mark Sanchez completed all of his passes between the numbers. We're done with the meme that Sanchez can't play, but the best quarterbacks in the league have been victimized by Polamalu often enough that we know those kinds of days rarely happen when he's on the field. And Miller just might catch the pass that clanked off Matt Spaeth's hands on the final play of the game.
Those differences matter, but they probably don't matter as much as some Steelers fans might like to believe. The overwhelming feeling is that closely matched teams are going to play tight games that are won and lost on few breaks that are awfully hard to predict. The last game was impacted by Steve Weatherford's punting to a great degree with one punt downed close to the Steeler end zone and resulting in a safety when Jason Taylor nailed Mewelde Moore.
Maybe that happens again, but we seriously doubt it. We don't doubt that a game between teams as closely matched as the Jets and Steelers will come down to something hard to pin down ahead of time. They gained nearly the same amount of yards per game on offense, were second and third in yards allowed defensively and were the only two defenses in the league to allow fewer than 40 yards per game against their base defenses. Both teams were able to run the ball effectively in the December game, however, which just goes to show you that good teams find a way to get things done.
The only lesson that resonates from that snowy December afternoon is that the Jets were able to go into Pittsburgh and beat a good team on the road. Even that feels less significant in light of what happened the last two weeks.
They say that those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it, but football's cliche is that those who spend too much time remembering history are doomed to become part of it.