When the Jets last met the Patriots, they were the team searching for answers in the wake of two bitter defeats.
They didn't find them in Foxborough as the Pats beat them fairly convincingly and staked claim to a place at the very top of the AFC pecking order. The Jets fell to 2-3, continued fighting with themselves and looked to be on the brink of total disaster.
Four weeks later, the shoes have swapped feet and it is the Patriots reeling while the Jets are soaring. Two straight losses have exposed the Patriots' flaws on both sides of the ball, leaving them seemingly vulnerable to the kind of physical attack the Jets have used to climb to the top of the AFC East on the back of three straight wins.
That climb means the Jets can take full control of the division by beating the Patriots. Could it mean even more?
The Patriots of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady haven't made a habit out of losing three straight games during their tenure. While we aren't going to join in the attempts to claim this is the end of their great run, it would signal that a changing of the divisional guard might not be too far away.
Part of that is simple math -- the Jets would be 6-3 with a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way, although the Patriots don't have a minefield to maneuver after this week -- and part of it is the stylistic matchup between these two teams. The Jets, when they are going right, have figured out a way to make Brady uncomfortable and that doesn't figure to change so long as the Patriots are constructed the way they have been for the last few years.
Winning the division would be a massive step for the Jets, giving them at least one home game in the playoffs and finally putting them in a position to stop chasing the Patriots for supremacy in their own backyard. They have accomplished so much in Rex Ryan's first two years, but that's always been something standing in their way because it meant playing on the road and punching up instead of being the team standing on the throats of their opposition.
The alternative is allowing the Patriots to regain control of their season and resume what will seem like an endless chase for a better spot in the pecking order. That's really no alternative at all, of course, so the Jets better take advantage of the chance they've been handed this weekend.