How good are the Jets? Pats first of three tough tests
It's Patriots Week, and Sheldon Richardson is ready. Especially after the Jets let the last one get away from them in that Week 2 game in Foxborough. The loss still bugs him.
"Ready to get after 'em again," the rookie defensive tackle said. "Came close that last time in Foxborough. Now we got 'em at MetLife, so we feel better that we have the home-field advantage. Happy about that."
There is no fear of the longstanding AFC East champions and three-time Super Bowl winners. No intimidation, either.
"Never. Never," he said.
Not concerned that they have a Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady? "I don't care," Richardson said.
And a Hall of Fame coach in Bill Belichick? "I don't care."
And not even after their thrilling comeback win over the Saints on Sunday, when Brady threw the winning touchdown pass with five seconds left?
"Still don't care," Richardson shot back. "They can have a winning streak, and I wouldn't care. I don't fear records. I don't fear people. I go play football the way I know how. Glad to get another shot, because we feel like we left one out there. As far as being nervous or afraid of them, no, not at all. That's a negative."
Is revenge on the Jets' minds? Absolutely.
If they needed something to get their minds off a dispiriting 19-6 loss to the Steelers on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, there's no better pick-me-up than getting ready for the Patriots. Especially after they came so close in a 13-10 loss to New England that in some ways showed the rest of the country -- if not the Jets themselves -- that this season might amount to more than just a massive rebuilding project.
That the Jets were even in position to win last month's game against the Patriots was a testament to how well Rex Ryan got them ready during the summer, especially against the backdrop of withering criticism and relentless doubts from outside the locker room. And if not for rookie Geno Smith's three late interceptions, the Jets likely would have pulled off the upset.
The rematch can't get here fast enough, especially for Smith, who fizzled in Sunday's loss to the Steelers with two more interceptions six days after a breakout performance against the Falcons in Atlanta.
"Every single guy felt bitter after the loss," Smith said of the Patriots game. "We've put it behind us and we've learned from that. We've gained experience and we're going to move on."
It was Smith's first taste of Jets-Patriots, and it was not a good one at the end, especially after he looked so poised heading into the final portion of the game. But the three late picks proved his undoing, and the Jets couldn't pull it off.
"We played pretty well in the early parts of the game, and then the bottom fell out on those last 12 plays," Smith said. "We had three interceptions, which were on me, and we just didn't get a chance to get down the field in field-goal range or possibly for a chance to score a touchdown."
Anxious for another shot? Absolutely.
But there will be more where that came from, because this is just the start of a brutal three-game stretch that will tell us a lot about what this team really is.
After New England, there is Cincinnati on the road and New Orleans at home before the Jets hit their bye week. Their next three opponents are a combined 14-4, and all three teams lead their divisions.
The Jets soon will find out if they're really overachievers -- one of the league's surprise teams in the first five weeks -- or if they're not quite ready to contend with the league's elite teams.
The Jets also will find out if they can beat a winning team; their three wins have come against teams with a combined record of 3-13.
Rex Ryan, who has lost five straight to the Patriots, is anxious to find out. But first things first.
"Not worried about the rest of the schedule," Ryan said. "Worried about the New England Patriots right now."
Judging from Ryan's failure to beat the Patriots in recent years, and judging by the way the Patriots are playing right now, there's a lot to worry about.
Same with the next week and the week after that.
Welcome to Patriots Week . . . and beyond. It ought to tell us all we need to know about the Jets.