Tomorrow’s Jets-Patriots game has been on everybody’s lips since the beginning of last week. Rex Ryan joked, Tom Brady took reverential tones, but the general consensus is that this matchup between two 9-2 AFC East powers is the game of the year.
So let’s get behind the rhetoric and see what really is at stake in Gillette Stadium.
Okay, sure, we know there are still four games to go and much can happen. But for the Jets, who beat the Patriots 28-14 in Week 2, a win would clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker in their favor. That would give them some breathing room to lose another game to Miami, Pittsburgh, Chicago or Buffalo, and still keep the division title if New England wins out.
Mark Sanchez has had a nice season so far, but the real stars come out when the lights shine bright. This is the biggest regular-season game he’s ever played. After navigating his way to the AFC Championship game last year with 539 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions in three games, he’s shown more poise and confidence this year. Might be nice for the kid to show Tom Brady — he of the three Super Bowl rings — that he can produce big numbers, too, in games like this.
“It just seems like the guys who are remembered for a long time, the guys that have gone down in the record books as the players who seem to be the best, play best when it counts,” Sanchez said.
As they say, it ain’t braggin’ if you back it up. As hard as Ryan has been blowing this year, starting from his “Hard Knocks” appearance, he could use some instant credibility. He’s 13-3 in the last 16 games, which includes the AFC Championship Game loss to the Colts. Good start. But a win would allow Rexie to bleat endlessly about Super Bowl contention — minus the raised eyebrows.