There's never really a good time for the New York Jets to face the Patriots. Since Bill Belichick became New England's coach in 2000, the Jets are 7-13 against their rivals from Foxborough.
Many of the games have been contentious — remember Spygate and the Eric Mangini-Belichick non-handshakes — and Belichick and current Jets coach Rex Ryan aren't exactly buddies. It won't help Bill B's mood, either, that New York won 16-9 in Week 2.
Not that Belichick's dour demeanor has been anything close to cheery since last Sunday's late-game gamble backfired in Indianapolis, and the Patriots fell 35-34 to Peyton Manning and the Colts.
So laying it on the Jets (4-5) even harder than usual might be on the mind of Belichick and the Patriots (6-3), if not to just about salt away the AFC East then to ease the memories from Indy. Or, maybe he'll opt to go for it on fourth down again and give the game away – a decidedly uncharacteristic Belichick move that earned a skewering by the media.
"I'm worried about the Jets," Tom Brady said. "I think I'd talked a lot about the Colts game and I think we've all got to move forward and understand that we're playing a great opponent, one that really gave our offense a lot of problems the last time we played them and that has a lot of good players."
We're all worried about the Jets, Tom. Oh, wait, you meant worried about playing them. We're just worried.
Gang Green has problems on both sides of the line. Their running game is strong, although it took a hit when stud Leon Washington suffered a compound fracture that ended his season. And rookie Mark Sanchez is going through the expected struggles of a first-year quarterback.
Here's the thing: No one was saying he looked like a rookie when New York started out hot at 3-0. Since then it's been a classic letdown – one Jets fans know all too well.
Let's review this season's losses. The first one came in Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints. Now, Drew Brees is a monster quarterback and his team is still undefeated going into Week 11. No one expected the Jets to come away with that game. But everyone expected the loss would have something to do with the league's top quarterback, who's already thrown 19 touchdowns and had six in game one alone.
How many did Brees have against the Jets?
Problematically, so did Mark Sanchez. But he did throw a couple of balls to the other team. Ay, there's the rub.
The second loss came to the Miami Dolphins, sans former Jets Chad Pennington at the quarterback position. The Monday night game was exciting, with the Jets scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Miami scored 21, including a touchdown with six seconds left to win the game. Way to stop 'em, Jets D.
Next came the lowly Bills, who are just 3-6 in the regular season and trail in the AFC East. In yet another heart-wrenching loss that went all the way to overtime, the Jets failed to convert after winning the toss. They were in field goal range only to be pushed back 15 yards by a senseless penalty that had Jets fans clutching their hearts in angst.
Oh, and Sanchez threw five interceptions and lost a fumble in that game. You can't win an NFL matchup when you give the other team the ball six times. You just can't (maybe if you're Peyton Manning, but even that's unlikely).
It's also extremely difficult to win a game when you allow an opponent to score three times when their offense isn't even on the field, which the Jets enabled the Miami Dolphins to do in Week 8.
Most recently, their aggressive defense was rolled over by Jacksonville for a winning drive last weekend. While the defense has, for the most part, been an asset for the Jets this year (we love you, Darrelle Revis), some players have been struggling. Kerry Rhodes, the top Jets safety, has been one of them. He hasn't had an interception in 11 games.
Still, there's always hope. The Jets did manage to defeat the Patriots in Foxborough last year. And that's when Eric Mangini, currently the coach of arguably the worst offense in the league, was chewing his gum and calling the shots from the sidelines. And if the Jets win on Sunday, they close the Pats' divisional lead to one game.
With a little help and a few more wins down the line, they could be in contention for the playoffs.
That's how they suck you back in.