Full disclosure: Given his proclivity to avoid trash talk and thus avoid inflaming the passions of his opponents, Bill Belichick will hardly ever say anything but nice things about an opponent, regardless of how good said opponent actually is.
Truth be told, he probably could make the 2008 Lions look like a credible opponent, even though that team became the first to go 0-16. That theory couldn't be fully tested, since the Lions didn't play the Patriots that year, but you get the idea.
That said, Belichick's thoughts on the Jets really do reflect the legitimate strengths of the best team the Patriots will have faced this season. The greatest coach of our era says the Jets are a very good team in every area, and he is absolutely correct.
"I think the Jets look good in everything they're doing," the Pats coach said Wednesday. "They've been very impressive. They run the ball well. They throw the ball well. The quarterback has made a lot of plays. Playing good defense, turning it over, stopping the run -- they're right at the top of the league in almost every category defensively and a lot of categories on the offensive side of the ball. Coach Bowles has them playing very well with a lot of confidence, great execution. They've looked really good."
No, he is not damning his opponent with faint praise this time. When Belichick turns on the tape to analyze first-year coach Todd Bowles' players and his system, what the Patriots coach sees is the most complete team his 5-0 team has played. From a reliable offense that revolves around running back Chris Ivory and wide receiver Brandon Marshall, to a smothering defense that features star players at every level, to the straightforward style demanded by Bowles, this is a very worthy opponent.
In fact, the Jets are in the best position to beat the Patriots since the early days of the Rex Ryan era.
That doesn't guarantee the Jets will beat the defending Super Bowl champions on Sunday in Foxborough in Bowles' first matchup against Belichick. But it does guarantee that his team is as well prepared as any to pull off the win and pull into a first-place tie with the team that has owned the AFC East since 2001.
The Patriots are rightly favored to win the game on their home turf, especially the way they have been playing so far. Especially the quarterback. After Tom Brady received a reprieve from federal judge Richard Berman, who overturned his four-game suspension a week before the season started, the 38-year-old QB has played better than at almost any point in his career.
But the Jets have the means to solve Brady; with a terrific defensive line featuring Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison and rookie Leonard Williams, the Jets will put fierce pressure on the Patriots' interior blockers and have a chance to get at the quarterback up the middle. And now that the Jets' secondary has been fortified with the signings of Darrelle Revis, who helped New England to the Super Bowl title last season, as well as Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine (who is in the NFL's concussion protocol) and safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor, Bowles can rely on a steady dose of blitzes to add pressure on Brady.
Ivory is the Jets' most important offensive player, but Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to make a few plays in the passing game. Not an easy task against Belichick's retooled defense, but the Patriots have been leaky in spots this year.
Put it all together, and the Jets absolutely have a chance to upset the champs in a statement game for their first-year coach. No need for Bowles to pound his chest the way his predecessor did during Patriots Week. Just show up and play.
Belichick knows he's in for a tough one. This time, he's not blowing smoke when he says the Jets are a fine team.