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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Jets going all out to beat the Patriots? Now that's something we all can agree on

Jets head coach Rex Ryan hugs New England

Jets head coach Rex Ryan hugs New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after the Patriots defeated the Jets, 49-19, at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 22, 2012 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Getty Images / Rich Schultz

Whichever side of the debate you were on Sunday -- the pragmatists (mostly fans) who hoped the Jets would lose or the idealists (mostly coaches and players) who hoped to win -- the victory over the Titans settled the matter.

The Jets no longer have a plausible hope of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft and thus no longer have any good reason to lose before scattering into an uncertain offseason.

(And by the way, when did Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota turn into a franchise-altering given?)

So in recognition of the Jets' new reality, let's all agree on this:

The best hope for a dollop of late-season drama rests on an upset of the Patriots on Sunday, which would be a perfect send-off for Rex Ryan in what presumably will be his final home game as the Jets' coach.

Does the guy deserve to be dispatched to TV Land after a fourth consecutive playoff-free season, capped by this year's mess? Yup.

But after six seasons of reliably entertaining us, Ryan also deserves a grand finale against his AFC East tormentors and the coach whose rings he long ago promised not to kiss.

His players undoubtedly feel that way. That was evident in the visiting locker room after Sunday's win, when veteran offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson presented Ryan a game ball as owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik looked on in the background.

Watching that locker-room scene was a reminder that for all the analysis that reporters and fans did about what it would take for the Jets to fall below the Mariota Line, none of that mattered to the guys in green -- nor should it have.

At least Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt secretly had reason to hope for a loss; he is in his first year and not going anywhere. But Ryan is more likely to spend draft day working for ESPN than J-E-T-S.

First things first, though. There is one bit of business left to attend to before Ryan bids Gotham adieu.

Enter Bill Belichick and his Patriots, who have secured yet another division title but have to keep winning to avoid a visit to Peyton Manning's house in late January.

The Jets beating the Patriots in a game they want and perhaps need would only add to the deliciousness for Ryan.

"No matter the records,'' Jets quarterback Geno Smith said, "this is an important game for everyone."

More so for one person than others.

Ryan would not bite when asked Monday if winning this one would mean more given the circumstances. "It's just another game," he said, "but it is against the Patriots, so it's special."

When someone mentioned the highlights of his rivalry with Belichick, Ryan said, "Oh, I don't know about highlights; it's probably been more lowlights."

Ryan is 3-8 against the Pats in the regular season and has lost seven of his last eight, including a 27-25 decision at Gillette Stadium this season.

But there was that playoff game after the 2010 season, when the Jets avenged a 45-3 regular-season rout with a 28-21 victory and went on to their second AFC Championship Game in a row.

That seems like ancient history now for Ryan, while Belichick and Tom Brady just keep rolling along. Throwing up a roadblock in Week 16 would be a heck of a way to bow out of the New York-area sports scene.

"That's the biggest guy and you like to go up against the very best and that's who he is," Ryan said of Belichick. "So I like that. I like getting that opportunity, but obviously I haven't been near successful as I would've liked."

The Pats are heavy favorites. The Jets have nothing to lose, and no longer have much to gain from losing.

So why not win?

Said Ryan: "I am looking forward to this one."

New York Sports