The Jets will meet the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs this Sunday. After splitting the season series, it all comes down to this ultimate tie-breaker.
10.) JETS HAVE THEIR RUNNING GAME GOING
Throwing the ball might be a little dangerous against the Patriots secondary, which led the NFL with 25 interceptions. Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson both had solid games against the Colts in the wild card round and will need to continue that trend. Tomlinson rushed for 82 yards on 16 carries and scored both touchdowns for the Jets. Greene has a reputation as a big-game running back after some very good playoff performances last year and a solid one against the Colts last week. The longer the Jets stay on the field, the less they have to see Tom Brady and the more the passing game should open up for Mark Sanchez.
9.) JETS ARE ROAD WARRIORS
New England has been a house of horrors for the Jets over the last few years; they haven't beaten the Pats at Gillette Stadium since 2006. But the Jets have proven they can win on the road this season, going 7-2 away from home. Under Rex Ryan in the playoffs, the Jets are 3-1 on the road including last week’s win over the Colts in Indianapolis.
8.) THE 45-3 LOSS DOESN'T HOLD MUCH WEIGHT
What went wrong for the Jets in their 45-3 loss against the Patriots last month? Well, everything. Against the best team in the NFL, they picked a bad time to have a stinker. But every team has them and lessons are learned. After Rex Ryan and his staff review the gamefilm, it's unlikely that they will allow their team to get blown out and "outcoached," as Ryan put it, like they were in Week 13.
7.) JETS ARE EXORCISING THEIR DEMONS
2011 might be the year the Jets beat all their nemeses. First, the Jets and Rex Ryan finally toppled the great Peyton Manning. Will Tom Brady and Bill Belichick be next? Ryan has beaten the Patriots in the regular season twice in his two-year tenure as head coach. But a win over Brady could have a lot of skeptics apologizing for knocking Rex's "team to beat" rhetoric.
6.) JETS HAVE A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC
The Jets have been sitting on a horseshoe this year, and not just against the horseshoe-helmetted Colts. During a three-week span in November, the Jets pulled out three consecutive come-from-behind victories: Week 9 vs. the Lions (when they rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final 5:00 to win in overtime); Week 10 vs. the Browns (when Santonio Holmes caught a 37-yard touchdown with less than a minute to go in overtime); and Week 11 vs. Texans (when the Jets blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead before Holmes caught a touchdown with six seconds left). And then there was last week's drive with 53 seconds left to win the game.
5.) PATRIOTS HAVE A YOUNG DEFENSE
While the Patriots' offense is anchored by three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, the defense is a different story. They give up an average of 367 total yards a game (25th in the NFL) and 259 passing yards (30th in the NFL). No one doubts that Bill Belichick is a defensive genius. Actually, he should get credit for doing such a good job with a young defensive core. However, if the Jets' offense gets rolling early and builds momentum, they can jump all over the Patriots.
4.) REVIS WILL SHUT DOWN BRADY'S FAVORITE TARGET
Without Randy Moss to worry about, we can expect that Darrelle Revis will cover Jets nemesis Wes Welker on Sunday. Welker has torched the Jets in recent seasons, catching 42 passes for 490 yards and 2 touchdowns in his past five games against them. If Revis can stop Welker the way he stopped Colts star Reggie Wayne (one catch for one yard) last week, it will take away a huge part of New England's attack.
3.) NICK FOLK
Maybe even more so than last week, this week's game is likely to be close. That’s when it comes down to field position and field goals. Nick Folk proved against the Colts that he can come through in a big spot. His confidence should be high, and just as importantly, his coach's confidence in him will be high. No one knows better than the Patriots the importance of having a reliable kicker in the playoffs. Adam Vinatieri anyone?
2.) BRADY IS NOT IMMORTAL
It comes down to the Law of Averages: Just as the Jets are not likely to have another stinker, Tom Brady has to be due for a bad game, right? Brady does have three losses in his playoff career. In 2006 against the Broncos, he threw two interceptions in a 27-13 loss. And just least year Brady and the Pats were bounced in the first round by the Ravens. He was 23-for-42 in that game with three interceptions. Even the great ones have a few hiccups.
1.) THE JETS MIGHT BE THE BETTER TEAM
The Jets have a more talented core of players this year. Mark Sanchez has matured and the additions of Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson have given the Jets a more varied offensive attack. They have a strong offensive line and a good one-two punch at running back. They are loaded on defense with talented players at almost every position, and last week finally played like an elite defensive team. Meanwhile, the Patriots lost Randy Moss and replaced him with Deion Branch. The Patriots may have the league's best quarterback and coach, but the Jets have more talent.