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A Rivalry Renewed?

The Patriots and Jets played another close game which was down to the wire on Sunday which poses the question about whether or not this is a rivalry renewed in the AFC East.  The Patriots have not had much, if any, competition in the AFC East since they started their historic run back in 2001.  There was a small stretch where the Jets started a brief rivalry when Rex Ryan took over and the Jets made it to two consecutive AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010.  That ended very quickly.  The Bills and Dolphins have been very weak over the past 15 years.  No threat there.  The competition in the division simply has not been there.  That has changed this year with the Jets again becoming a threat.  Although the Patriots had the division wrapped up with multiple weeks to play, there is now a second team that’s for real in the division.

The Patriots and Jets have played twice this year.  They split the season series with the Patriots winning 30-23 at home in Week 7 and the Jets winning 26-20 in overtime today.  The combined score of the two games was 50-49 in favor of the Patriots.  Both games came down to the 4th quarter.  The Jets held leads late in both games with the Pats making comebacks in the 4th quarter.  One this is for sure.  The Jets are no longer a push-over.  At 10-5, and currently the #6 seed in the AFC, they’re a legitimate playoff contender that is balanced on both sides of the ball.

With a win over the Buffalo Bills next week, the Jets will make the playoffs and it will likely be as the #6 seed.  If the Patriots win next week against the Dolphins, they will be the #1 seed in the AFC.  Why is this relevant?  The Pats and Jets could be headed on a collision course for Round 3.  Should the Jets win their first round matchup against likely either Denver or Cincinnati, there’s a good chance they’ll be headed back to Foxboro in mid-January for the Divisional Round.  The Patriots should be in better shape as they will likely get some key players back including Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.  This would make for a an interesting playoff matchup.

Unlike a lot of teams in the AFC, the Jets are not afraid of the Patriots.  They know they can play with them.  The two matchups this year have been virtually even.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has played against the Patriots for the majority of his career.  He hasn’t had a lot of success, but he also hasn’t had the opportunity to play with weapons such as Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.  The Jets give the Patriots matchup problems.  They also have a very solid defense that can put pressure on Tom Brady.  Oh yeah, and they have a guy named Darrelle Revis.  The Patriots, on the other hand, are not afraid of the Jets or any other team for that matter.  They know that they will be very tough to beat at home and they should be a lot healthier for the postseason run.  They’ve done it before and they know they’re the favorites to do it again.

Consider this:  Had Brandon Marshall held onto a touchdown pass in the 4th quarter against the Patriots in their first matchup, the Patriots and Jets would likely both be 11-4 right now.  The Jets would have held the tiebreaker and it would be the Patriots in the #5 or #6 slot in the AFC.  That’s just how close these two teams are right now.

Patriots – Jets.  Round 3.  Foxboro, MA.  Mid-January with potential weather elements.  Winner goes to the AFC Championship Game.

Isn’t it meant to be?

 

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